Contractor Bam Nuttall is this week preparing to work up designs to permanently reinstate a badly storm-damaged section of the Great Western Main Line in Dawlish, Devon.
Around 80m of sea wall was washed away by high tides and stormy seas on 4 February, taking a significant stretch of the Great Western Main Line railway with it.
The road next to the railway was also washed away and several houses nearby were significantly damaged. Dawlish station, about 200m away, was badly damaged.
Network Rail hsa drafted Bam Nuttall in as principal contractor for the remediation work. Bam Nuttall is forming a project team with regional contractors Amalgamated Construction and Dyer & Butler plus Network Rail’s engineering team and its Western Route division.
The team may also have access to Army personnel with Network Rail having taken up an offer from the Ministry of Defence to hold talks to see if military personnel based in the South West can help.
The contracting team has been set a target of getting the line fully reinstated and reopened within six weeks, but its immediate priority since it being drafted in on Wednesday has been to shore up the damaged section using sprayed concrete.
It has also erected a temporary breakwater using rubble-filled shipping containers to protect the work site,
It was critical that this work is done to prevent further damage from an expected Atlantic storm over the weekend.
A period of calmer weather is predicted for the early part of this week. This will enable Bam Nuttall’s designers to fully assess the damage and devise a permanent solution.
It is expected that the plan will be to reinstate the ground and sea wall, but the detailed solution will be driven by the ground conditions on site.
“We absolutely understand the importance of the railway to the South West and will do everything we can to rebuild the railway at Dawlish as quickly and safely as we can,” said Network Rail’s Western Route managing director Patrick Hallgate.
“After a quieter night’s weather [last Wednesday], we have been able to begin delivering machinery to our site compound with a view to protecting the exposed section of railway and the land behind it,” he said.
“We need to make sure we limit any further damage this weekend so that the significant repairs that are needed do not become greater still.
“We will continue working with the government, the Environment Agency, local authorities and other partners to explore ways of improving the railway’s resilience to extreme weather,” he added.
“The disruption to rail services in the South West highlights the importance of that work and the need for all forms of transport to ensure that they are fit for the future.”
In addition, engineers are on site at several locations in south west England, making repairs where the weather conditions permit.
Services have resumed between Plymouth and Newton Abbot, but there will be no trains east of Newton Abbot to Exeter until the line at Dawlish is repaired.
Cambrian Coast railway reopens
Network Rail is planning to reopen a damaged section of the Cambrian Coast railway between Dovey Junction and Barmouth in north west Wales over the coming week.
The Cambrian Coast line has been closed after suffering unprecedented storm damage earlier this year.
The railway, which runs between Dovey Junction and Pwllheli, was battered by the high tides and storm surge in the first week of January. This resulted in damage to sea defences and embankments, the loss of rail ballast to the sea and debris including rocks and boulders littering the line.
A number of locations along the route were hit and Network Rail is carrying out a phased £10M programme to repair and reopen the line.
The programme involves removing thousands of tonnes of debris, replacing sea walls and other sea defences, and relaying new track and ballast.
Work to repair the section of the line from Barmouth to Pwllheli is currently on schedule for completion in mid-May.
“The Welsh coastline has been hit hard by this run of storms and the railway has borne the brunt in many locations,” said Network Rail Wales route managing director Mark Langman.
“People in the region rely on the railway and our first priority was to pull together a plan to re-open the line as soon as it is safe to do so.
“That plan has seen workers operating in really challenging conditions and it’s great news that we’re ready to open the first section.”