Network Rail has successfully met its deadline to remove 25,000t of material from cliffs above the Dawlish rail line at the same time as seawall repairs were carried out in order to reopen the route today.
High pressure water canons, fire hoses, helicopter-borne water bombs, specialist roped access team and ‘spider’ excavators were used to removed unstable ground at Woodlands Avenue, Teignmouth while repairs at Riviera Terrace in Dawlish were underway.
In addition to repairing the seawall, Network Rail’s contractors have carried out other repairs to a 6.5km length of track, including installation of 21km of new track and replacement of 700m of track and ballast.
“Our army of engineers has done an amazing job of putting back together a railway that was ravaged by the elements,” said Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne. “They have overcome every obstacle thrown at them, winning many battles along the way to restore this critical piece of the network, ahead of schedule, and in time for the Easter holidays.
“The biggest thanks must be reserved for passengers and local communities and businesses who have been hugely supportive and patient over the past two months as we worked flat-out to rebuild this vital rail link.
“Our focus now moves to the medium and long-term looking at what can be done at Dawlish to make the current coastal route more resilient and, by the autumn, understand what the best viable relief route might be.”
Cost of repairs at Dawlish has been put at around £35M.
Timeline of events
- 4/5 February: Seawall at Riviera Terrace collapsed, creating an 80m-wide crater on the railway and leaving the railway track hanging. Rail services between Exeter and Plymouth suspended
- 6 February: Orange Army mobilised to clear debris from the main breach
- 8 February: Steel containers installed to serve as temporary breakwater and spraycrete machines deployed
- 11 February: Prime Minster visited to see the damage first-hand
- 14/15 February: Second storm hit and caused further damage to the seawall, which became 100m wide. Secondary breaches and more landslips were found along the 5.3km stretch of railway
- 17 February: First pour of concrete into main breach and more steel containers installed
- 24 February: First set of pre-cast concrete foundation laid
- 4 March: 25,000t landslip at Teignmouth
- ·7 March: Controlled landslip at Teignmouth began, first using high-powered hydrant from local fire services
- 19 March: Rail task force set up to review the long-term strategy for the coastal route
- 21 March: China Clay’s high-powered water cannons installed at Teignmouth to accelerate controlled landslip
- 27 March: Track and ballast installed with repairs to train station completed
- 29 March: First train – engineering ballast train – to travel over the breach area
- 4 April: Rail services restored