The team of engineers which worked round the clock to reopen the Dawlish rail link following the severe weather at the start of 2014 has been awarded the prestigious Brunel Medal at the 2014 ICE Awards.
The Brunel Medal recognises individuals or teams which have shown excellence in civil engineering. Fittingly, this year it went to a team which repaired part of a railway designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The ICE awards committee said the Dawlish Sea Wall emergency works demonstrated a “shining example of civil engineers doing what they do best - teamwork, inventiveness, innovation, quick thinking and sheer determination”.
Opened in 1846, the South Devon Railway is the only rail connection from the West Country to the rest of the UK, hugging the coastline around Dawlish. The storms in February this year severely damaged 7.8km of the line between Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth, including breaching 100m of the Dawlish sea wall.
On 6 February a team comprising Network Rail, Bam, Amco, Dyer & Butler, Sisk and Tony Gee & Partners had assembled to plan the repairs, although another storm struck on 14 February battering the 10t shipping containers which were being used as a temporary breakwater. Works came to a halt and the damage caused a 20% increase to the overall project scope.
24 hours, seven days a week
Through late February and March, the team worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to repair and reinstate the line, but in early March, 25,000t of material had sheared away from the cliff face falling onto the track near Teignmouth. A controlled landslip was created using several high pressure water cannons, turning the red earth into slurry to run off into the sea, whilst minimising damage to the infrastructure below.
Works continued with an average of 300 people each day and 150 each night working tirelessly to reopen the line. Eight weeks after the first storm, after
battling high waves, rain, gales and a further landslip, the rail link to south and west Devon and Cornwall reopened on 4 April.
Prime minister David Cameron praised the “orange army” of engineers for their “Herculean effort” in completing the repairs.
ICE awards committee chairman and vice president Tim Broyd said: “If any project is worthy of the Brunel Medal, it is this. Considering the extent of the damage and the relentless conditions the engineers were faced with, it is quite extraordinary that they were able to get the track up and running before Easter - two weeks ahead of schedule - to avoid further damage to the regional economy.
“The teamwork, inventiveness and sheer determination were inspiring - a shining example of civil engineers doing what they do best. I have no doubt that if Brunel was with us today he would be extremely proud - congratulations to all involved.”
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “It seems fitting that the Dawlish team should be awarded the Brunel Medal for, like him, they have shown great vision and ingenuity, ably overcoming every challenge and obstacle that has been sent their way. Our work is not yet done and the team continues to repair and improve the resilience of the network in the Dawlish area. I congratulate each and every one of them for this well-deserved award.”
Other award winners
Edmund Hambly Medal Rural Access Programme (RAP), Nepal
Garth Watson Medal Michael Chrimes
The Warren Medal Steven JS Morgan, James DB Chen
For further information on each award click here