“The route around the coast will remain there in our lifetimes” - NR Western Route MD commits to protecting the line.
NETWORK Rail’s Western Route Managing Director Mark Langman has re-pledged NR’s commitment to making the coastal route at Dawlish more resilient.
In an exclusive interview with RAIL, Langman said that NR does not have a preferred plan at the moment for defending the line from bad weather and the effects of climate change, but that it would be sufficiently protected to “remain there in our lifetimes”.
His comments come more than nine months since NR published its Exeter to Newton Abbot GeoEnvironment Resilience Study Executive Summary for Winter 2016-17 ( RAIL 815), which offered five coastal defence options and six geo-technical options that are designed to prevent any re-occurrence of the infamous sea wall failure in February 2014. The line was closed for two months for repairs.
Increased resilience is also needed to mitigate the risks posed by a projected sea level rise of up to 55cm by 2065.
Coastal defence options include extending the sea wall further out to sea, raising the height of the sea wall, and using beach management techniques such as groynes and offshore breakwaters. Geo-technical options identified by the study include re-grading the surrounding cliffs to reduce their gradient, improving drainage, and extending existing rock fall shelters to reduce the risk of disruption.
The overall investment outlined in the strategy was more than £600 million, but NR said that some interventions should be prioritised for delivery in Control Period 6 (2019-24), while others could be deferred. The study was sent to the Department for Transport to decide on the best course of action and to find funding.
Meanwhile, the Government has provided £10m to NR for further development of its short, medium and long-term plans, to protect the railway before any plans are put to public consultation.
Langman said: “We learned a lot from 2014 and rebuilt the line pretty quickly. But the reality is, in the long term, that these things could happen more often. We’re spending in the region of £10m to look at what the options are going forward - for instance, do we move the railway further from the sea, and what do we do about the cliffs at Teignmouth?
“The Government has helped us fund that, and we’ll need to come up with a final set of plans and then see how we can fund that. We don’t have a preferred option at the moment, but we’ve got lots of options.”
He added: “What we can safely say is that the route around the coast will remain there in our lifetimes, and we need to come up with the right solution for the money that is going to be available.
“Everyone will have a view on it because it’s part of our heritage, so we must listen to what people say locally. We don’t want to damage tourism or the quality of life down there, but everyone wants to keep the railway there so there is a balance to be had somewhere in the middle of that.” ■ For the full interview with Mark Langman, see RAIL 836.
A Voyager passes Riviera Terrace (Dawlish) with CrossCountry’s 0644 Newcastle-Plymouth service on July 24, as Great Western Railway 43170 trails the 1000 Penzance-Paddington service. The trains are traversing the 100-metre section of sea wall that collapsed in February 2014, spectacularly demonstrating the line’s vulnerability to the forces of nature.
Langman: “The route around the coast will remain there in our lifetimes.”