Work is progressing well in Dawlish, as Network Rail’s £80 million project for the second section of sea wall builds at pace.
After receiving approval in August 2020, the 415 metre stretch between the Coastguards and Colonnade breakwaters is progressing well, with new aerial drone footage showing just how the construction project is moving on.
Contractor’s BAM Nuttall are working through the construction of the new link bridge that will run parallel to Colonnade viaduct, connecting the two sections of publicly accessible promenade and the new stilling basin, where Dawlish Water runs into the sea. The abutments and piers – pillars that support the spans – are in place and scaffolding is up for construction of the deck.
A new stilling basin at Colonnade breakwater has been under construction since the summer. The structure sits on the footprint of the old basin but the new build will be much stronger, and will take some force out of the waves as they hit, which should help reduce some of the beach material being deposited under the viaduct.
Julie Gregory, Network Rail’s senior sponsor, said: “Since the unexpected delay following the discovery of an uncharted gas main this summer, the team has made great progress and these pictures show how the link bridge and stilling basin are really taking shape.
“Completion will now depend on the weather as we enter the autumn and winter months with the possibility of heavy rain or storms slowing us down. We anticipate the link bridge and area around the new stilling basin area will open to the public in December this year, along with the beach between Coastguard and Colonnade breakwaters.
“At that stage, however, a section of promenade between the station building and Coastguard footbridge will remain closed for safety reasons while the accessible footbridge is under construction. We will make sure as much of the public area and seating as possible is available on both sides of the closure and will fully open the promenade as soon as we are able to safely do so.
“We’d like to thank the community of Dawlish and all of our lineside neighbours and passengers for their continued support and patience while we complete this landmark project.”
The first section of new sea wall – which runs for 360 metres along Marine Parade south west of Dawlish station – was completed in July 2020. Construction of the 415 metre second section – stretching from Coastguard breakwater northeast of Dawlish station to Colonnade breakwater – began in November 2020 and was completed in August 2022 following the installation of 164 wall panels, 203 pre-cast blocks and 189 recurve units, which return waves back out to sea.
It is hoped that the design coupled with the increased height of the new sea wall will help prevent delays and disruption to passengers by minimising the likelihood of the tracks flooding and allowing the line to reopen more quickly after major storms. The work follows a closure of the line for eight weeks in 2014, following huge storms which saw significant flooding at Dawlish. Since then, Network Rail has been developing plans to improve the resilience of the railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot, a vital route which connect communities, businesses and visitors in 50 towns and cities in the South West with the rest of the UK.
In addition to the progress being made constructing the link bridge, work has also started on the lift shafts for the new accessible footbridge for Dawlish station, which is due for completion in summer 2023.
The team will be working around the clock over the Christmas period, when trains aren’t running, to install the bridge foundations closest to the tracks.