Rockfall shelter extension plans to protect vital stretch of Dawlish railway line approved

    Work is set to begin this summer of a 200m long tunnel to protect trains against falling rocks on the Dawlish railway line. Teignbridge District Council planners under delegated powers have approved Network Rail’s plans to extend the existing rockfall shelter over the railway line between Dawlish and Holcombe.


    Work is set to begin this summer of a 200m long tunnel to protect trains against falling rocks on the Dawlish railway line.
    Teignbridge District Council planners under delegated powers have approved Network Rail’s plans to extend the existing rockfall shelter over the railway line between Dawlish and Holcombe.
    Following approval, Network Rail hopes to begin construction work on the 209m long extension of the rockfall shelter north of Parsons Tunnel in August which will help protect trains against falling rocks along this section of vital railway that connects communities across the south west with the rest of the country.
    Parsons Tunnel was previously extended 100 years ago, and Network Rail will extend that further by providing a rockfall shelter in modern materials, but with open sides rather than the brick built enclosed tunnel extension.
    Once started, construction of the £37.4m project is expected to take around a year to complete.
    Preparatory work at the top of the cliffs overlooking this stretch of railway has already begun in March whereby Network Rail engineers started cutting back some of the vegetation. This work is being closely monitored to ensure the least disruption for wildlife habitats and biodiversity.
    The rockfall shelter, which is the third phase of works on the Dawlish line, and follows the two sections of new sea wall in Dawlish, is critical to ensuring the resilience of the railway between Dawlish and Teignmouth for generations to come and protecting this critical route from falling debris.
    Approving the application under delegated powers, the report of Rosalyn Eastman, business manager for strategic place, said: “The development would support retention of the railway which is acknowledged to be a feature within the landscape in the area snaking along the base of the cliffs adjacent to the coast. It is considered that the landscape impact of the development would be minor and any visual impact would be outweighed by securing retention of the railway line.
    “It is concluded that the proposal would constitute an acceptable form of development in this location which would not adversely affect the amenity of the area and therefore prior approval should be granted.”
    Chris Pearce, Network Rail’s western route interim director, said: “We are pleased that Teignbridge District Council has approved this third section of the South West Rail Resilience Programme and thank members and officers for their thorough reviews of our plans.
    “The coastal location of the railway in south Devon is truly stunning but it also presents its biggest challenge with the sea on one side and steep cliffs on the other.
    “The existing rockfall shelter has proven its effectiveness for a century and so this modern extended structure will protect the railway for generations to come alongside a section of cliff that is becoming increasingly hazardous from rock falls.”
    The application was for a 209m extension to the north of Parsons Tunnel, and for an open sided rockfall shelter comprising a series of 6.2m long concrete modular frames.
    It will be open sided rather than a solid tunnel to enhance passenger experience by providing a view towards the sea and for safety reasons, as if there was ever an accident and passengers needed to evacuate the train they could get trackside without being enclosed in a tunnel.
    Network Rail, when the application was submitted, added: “The proposed development is necessary to provide resilience to the railway line, by protecting it from rock falls from the adjoining cliffs. This is the main line that serves Plymouth, Torbay and Cornwall and is a nationally important section of railway infrastructure.
    “The proposal would provide substantial public benefits through provision of increased protection to this sustainable method of transport. Public benefits would also be derived from the investment in construction work on the site.”

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