Arcadis to help improve western rail route from Exeter to Newton Abbot

The coastal route for the South Devon Railway has been vulnerable to storm events for many years.

Network Rail has appointed Arcadis as principal contractor to conduct ground investigation studies in the cliff areas between Dawlish and Teignmouth as part of the 50-year resilience study of the railway line between Newton Abbot and Exeter, Devon. 

The findings of this investigation will provide invaluable engineering guidelines to model failure mechanisms and inform the later design phases where planned intervention measures may be proposed. Works commenced onsite in early May 2016 and will continue until October 2016.

The coastal route for the South Devon Railway has been vulnerable to storm events since opening in 1848. As the only railway link between the south west peninsula and the rest of the country, loss of the route through potential coastal erosion, cliff collapse or storm flooding can have severe ramifications for the economy, as well as impacting mobility and connectivity across the region. 

The breach of the sea wall at Dawlish in 2014 left the line closed for two months, costing the rail industry an estimated £40-£45m. In response, the government has committed to supporting the interim report of the Peninsula Rail Task Force by investing an additional £5m in developing options to improve the resilience of this particular stretch of line.

As part of the resulting resilience study, Arcadis will be conducting a ground investigation in the cliff front area between Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth to characterise the ground conditions and understand the processes that have resulted in the formation of the various walls, slopes, rock-fall sites, and embankments along the coastal cliff front where the incidence of failure events and disruption is greatest. 

As part of the ground investigation, roped access surveys will also be undertaken, concentrating on key geotechnical sites to provide tactile information on weathering, structure and near surface strength characteristics.

Claire Milner, project manager at Arcadis, said: “We are delivering the project using innovative GIS technology, which helps communication and improves the quality of data analysis. This means we can ensure Network Rail is equipped with the information and data it needs for future investment decisions, while at the same time working closely with the local community to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum. 

“Health and safety is also a major priority, and the project recently won a Star Lite Worksite Recognition award from Network Rail in recognition of our commitment to health and safety and Sustainability throughout all our schemes.” 

Joanna Grew, project sponsor for Network Rail, added: “Network Rail is committed to the long term resilience of the railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot. Keeping this railway line available for local communities as well as passengers and businesses further afield is crucially important. This work will provide vital data to feed in to the long term resilience options for this route and allow us to better plan the works in the future.”

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