Plans to keep a vital rail line on track

Artist's impression of Network Rail's proposed new work in south Devon.

Network Rail is proposing a series of potential changes to a section of railway line in south Devon that is bordered by steep cliffs on one side and the sea on the other. 

The 1.8km stretch of railway between Parsons tunnel, near Holcombe, and Teignmouth, which was closed for six weeks following a landslide in 2014, needs to be better protected from cliff falls, land slips and damage caused by the sea during extreme weather. The cliffs pose the greatest threat to the railway line, so the proposals include moving the railway away from the sections of cliff that pose the greatest hazard.

Network Rail say the design would also require some land reclamation to allow a buttress (a sloping rock structure to stabilise the cliffs and protect the railway) to be built. To protect the realigned railway from the sea, a rock revetment or enhanced sea wall will also be required to absorb the energy of the waves and allow for the railway to be relocated away from the cliffs.

The proposals also include enhanced leisure access, cycling and walking routes and new amenity areas, so that users of Holcombe beach continue to enjoy the space and views of the Devon coastline.

Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail’s western route, said: “These proposals will protect the railway for generations to come, but we listened to public feedback to the original concepts in 2016 and have worked hard to minimise the impact on Holcombe beach and incorporate new and improved amenities such as cycling and foot paths. The railway is a vital artery to the south west, which communities, businesses and visitors to the region depend on for connecting with the rest of the UK, so we really want to hear views on our updated proposals to allow us to refine them further before we apply for consent to undertake the work.”

Views are being sought from residents, communities, businesses and rail users as part of a public consultation which runs for five weeks until July 15. Network Rail will then incorporate the feedback into updated plans for a second round of consultation this autumn.

The detailed proposals are available online here.

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