Behind the scenes of the new Dawlish sea wall build, eight years on from the 2014 storm

By Will Goddard

8th Feb 2022 | Local News

Use the white arrows to scroll through the pictures above!

Eight years ago today (Friday 4 February) in 2014, a storm damaged the railway tracks at Dawlish and cut off access to towns further down the line.

Dawlish Nub News went behind the scenes of the new £80m government-funded sea wall build this week to see how work was progressing.

The new sea wall

The sea wall build is split into two sections. Construction started on the first section in May 2019. It runs for 360 metres from Boat Cove along Marine Parade to the railway station, and was completed in July 2020. Construction of the 415-metre second section began in November 2020 and is ongoing. It runs from the Colonnade breakwater (on Dawlish Town Beach) to the Coastguard breakwater.

How's work on the second section going?

According to Network Rail, its contractors BAM Nuttall have now installed all of the 143 concrete wall panels and curved wave returns between the station and the Coastguard breakwater. Wave returns will now be installed behind the station building.

They've also increased the height of the wall, which they say has kept the tracks from flooding.

What's going on at the stilling basin?

Dawlish residents will likely have noticed the diggers down by the beach where Dawlish Water (the Brook) meets the sea. The engineers are now focusing on diverting the Brook temporarily so that they can work on the stilling basin and install piles between there and the station building.

What about the platforms?

Work to completely rebuild platform one and resurface platform two is ready to get underway.

This work will be carried out at weekends - meaning that there will be replacement buses all weekends in February between Exeter and Newton Abbot.

An accessible station footbridge with lifts is also expected to be built by 2023.

The promenade

The promenade is taking shape, and already has relief artwork and pieces of wave returns from the old sea wall installed as benches. The Coastguard's footbridge across the railway tracks is expected to reopen later this month, but the whole promenade is expected to be open to the public this summer - meaning that you will be able to walk to Dawlish Warren.

'It has pushed us to the limits of our knowledge'

Yan Sayles, a BAM Nuttall project manager, explained that the location of the railway makes the work challenging - and has thanked Dawlish residents for their patience.

He said: "It has pushed us to the limits of our knowledge and required us to develop new techniques and materials that have never been used in other rail projects before.

"I'd like to thank the residents of Dawlish for their patience, hospitality and friendship over our years delivering this work. We know our work has sometimes caused noise and disturbance, but we hope that it will provide a lasting legacy which will benefit the town for many years to come."

The mayor of Dawlish, Councillor Val Mawhood, said that the new sea wall will 'ensure that history isn't repeated'.

She added: "The great storm of 2014 is now a major part of Dawlish history and something that will be spoken about for generations to come.

"This awful event showed just how vital this section of the rail network is for the whole of the South West and I welcome the progress which has been made on the new sea wall."

The Dawlish Information Hub on Marine Parade is open on Saturdays this month from 12pm to 2pm if you'd like to find out more.


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