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As I see it, there are 3 alternatives.

 

1) Build a new, inland, alternative.

 

2) Keep throwing money at the sea wall only for it to be closed regularly due to the weather and the risk of serious damage in the future.

 

3) Cut off everything west of Exeter by rail from the rest of the UK.

 

Out of those three options I'd say 1 is by far the most sensible.

 

I very much doubt that the first option will even be considered, for all the reasons mentioned previously.

 

The last option would be totally unacceptable to any government.

 

The second option is the only one that will come about in my view. And most assuredly not by "throwing money at it", but by a large civil engineering project moving the sea wall and defences by say 20/30m out into the sea with a high wave-breaking concrete interface with the sea. It has succeeded to a reasonable degree at Torcross further down the coast which used to regularly get inundated during winter storms.

 

With rising sea levels predicted over time this would seem to me to be the most viable and cost effective solution.

 

In the meantime, once the storms have passed (at the moment, goodness knows when that will be) it will be a fill and rebuild repair.

 

Regarding ballast at the site I do believe that some of the sections have be epoxy glued in place, so it will remain to be seen whether this has helped. Probably not as I think that it was done to counter 'normal' high seas, but nothing like this.

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I think damage on the scale shown so far is way beyond most people might have expected and if such weather events are to become more frequent, there really is no excuse for not looking at longer term options rather than regularly spending millions on repairs that get washed away in a year or so. If there really is a will, there will be a way. The Penmanshiel diversion shows what can be achieved when the need arises.

 

I'm sure the residents of Dawlish and Teignmouth won't agree with #1...

 

(or #3)

 

Perhaps not, but this issue is much bigger than the residents of Dawlish and Teignmouth.  It's pretty much everything west of Exeter that is affected.

 

and if the sea wall route was lost as through route, Teignmouth could always be served as a branch from Newton Abbot.

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I think damage on the scale shown so far is way beyond most people might have expected and if such weather events are to become more frequent, there really is no excuse for not looking at longer term options rather than regularly spending millions on repairs that get washed away in a year or so.

 

I think it was getting on for a decade or so ago that it was last closed for a few days due to damage? - Even then i'm not sure it was this bit - so it seems unlikely that the works to repair this (and, realistically, there is no alternative to that happenning) will be washed away in a year?

 

I've had several folk comment to me that "they've been trying to close it" - but in reality i've seen no evidence for that having happenned post BR. Quite the opposite in fact.

 

Local stakeholders (including councils) would be up in arms if they thought it likely they would lose the commuting routes that they have been spending large sums to promote and develop.

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Will there be any residents of Dawlish left if it all falls in the sea?

 

Cause/Effect?

 

If you did close the railway then a lot of properties are directly threatened, unless some white knight were to take over the walls maintainence.

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I don't doubt for a minute that all the options referred to above will be debated ad nauseam over the coming weeks.  What will be needed will be a comprehensive assessment of all of them once (if) the weather patterns ameliorate and the damage to the sea wall can be evaluated properly.

 

I'm away at the moment, but I think the Mitchell & Smith book of the line has an outline of the possible 1930s inland route.  IIRC it went from Starcross to about Bishopsteignton, and would be some way up the hill in Teignmouth.  Maybe something could be made of the Heathfield line.  Reopening Okehampton to Tavistock/Plymouth would be nice irrespective of all this, but if it was at the cost of abandoning the coast route you not only take out Dawlish and Teignmouth but Newton Abbot, Torbay and Totnes from the rail network. 

 

Abandon rail beyond Exeter and build more roads?  Of course there will be some who think this is the best idea, because of course all visitors to the south west have cars, or like travelling on buses to Devon and Cornwall to places that are clogged with cars already.

 

My money is on a taking the opportunity for a proper 21st century-engineered refurb of the existing coast route.

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Regardless of the final solution, I would think there isn't any choice, in the short term, other than rebuilding the existing line*. If that is done properly, then the alternate routes will go back on the back burner again.

 

*Assuming that one doesn't take the choice of cutting off the rail network west of Exeter.

 

Adrian

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Hi all,

 

Apologies if this is a dumb question but I don't have a rail atlas... Does this closure leave any vehicles stranded, or are there other routes, albeit possibly slower, out of Devon and Cornwall?

 

Cheers

 

Ben A.

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Apologies if this is a dumb question but I don't have a rail atlas... Does this closure leave any vehicles stranded, or are there other routes, albeit possibly slower, out of Devon and Cornwall?

 

There are no alternative rail routes nowadays, so any vehicles West of Exeter are stuck there (and v.v.)

 

Last time there was a major outage I recall some stock being redistributed by road to ensure that they could run a service on both sides?

 

Edit to add - FGW has a major depot at Laira (Plymouth - also dealing with XC trains), and another at Long Rock (Penzance) so maintaining a captive fleet for a couple of months shouldn't be impossible, but those depots may have to brush up on Sprinters, as IIRC they would normally be based at Exeter for maintainence, or Bristol for heavy work?

 

I'm sure FGW and XC will already be trying to work out what's stuck where, what they need each side, how to resource the remaining service (or what the service they can resource will look like)...

Edited by Glorious NSE
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There are no alternative rail routes nowadays, so any vehicles West of Exeter are stuck there (and v.v.)

 

Last time there was a major outage I recall some stock being redistributed by road to ensure that they could run a service on both sides?

 

Edit to add - FGW has a major depot at Laira (Plymouth - also dealing with XC trains), and another at Long Rock (Penzance) so maintaining a captive fleet for a couple of months shouldn't be impossible, but those depots may have to brush up on Sprinters, as IIRC they would normally be based at Exeter for maintainence, or Bristol for heavy work?

 

I'm sure FGW and XC will already be trying to work out what's stuck where, what they need each side, how to resource the remaining service (or what the service they can resource will look like)...

I would expect that the XC fleet numbers will be located more or less correctly either side of the block already

as presumably the sets to the west will have already been west country based since the planned  Whiteball Tunnel blockade started in January.

 

cheers

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I'm sure FGW and XC will already be trying to work out ..... how to resource the remaining service (or what the service they can resource will look like)...

 

There's a few preserved railways that might be willing to help out with locos and stock too, perhaps?

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This wall breach appears to be one of the most serious, since both lines have been undermined.

Recent news http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-26044323 shows the properties at Sea Lawn terrace are being affected.

 

In the February 1986 breach at Teignmouth (near Parson's Tunnel), the up main remained viable (but closed, except for a few emergency clay trains).

Following this a long term plan to build new wall foundations involved machinery being moved from Sprey Point along the beach between every high tide, a very slow job.

 

 

The viaduct at Smuggler's Cove (just west of the tunnel) was built following the 1855 breach, this and 1872/3 are apaprently the only instances of major loss of the wall itself (rather than of the fill behind it).

 

Can any one remember how long this 1986-87 work took?

 

At Dawlish, the section which has collapsed today is the Sea lawn gap, with the walkway at sea level (apparently to prevent people looking in the windows of Sea Lawn Terrace). "Rails Along the Sea Wall" (Platform 5, 1990) informs that this section was breached in 1930.   Immediately south, the high level part until the breakwater was rebuilt in 1869.   North of the sea lawn gap to and just after Rockstone footbridge was rebuilt in 1872/3.    The photo on p51 shows the wall masonry washed onto the beach.

 

The earlier post showing loss of sand cover and exposure of stepped footings below the walkway suggest a much lower beach level today, which is going to make rebuilding much more difficult that from the wide beach at Teignmouth in 1986.

 

As regards Options 1-3, the railway provides protection for Sea Lawn Terrace, and the cliff behind which carries the A379 and Marine Parade.    If the railway is not rebuilt, the whole of the Dawlish seafront will become vulnerable, so it makes sense to invest in sea defences which benefit both line and town.

 

Reopening via Tavistock - a major housing development is planned for the town, a condition of which is improved public transport - a good case for reopening from Bere Alston.   The big problem of the missing link to Okehampton would be Meldon viaduct.

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I don't doubt for a minute that all the options referred to above will be debated ad nauseam over the coming weeks.  What will be needed will be a comprehensive assessment of all of them once (if) the weather patterns ameliorate and the damage to the sea wall can be evaluated properly.

 

I'm away at the moment, but I think the Mitchell & Smith book of the line has an outline of the possible 1930s inland route.  IIRC it went from Starcross to about Bishopsteignton, and would be some way up the hill in Teignmouth.  Maybe something could be made of the Heathfield line.  Reopening Okehampton to Tavistock/Plymouth would be nice irrespective of all this, but if it was at the cost of abandoning the coast route you not only take out Dawlish and Teignmouth but Newton Abbot, Torbay and Totnes from the rail network. 

 

Abandon rail beyond Exeter and build more roads?  Of course there will be some who think this is the best idea, because of course all visitors to the south west have cars, or like travelling on buses to Devon and Cornwall to places that are clogged with cars already.

 

My money is on a taking the opportunity for a proper 21st century-engineered refurb of the existing coast route.

I tend to agree with your conclusion Rod - my only hope is that it will be done properly and will not be a 'quick fix' answer as usually has had to be the case in the past.  The first stage will - no doubt - have to be a quick fix in order to get the line open but beyond that there seems to be a clear needed for new sea wall with far deeper foundations outside the line of the existing wall with a proper solution to the consequences of scour at the rear of it - and possibly beneath the railway.  Ideally the railway could in places be constructed on slabbed track on top of deep piles but that will mean single line working for a very long time.

 

But this would cost a very large amount of money and my fear will be that, as usual, the politicos will throw their hands up in horror at the cost once the storms have abated and the good old 'pour in some more fill' quick fix has been carried out.  However I am reasonably sure that in the longer term by far the most economic solution is major strengthening of the existing route.

 

As far as Tavistock is concerned it has been an ongoing and occasionally revved-up project for the past 20 years although at least now it has wider local authority etc support.  However I presume the plan remains to terminate short of the former viaduct site as the route on the other side of that has been built over.  And of course Okehampton viaduct is basically a no-go for modern trains and speeds - assuming it would be safe enough to use by any trains at all.  Diversion over the old LSWR route would today be simpler than it once was as most trains are far more readily reversible, but the time cost of diversion will probably add no advantage over a temporary road service and would probably cost more.

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Whilst we look at these pictures and sympathise with the residents of Dawlish and all those cut off west of Exeter, maybe we should take some time to think about Captain Kernow and his colleagues who have to work hard to repair this damage as quickly as they can and remain safe doing so. I, for one, wish them all the best for the difficult task ahead and hope they stay safe. Unfortunately they are in a no win situation with at least one person prepared to complain about the delays in repairs and what are they going to do about it.

 

The quicker the government realise that the west country needs a more secure rail link to the capital and the rest of the country with out the disruption this sort of weather brings the better it will be. 

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Hi all,

 

Apologies if this is a dumb question but I don't have a rail atlas... Does this closure leave any vehicles stranded, or are there other routes, albeit possibly slower, out of Devon and Cornwall?

 

Cheers

 

Ben A.

Yes, anything that's west of it, is stuck there. So, anything working out of Plymouth, local DMUs, any EWS 66s that are in Cornwall, and any HSTs, plus, presumably the FGW Night Riviera.

CHRIS LEIGH

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Reopening via Tavistock - a major housing development is planned for the town, a condition of which is improved public transport - a good case for reopening from Bere Alston.   The big problem of the missing link to Okehampton would be Meldon viaduct.

 

From what I heard, part of the planning gain was the re-instatement of the railway from Bere Alston. I don't know if things have changed but I heard it was a done deal and scheduled for construction in 2016?  

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Just watching on the BBC, The wife and I plus our little Cocker have spent many a happy time down in Dawlish, our hearts go out for all of the unfortunate souls that this terrible weather has affected not just in Devon but it seems alot of other places too.

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More on the 1986 Teignmouth breach, which occurred just west of Parson's Tunnel - I've dug out my log book (I used to live in Plymouth so this info would have been taken from the local news).

 

26/2/86: Breach occurred at ~12am, north of MP 208; conditions high tide and force 11 SE gale.   Wall undermined.   Ballast washed out between down main and inside of wall.

27/2/86: foundations being undermined further.   40 feet of infill lost between wall and DM.  2/3 of width of walkway collapsed

28/2/86: 20 feet of undermined wall collapsed onto beach.  DM suspended across gap.   UM dipping.   Class 47 and 10 ECC PBAs filmed passing at 5mph on up line, BBC news

3/3/86: single line working

10/3/86: DM reopened - 13 days

There was then a long period of substantial work on the section of wall towards Sprey Point.

 

As can be seen from today's photos, the scale of damage at Sea Lawn is both longer and wider.   There has always been less beach here than at Teignmouth.

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Perhaps Network Rail could persuade James May to build a new Dawlish sea wall out of Lego? Seriously, though, erosion of the coast means that the alignment of the railway gets more exposed every year, and climate change has speeded this up, so every time this happens it's going to get more expensive to fix. Sooner or later the alignment will have to be moved, even if it's just a few metres inland, to give the engineers a chance to get a firm foundation that's accessible by something other than a submarine.

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I wonder how long the line will be shut? They won't even be able to asses the damage until the storms are over. They will need to rebuild the seawall strong enough to withstand similar in the future. Gonna be a loooong wait for a train.

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