OREANDA-NEWS. Following the extreme weather at the beginning of 2014 which caused part of the railway line at Dawlish to collapse into the sea, the team began working with residents on a study looking into the impact of coastal flooding, erosion and cliff instability on this vital part of the Great Western route and the options available to limit the effects of these in the future.

As part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan to provide a bigger, better, more reliable railway for passengers, this study has identified two priority areas for resilience work – the cliffs at Teignmouth and the Dawlish sea wall.

To help inform the options available to improve resilience in these areas the team is making use of a UAV. This is the first time a UAV has been used on the rail network for this type of improvement work and the first time Network Rail has launched it from the sea. So far, it has proved to be vital in helping the team gain a greater understanding of the geography of the area and how it might change over the next 100 years.

Using a UAV not only enables the team to gather close-up footage in a much quicker timescale than the traditional use of helicopters and people power would allow, but it is also a much safer option and has proved to be less intrusive for the local community.

To further inform the available options, the team has also started the process of taking soil and rock samples to establish the make-up of the cliffs. This will allow Network Rail to draw up detailed engineering designs tailored to each cliff area. 

Joanna Grew, Network Rail’s commercial scheme sponsor for the project, said: “Over the next few weeks residents are likely to see a lot of activity in the Dawlish and Teignmouth areas as we progress our plans to secure the future of this historic and important part of the Great Western route.

“Securing the future of this line is extremely important to us, which is why we are using the latest technology to build up the most accurate picture of the landscape, how it is likely to change, and what we can do to improve its resilience.

“I’d like to thank the local community in advance for their patience and understanding while we complete this vital work that will inform our study, and for the material they provided which proved to be invaluable in helping us gain a greater understanding of the area.”

Network Rail’s study outlining the options available to improve the resilience of this section of the Great Western route will be submitted to the Department for Transport for their consideration at the end of this month.