Network Rail unveils proposals to protect vital south west rail line bordered by steep cliffs and the sea: PTT image 4

Monday 10 Jun 2019

Network Rail unveils proposals to protect vital south west rail line bordered by steep cliffs and the sea

Region & Route:
Wales & Western: Western
| Wales & Western
  • Proposals published for changes to the rail line in south Devon which needs to be better protected from cliff falls, land slips and damage caused by the sea during extreme weather
  • Public consultation now open for local communities to help shape the final design of the scheme
  • Five-week consultation includes realignment of the railway to make room for corrective measures to stabilise the cliffs
  • The plans include improved leisure access and amenities including new, fully accessible, coastal walking and cycling routes

Proposals have today been published for 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. 

Views are being sought from residents, communities, businesses and rail users as part of a public consultation which runs for five weeks until 15 July 2019.

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 in this location, so the proposals include moving the railway away from the sections of cliff that pose the greatest hazard.

The design would 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.

Residents and interested parties are invited to provide feedback on the proposals to help finalise the designs. The detailed proposals are available online at

Starting in Newton Abbot today, 10 consultation events in and around the local area will enable people to find out more, ask questions and express their views. It is possible to respond to the consultation online, by email or in writing via a freepost feedback form.

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.”

Following the consultation, all responses will be analysed, and Network Rail will incorporate the feedback into updated plans which will be publicised through a second round of consultation this autumn.

Notes to Editors

In 2014, there was a major landslip near Holcombe which dislodged thousands of tonnes of cliff material on to the track. For six weeks, all rail connectivity in and out of South Devon and Cornwall was severed – cutting off 50 towns and cities from the rest of the country. This dramatically highlighted the vulnerability of the route, and urgent works were required to get trains running again beyond Exeter. The damage cost tens of millions of pounds to repair. The cost to the local and regional economy was far higher. Since then, Network Rail has been developing plans to improve resilience of the railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot. Key to these plans is the Parson’s Tunnel to Teignmouth Resilience Project.

With the support of world leading coastal, marine and railway engineers Network Rail has been investigating the best long-term solutions to make this section of the railway more resilient. The cliffs from Parson’s Tunnel to Teignmouth have been separated into 15 distinct areas and assessed for their varying geological characteristics and risk profile.

As well as installing monitoring equipment on sections of the cliffs, detailed geological and marine surveys have included taking rock samples from deep within the cliffs, the beach and the sea bed.

In tandem, data for climate change and sea level forecasts has been analysed while, at all times, considering the impact on the environment of any potential changes that are proposed.

List of consultation events



Dawlish Town council office

The Manor House
Old Town Street

Tuesday 11th June – Council Chamber


Monday 24th June – Mayors Parlour

12pm - 4pm



4pm - 8pm


Holcombe (Village Hall)

Holcombe, Dawlish


Thursday 13th June

Thursday 27th June

2pm - 6pm

4pm - 8pm


Teignmouth Town Council

Bitton House, Teignmouth

TQ14 9DF

Wednesday 12th June

Wednesday 26th June

12pm - 4pm

4pm - 8pm


Exeter Community Centre

17 St. Davids Hill, Exeter


Tuesday 25th June

4pm - 8pm

Newton Abbot

The Avenue Church

The Avenue, Newton Abbot

 TQ12 2BY

Monday 10th June

Saturday 29th June

1pm - 5pm

12pm - 4pm


The Windmill Centre

Pendennis Rd, Torquay


Friday 28th June

1pm - 5pm

Contact information

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03457 11 41 41

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07730 354394

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