Network Rail unveils updated plan to protect vital south west rail line bordered by steep cliffs and the sea: A view from Parsons Tunnel

Monday 20 Jan 2020

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

Region & Route:
  • Updated 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 extreme weather
  • Public consultation now open until 1 March for local communities across the south west to help shape the final design of the scheme
  • Six-week consultation includes details of the plans to realign the railway to make room for corrective measures to stabilise the cliffs
  • The updated plans mean most of the beach is retained with improved leisure access and amenities including new, fully accessible coastal walking routes

Updated proposals have today (20 January) 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 across the south west as part of a second round of public consultation which runs for six weeks until 1 March as Network Rail looks to protect a 1.8km stretch of railway between Parsons Tunnel, near Holcombe, and Teignmouth.

The vital rail artery is the only line which connects Cornwall and Devon with the rest of the country and the plans would see the railway realigned away from hazardous cliffs.

The updated design means that most of the beach is retained as it only moves the railway away from the most potentially hazardous areas of the cliffs and keeps the existing railway alignment at both Parsons Tunnel and at Teignmouth end of this stretch of railway.

A realigned coastal footpath, which is 1m wider and safer than the current South West Coast Path, as it will have edge protection, will also be built with the new coastal path not extending any further out than the current extent of Sprey Point.

Further, a landward footpath will also be created with the new enhanced coastal path with more than 1km of new path with full coastal views will be added to the landward side of the railway between Holcombe and Sprey Point, where users can cross over the railway on a new, accessible footbridge.

The vulnerable section of railway was closed for six weeks following a landslide in 2014 and it needs to be better protected from cliff falls, landslips and damage caused during extreme weather.

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

Starting today in Dawlish Warren, 11 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.

Mike Gallop, route director for Network Rail’s Western route, said: “We have listened to feedback from the first round of consultation and our updated plans will ensure a resilient railway line for the whole south west while maintaining most of the beach and adding improved walking and leisure facilities.

"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. We welcome views on our updated proposals before we apply for consent to undertake the work.”

For the proposal to go ahead Network Rail need to make an application for a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) to the Secretary of State for Transport in order to secure the necessary permissions and rights to carry out the works. 

The TWAO is likely to be submitted later this year once feedback is received from this round of public consultation. 

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