Residents invited to hear latest on resilience plans for stretch of railway between Holcombe and Teignmouth: A GWR train passes along the stretch of railway between Holcombe and Teignmouth

Thursday 10 Nov 2022

Residents invited to hear latest on resilience plans for stretch of railway between Holcombe and Teignmouth

Region & Route:
Wales & Western
| Wales & Western: Western

Residents in South Devon are being invited to hear an update on progress to develop revised plans to protect the iconic coastal stretch of railway between Parson’s Tunnel and Teignmouth.

Network Rail’s project team will be holding a number of sessions at Holcombe Village Hall on 24 and 30 November, and at Pavilions Teignmouth on 21 and 28 November. These are ticketed sessions and will begin with a presentation followed by an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions. For more information and to purchase a free ticket, please visit

This 1.8km stretch of railway line, which is bordered by steep cliffs on one side and the sea on the other, is at risk from cliff falls, landslips and damage caused by extreme weather which is set to increase as climate change takes hold.

Following a three-month public consultation in early 2020, Network Rail has been reviewing its proposals to tackle all known or future risks which centred on moving the tracks away from the cliffs while simultaneously building new sea defences to protect the line from the waves.

Engineering experts are working hard to find a solution that protects the railway without impacting the beaches between Holcombe and Teignmouth. This includes an examination of what could be done without moving the tracks.

Over the past two years, extensive analysis of existing data and trials of ground investigation techniques have taken place to further assess the risk from the cliffs to the railway, with more site investigations to come. As a result of the work so far, engineers are developing a range of interventions that will reduce the risks from the cliffs to improve the resilience of the line as an alternative to the 2020 proposals.

Depending on the level of risk, the cliffs could be stabilised with a range of targeted solutions – from soil nailing and netting to groundwater management. This approach would reduce the scheme’s impact on the environment and the community, and its carbon footprint. Subject to future funding decisions, these measures could potentially be delivered as a phased programme of work.

The risk to the railway from the sea, which is currently considered to be lower than that from the cliffs, would be addressed in a future programme of work. This means there would be no major alterations to the current sea wall in the immediate future.

Network Rail’s ongoing investigations use state-of-the-art technology, including satellite and radar surveys and new drilling techniques, to conduct detailed investigation work into the landscape and material of the cliff, including its sub-surface water saturation and drainage.

A team of experts will be monitoring groundwater and streams, carrying out rope access surveys and geophysical investigations, and drilling further boreholes to obtain samples from up to 70 metres in depth.

At this stage, no final scheme is being proposed; funding is not confirmed, and Network Rail is reviewing what consents would be needed. 

Julie Gregory, Network Rail senior sponsor, said: “We listened very carefully to what the community, our stakeholders and passengers had to say during our public consultation.

“While it was clear there was strong support for making the line more resilient, just over half the 1,600 people who responded disagreed with the design we put forward. After considering the feedback and the impact of our proposal, we decided to go back to the drawing board to approach the project from a different angle.

“The plans we put forward in 2020 were designed to protect the railway from all possible types of cliff failure and to address the threat from the cliffs and the sea at the same time with a significant programme of construction work.

“We are now looking at a targeted approach, meaning the risk for 14 separate sections of cliff will be assessed and a bespoke solution will be developed for each. The risk from the sea would be addressed in the future as our priority for now is to stabilise the cliffs and make this vital stretch of railway more resilient.

“We know the community wants to retain the beach and we are examining how we can leave the railway where it is but still make sure we protect it from the risk of landslips and falling debris. If the analysis of our detailed investigations concludes we do not need to move the tracks, there would be no loss of beach between Holcombe and Teignmouth.

“We’ve still got a lot more tests and analysis to do before we can finalise our proposals, but we want to update the public on the progress we’ve made so far. We’re holding events in Holcombe and Teignmouth so we can explain what we’ve learned over the past two years.”

Details of how to book a free ticket to these seated events are available at

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Rob Breckon
Senior Communications Manager - Southern
Network Rail
07395 390759

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