The second section of a new, bigger sea wall at Dawlish, Devon has been started by Network Rail. The wall will protect the railway and town from rising sea levels and extreme weather for generations.

A large aspect of the work involves the use of a new, innovative eight-legged, self-contained walking jack-up barge, called a ‘Wavewalker’. This ‘Wavewalker’ is the only one of its kind in Europe and this is the first time this type of barge has been used to maintain the UK rail network.

This innovative piece of equipment will be used by BAM Nuttall to safely access the sea face of the railway embankment along Marine Parade and help deliver the piling at the sea wall. The ‘Wavewalker’ benefits from being able to operate across high tidal ranges that particularly impact the South Devon coastline, which would otherwise restrict the number of hours is it possible to work safely on the sea wall.

Construction at this next section of the £80 million upgrade will take around two years to complete, and follows a year of detailed studies, designs, and joint working between world-leading marine, coastal and railway engineering experts.

The first phase, from Dawlish station to the Coastguard breakwater east of the station, is expected to complete in late 2021. The final phase between the station and the Colonnade breakwater which links up the new wall at Marine Parade will start to be built shortly after.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris added: “I’m really pleased to see that work is starting on the next phase of the sea wall, and that the innovative ‘Wavewalker’ is being used to construct it – a first for UK rail.

“Our investment will provide a resilient railway for generations to come, and forms part of our commitment to deliver reliable, punctual journeys across Devon and Cornwall, helping the South West build back better, supporting the local economy and tourism.”

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