The Pressure’s On – Repairing Dawlish sea wall

The pressure is on. The sea wall was breached by storms on 4 February and the railway has been washed away. Writes Collin Carr

Business in the West Country is suffering and the government is demanding effective engineering solutions that can be quickly activated. Network Rail has set itself a target to reinstate the railway by mid-April and has appointed BAM Nuttall as principal contractor for the work to help them achieve this challenging target.

The damage to this coastal stretch of railway is extensive; more than 80 metres of the sea wall has been breached by the waves and washed out to sea. By mid February, the breach had expanded to more than 90 metres in length and the formation and track ballast behind the wall had been washed out to sea followed by the retaining wall that supported a private roadway and the roadway itself, leaving the houses beyond in a very precarious state.

Extensive damage08/02/14 Network Rail Dawlish - repair works continue despite high tides and stormy weather

Apart from the breach described above, there are five other locations between Dawlish and Dawlish Warren where the sea wall has been breached, but so far the damage is not as severe. Also, Dawlish station has taken a battering, the wooden down platform boarding has been ripped out and furnishings badly damaged. Further up the coast in the Teignmouth area, there are concerns about the stability of the sea wall at various locations.

The appalling weather has been relentless and the tides unsympathetic. As BAM Nuttall’s site agent Alastair Morley explained, all parties had to act immediately to protect the formation supporting the houses that were now totally exposed, and they had to do something quickly to prevent further erosion. So after cutting the rails over the breached area, the concrete-sleepered track was laid across the formation to offer added protection. Once the sacrificial track was in place, the whole area was covered in sprayed concrete, offering additional resistance to the next high tide and helping to minimise further destabilisation of the exposed row of houses.

Temporary protective barriers

Whilst this work was underway, a procession of eleven ship containers was brought to site and placed on the footpath in front of the 90
metre breach. The containers were then welded together and filled with rock and rubble gathered from the site. This metal barrier has provided the much needed additional protection so that reconstruction to the damaged area could take place. However, it wasn’t plain sailing, the ferocity of the sea split two containers so running repairs to this temporary barrier has become an essential part of the daily routine. In addition, a scaffolding bridge has been constructed to span the 90 metre gap so that services and signalling equipment can be reinstated and reconnected to the existing infrastructure.dawlish08022014-018 [online]

So at the time of writing this article, it appears that a little breathing space has been created and the immediate further erosion has been addressed. There is now a reasonable barrier in place to keep the hostile sea at bay for the time being. Whilst this work was underway, Network Rail was considering what needed to be done to enable all the repair work to be completed and to restore the railway to meet the deadline.

Skilled team

Several other suppliers were needed to support BAM Nuttall as principal contractor so Amalgamated Construction (AMCO) was drafted into the process by Network Rail. One of its teams was carrying out other railway work in the area at a significant site near Tiverton, where they are carrying out repairs to Whiteball Tunnel (as reported in this issue on page 92). AMCO was given the responsibility for repairing the 90 metre breach.

Also, SISK group was brought in to rebuild the down platform which had to be demolished at Dawlish station and carry out other repairs to the station buildings and Up platform.

At a separate site, Dyer & Butler has been drafted in as principal contractor for the repairs to the sea wall between Kennaway Tunnel and Teignmouth station. As the local maintainers, Dyer & Butler will add vital local knowledge and expertise to the team and will also undertake extensive geotechnical works to the cliff face.

In addition to all the work that is taking place on site, Network Rail has procured the services of Tony Gee & Partners to develop a design for repairing the main breach. Although, at the time when this article was written, the design was still in its developmental stage, thoughts were turning towards the constructiRS_dawlishstormdamage2_06022014 [online]on of a barrier made up from concrete vehicle barriers. These are precast concrete units about 2.5 metres in length, tapered from a base of 700mm down to 300mm and weighing approx.2.5 tonnes.

These units will be fixed to the formation using 36mm diameter dowel pins and tied together using horizontal reinforcement ties. Once this barrier is in place, the void behind will be filled with pumped concrete before reinstating the ballast formation and track. The concrete will also make up the levels for the private road surface to be laid and the retaining wall between the road and rail formation will probably be constructed using precast L-shaped concrete units.

24-hour commitment

This is a team effort that is calling on total commitment from everyone involved. To ensure that their efforts are coordinated and effective, there is a site meeting every morning with all interested parties attending – including Network Rail’s local track and signalling maintenance teams. This is followed up with another meeting late afternoon to assess progress, consider new developments and address any emerging problems. Meanwhile, there are more than 100 people working a 12-hour shift with a similar number ready to replace them for the next shift.

Between the two shifts, a handover meeting ensures that everyone knows exactly what is going on and what is being planned for the future. Dawlish Railway5 [online]However, within this ordered and well managed process, the totally chaotic weather continues to pound the coastline. Alastair emphasised that everyone in the team is determined that nothing will stop them achieving their task of ensuring that trains will be able to run between Newton Abbot and Exeter as soon as humanly possible.

Everyone is doing everything within their powers to deliver what is required and when it is all over, all those involved will deserve a well earned holiday – but definitely not by the seaside.

Nantes-Châteaubriant tram-train line inaugurated

French authorities have reopened a single track railway between Nantes and Châteaubriant after 34 years.

SNCF president Guillaume Pépy and the French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault attended the inauguration of the 64-kilometre tram-train system in the Pays de la Loire region on February 28.

SNCF placed a framework order in 2007 with Alstom worth €650 million for 200 Citadis Dualis tram-train units, with 31 trainsets earmarked for the Pays de la Loire and Rhône-Alpes regions.

The Pays de la Loire region has since exercised an option on the order, taking the total number of new vehicles to 24.

The first 10 vehicles went into service on February 28. However, Citadis Dualis trams are already in use on the Nantes-Clisson line which is operated by Semitan.

France’s Public Establishment of Railway Safety (EPSF) suspended the Dualis tram-trains safety certification last year following the derailment of a vehicle delivered under the original framework order in West Lyonnais. Alstom regained its certification at the start of 2014.

Passengers will be able to travel free of charge for the first three days of operation.

Electrified Seaford line reopens

Adelaide’s first electric trains have begun passenger service on the Seaford line.

On February 23, the Seaford Line, formerly the Noarlunga line, reopened to passengers following a major programme of electrification works as part of the Rail Revitalisation project.

Twenty-two new three-car EMUs have now entered full revenue service on the line alongside the existing fleet of diesel trains.

The Noarlunga line closed at the start of January 2013 for electrification works while engineers constructed the double-track 5.7-kilometre extension to Seaford, which included buildings a new 1.2-kilometre rail bridge over the Onkaparinga Valley estuary.

As well as electrifying the line, the project has seen upgrades made to the signalling and communications systems, and the installation of a train protection system.

Speaking ahead of the opening, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Tom Koutsantonis said: “Commuters of the south have been very patient with our once-in a-generation infrastructure build that will revolutionise the way people travel to and from the city.”

He added: “But their reward will be a world-class transport and road system.”

London Underground seeks manufacturers to build new deep-level Tube trains

London Underground (LU) is looking for expressions of interest from rolling stock manufacturers that believe they can deliver the next generation of deep-level Tube trains.

The operator has said it plans to place a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) today (February 28) before a formal Invitation to Tender is issued in early 2015.

LU is looking to procure 250 new trains for the Bakerloo, Central, Piccadilly and Waterloo & City lines.

The new rolling stock will need to be capable of full automation, LU has said.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “This vital modernisation of our trains and signalling will ensure an even more comfortable, frequent and reliable service for hardworking commuters and visitors to the capital.

“Much like our Victorian forebears, we will make what was once thought impossible possible when 250 brand-new, air-cooled, walk-through trains are introduced to the network.

“This is a hugely important step in the continued evolution of our world-famous Tube and one that will see an iconic new fleet of trains to keep London and its economy moving.”

In October 2013, Siemens presented its own concept London Underground Inspiro train which it presented to the public in an exhibition at The Crystal.

UK station usage on the rise

The number of entries and exits at Britain’s railway stations rose by more than 82 million between 2012-13 – a 3.3 per cent increase on the previous year.

Figures released by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) showed that the top 10 busiest stations remained unchanged, with London stations still dominating the standings.

London Waterloo was once again the UK’s busiest station, recording an increase of 1.8 million on 2011-12 to 96 million passenger entries and exits.

The statistics also showed that London Euston experienced the most significant increase in usage of the top 10, with 1.8 million more entries and exits – a rise attributed to an increasing popularity for London Overground services.


Entries & exits
% change



Liverpool Street

London Bridge

Charing Cross



Birmingham New Street

King’s Cross

Glasgow Central

Article edited 02/3/14

UK government sets up new rail body

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced plans to establish a new ‘Rail Executive’ body to oversee industry matters within the Department for Transport (DfT).

Although the Rail Executive has been set up in reaction to the franchising crisis which followed the collapse of the West Coast competition in 2012, McLoughlin has said the body’s responsibilities will extend to managing “the interdependencies between rolling stock, track, stations, freight and passenger services; and between existing services and HS2″.

Franchising will now be managed by a seperate team within the Rail Executive called the Office of Rail Passenger Services, which will be led by an externally recruited managing director and supported by non-executive board members.

By setting up the Rail Executive, McLoughlin also believes the department is going some way to creating an arms-length body to manage the franchising process, as recommended in both the Brown and Laidlaw reports.

In a written statement to Parliament, McLoughlin said: “Creation of the rail executive will support the drive to strengthen our focus on passengers; build an enhanced culture of commercial expertise and innovation; and ensure greater coordination of improvements to track and trains.

“A new approach to recruitment, reward and career development for commercial rail skills will allow the rail executive to increase capability at all levels and bolster commercial experience in the management team.

“This will reduce the department’s dependency upon consultants and increase its ability to negotiate the best deal for passengers and the taxpayer.”

Blue Line reconstruction to begin in Chicago

Chicago’s subway operator (CTA) is to begin the next phase of $4 billion improvement programme.

CTA is to start work on a $492 million reconstruction of the Blue Line O’Hare branch, the first phase of which will include the replacement of wooden rail ties on the Milwaukee elevated track between Damen and Logan Square – an original section of line that opened in 1895.

The modernisation of the 12.5-mile Blue Line branch follows an earlier $425 million reconstruction of Chicago’s Red Line South last year.

CTA president Forrest Claypool said: “Your New Blue represents a huge investment in CTA riders and visitors traveling to Chicago via O’Hare and the many vibrant communities along the North and Northwest Sides.”

The four-year ‘Your New Blue’ programme will see 13 stations upgraded, track an signals work, the installation of a new water-management system and improvements to the traction power system.

Licensed under Creative Commons

82,000 tickets sold on Paris-Barcelona TGV

More than 82,000 tickets have been sold on high-speed TGVs between Barcelona and Paris since the launch of the service in December.

French Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier and Spain’s Minister of Public Works, Ana Pastor, were in Barcelona to see off the first train on December 15 alongside Guillaume Pepy, chairman of SNCF, and Julio Gomez-Pomar Rodrigruez, president of Renfe.

The new train was launched with five services a day in each direction: two daily services from Paris to Barcelona, and three more trains from Toulouse to Barcelona, Lyon to Barcelona and Marseille to Madrid.

SNCF and Renfe have now announced the introduction of a new daily service between the two cities from March 31.

An additional train will leave Barcelona at 13.20, arriving in Paris at 19.53, and from Paris at 16.07, arriving in Barcelona at 22.46.

Wellington sells 30-year-old rail cars to South Africa

A company in South Africa has purchased a fleet of 30-year-old rail cars from the New Zealand capital of Wellington.

The city has begun shipping the first of 34 electrical-multiple units (EMUs) built by Hungarian manufacturer Ganz Mavag to Africa where they will be converted into locomotive-hauled carriages for airport link services in Dar es Salaam and Tanzania, as well as train between Harare, Zimbabwe and the coast.

The ageing Ganz Mavag fleet is being phased out with the introduction of new Matangi trains.

All 48 two-car units ordered by Greater Wellington Regional Council from Hyundai Rotem are now operating on the electrified network.

Although the Matangi fleet will take over fully from the Ganz Mavags by mid-2015, the city has said it will keep one of the trains for “heritage purposes”.

Ukraine withdraws Hyundai Rotem trains

A design fault has been identified as the cause of cracks found in the frame of one of Ukrainian Railways HRCS2 trains.

On February 12, Ukrainian Railways withdrew 10 trains built by South Korean manufacturer Hyundai Rotem after discovering the fault.

Initial tests have suggested that the cracks were caused by a design defect. Further trials are being conducted this week and if the results support the earlier findings, Hyundai Rotem has agreed to repair the trains under the existing warranty, but it could be up to six months before the vehicles return to service.

The nine-car HRCS2 train sets were ordered by Ukrainian Railways prior to Euro 2012 to operate between Kiev and Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv.