Network Rail has awarded BAM Nuttall the contract to design a series of resilience measures along the iconic coastal railway between Dawlish and Holcombe, south Devon.

The scheme, which aims to protect the track from falling debris from the cliffs, will help to keep the South West’s vital rail artery connected with the rest of the UK, creating a more resilient railway and giving passengers safer and more reliable train journeys.

Funding for the scheme was announced by the Department for Transport in April 2022, taking the total invested in the South West Rail Resilience Programme (SWRRP) to more than £150m.

The resilience measures between Dawlish and Holcombe will include netting designed to retain the cliffs in some high-risk locations; and catch fences in others, which will stop any cliff material before it reaches the railway.

BAM Nuttall have begun ground investigation works and site surveys along the 1km stretch to inform the detailed design of the scheme. They are also seeking agreement for land access and consents for the work, which is expected to start in spring 2023 and last one year.

To enable the team to carry out investigations, sections of footpath at Lea Mount, Dawlish, will be closed for up to five days from Monday 7 November.

This contract award to BAM Nuttall extends their involvement in the SWRRP programme. BAM Nuttall are currently in the latter stages of the construction of the £80m new sea wall at Dawlish which is progressing well with the link bridge and area around the new stilling basin anticipated to open to the public in December this year.

Ewen Morrison, Network Rail senior programme manager, said: “We are delighted to have awarded the contract to BAM Nuttall, who have already successfully completed the first section of the new bigger sea wall at Dawlish for us and are making great progress with the second section.

“We look forward to continuing working with them on this next phase of the South West Rail Resilience Programme which will help protect the railway from storms and climate change for years to come.

“The selection process for the contract emphasised the importance of the environment in this area and we are working with Teignbridge District Council for the section of the work that will overlook Marine Parade, Dawlish, and with Natural England on the areas that fall within the Dawlish Cliffs Site of Special Scientific Interest.”

Huw Jones, BAM Nuttall Managing Director, Transport said: “Since the infamous storms washed away the railway in Dawlish in February 2014, BAM is proud to have played a vital part in the restoration and safeguarding of the vital south-western route on behalf of Network Rail and the SWRRP.

“BAM’s team in Dawlish has demonstrated incredible skill, creativity and determination to deliver a sea wall which will protect the railway and Dawlish centre for many decades to come and I’m delighted that this appointment will enable them to continue delivering further protections for the Devonshire railway.”

The South West Rail Resilience Programme (SWRRP) was established by Network Rail to identify and implement the best options to improve rail resilience between Dawlish and Teignmouth, helping to avoid a repetition of the events of 2014 when heavy storms resulted in an eight-week closure of the railway.