Network Rail has started work on a new bigger sea wall at Dawlish, in Devon, which will provide greater protection to the railway and town from rising sea levels and extreme weather for generations to come.

The upgrade, which started on June 1,  will take nine months to complete and follows years of detailed studies, designs and joint working between world leading marine, coastal and railway engineering experts.

The new sea wall is vital, not just for Dawlish but for the whole of the South West peninsula as the railway connects communities in 50 towns and cities with the rest of the UK.

Once complete the new sea wall will be 2.5m higher than the existing wall, have a curved edge to send waves back towards the sea and have a wider safer promenade with seating which will keep the clear views of the coast that the existing wall has.

The new sea wall will be complete in early 2020 with work stopping during the peak summer season to minimise disruption on the local community and tourism in the area.

An information point will also be available in Dawlish so residents can receive regular updates with how work on the new sea wall is progressing.

David Lovell, Network Rail senior programme manager for the Dawlish sea wall project, said: ‘We are pleased to have started work on delivering this vital upgrade that will protect the rail artery to the south west for the next 100 years.

‘Our plans have been drawn up by world leading engineers and it will provide greater protection to the railway and town from rising sea levels and extreme weather.

‘We will continue to update the community with how our work is progressing.’

Anne Marie Morris MP, for Newton Abbot, said: ‘I am glad to see that the first steps to deliver the South West Rail Resilience Programme – which is so crucial for our local economy – are getting underway at Dawlish.

‘Network Rail have listened to residents during the consultation and have amended their design to address concerns as much as they can without compromising the effectiveness of the sea defence.

‘An information point at Dawlish will enable residents to further discuss any ongoing concerns or questions which they may have during this important project.’

Kevin Foster MP, for Torbay, said: ‘The plans Network Rail have put together won’t just benefit Dawlish, but Torbay and the whole South West.

‘It is a great day to see the funding in place and work now starting to deliver the resilient, reliable railway passengers and businesses across our region deserve.’