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Parson’s Tunnel to Teignmouth Resilience Project 2020

Started 20 January 2020 00:00 — Ended 01 March 2020 23:59

Started 20 January 2020 00:00 Ended 01 March 2020 23:59
Status: Closed



The railway is a vital artery, which connects communities, businesses and visitors in the South West with the rest of the UK.

The section from Parsons Tunnel to Teignmouth in South Devon is a crucial, but vulnerable link which is bordered by steep cliffs on one side and the sea on the other.

Records show that landslips and rockfalls have affected the railway since it was built in the 19th century, with the last major event in 2014 stopping all trains into or out of the South West for six weeks. This had a huge impact on the local and regional economy.

Parsons Tunnel to Teignmouth Resilience Project

To improve resilience of the railway we propose to move it away from the most potentially hazardous areas of the cliffs to allow us to undertake corrective measures in order to stabilise the cliffs.

This will not only protect the railway for generations to come but also result in the creation of new amenities such as new and improved walking routes.

Feedback from the public consultation in summer 2019 has helped inform the further development of our proposals and we want to hear the views of passengers, communities and businesses on these updated proposals.


Understanding the risks and developing solutions

With the support of world leading coastal, marine and railway engineers we have been investigating the best long-term solutions to make this section of the railway more resilient.

  1. 2014: Study concluded that the most feasible option was to maintain the existing rail link and make it more resilient

  2. 2016: Identified the potential for a combined geo-technical and coastal solution between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth due to the railway’s proximity to the cliffs

  3. 2018-19: Further geo-technical, environmental and marine studies carried out.

  4. 2019: Public and statutory consultation sought views on proposed scheme to improve rail resilience, maximise beach retention and create new walking routes and amenities.


All background studies, including rejected options, are available online at:



Risk profile of each section of cliff

A summary of your feedback

For our first round of public consultation on the proposed scheme we held 10 public events in the local area and another 10 passenger engagement events across the South West. People could also view and comment on the proposals online.

A total of 454 people responded to our consultation. There is majority support for increasing the resilience of the railway (72%) however, views on the proposed scheme were evenly split (43% for, 43% against).

Nearly two-thirds (59%) of people agree/strongly agree with the proposal to create new coastal paths and amenities as part of the overall proposals.

How often people visit this section of coast has a significant impact on their support for the scheme. The most frequent visitors show higher levels of opposition.

More than half (55%) of respondents visit this section of the coastline for walking/running or dog walking. 20% state the primary reason for their visit is family/leisure time.


Your feedback: key themes and responses


Loss of beach

No. of Responses



Latest design maximises beach retention. Public access to Teignmouth and Holcombe beaches will be maintained



More information needed

No. of Responses



Further information presented in this consultation



Support for the project

No. of Responses



No response required



How the scheme looks

No. of Responses



Aspects such as colours, finish and planting will be refined as a result of feedback



Request for rockfall shelter/ avalanche tunnel

No. of Responses



Is part of the solution but not for the entire stretch of railway as it would not prevent a landslip



Safer access to/from beach and sea from sea wall/ revetment

No. of Responses



Four stepped access points to the beach have been included and an additional stepped landing area within the central revetment



Reopen railway ‘through route’ from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton

No. of Responses



Ruled out in previous studies



Defined cycle and walking paths

No. of Responses



We are now exploring options with Devon County Council for separate cycle path via an inland route instead of via the sea wall promenade or new landward footpath



Teignmouth sign and wishing stone to be saved

No. of Responses



We will retain, relocate and / or renew them



Planting scheme

No. of Responses



The buttresses are designed to encourage vegetation growth to ensure they look as natural as possible



Adequate seating and lighting

No. of Responses



Benches at intervals of 50m along the promenade will be inset within the concrete upstand wall. Lighting will be defined considering feedback from statutory consultees.              


Updated proposals

The updated proposals are judged to provide the optimum long-term solution whilst minimising environmental implications and making best use of public funds.

The proposed works will significantly reduce the risk of further landslips and rockfalls onto the railway and increase protection during storms.

Railway alignment and land reclamation

We need to realign the track to make room for corrective measures to stabilise the cliffs and protect the railway for future generations.

Some of the land that the railway sits on will be extended but the proposed scheme will not impact on a significant proportion of Holcombe and Teignmouth beaches.

The updated design:

  1. only moves the railway away from the most potentially hazardous areas of the cliffs
  2. keeps the existing railway alignment at both Parsons Tunnel and at Teignmouth cutting
  3. the new coastal path will not extend any further out than the current extent of Sprey Point

In total 53,829m2 of land, which includes the current Sprey Point, will be reclaimed. This equates to 4.98 football pitches (120m x 90m).

More walking, running and leisure options

A realigned coastal footpath, which is wider and safer than the current South West Coast Path, will be built as well as a new, elevated, landward footpath.

Our proposals include enhanced leisure access, walking routes and new amenity areas so that users of the South West Coast Path, and Holcombe and Teignmouth beaches enjoy the space and views of this special section of the Devon coastline.

Once the cliff stabilisation works are complete more than 1km of new path (1086m) with full coastal views will be added to the landward side of the railway between Holcombe and Sprey Point, where users can cross over the railway on a new, accessible footbridge.

The new enhanced coastal path will be 1.91km long and 1m wider than present. It will therefore offer more space and a safer experience due to edge protection.

The viewing area at Sprey Point will also be significantly enhanced with a wider promenade and seating to make it a destination midway between Holcombe and Teignmouth.


Track alignment – red line is the proposed alignment which maximises beach retention


Coastal paths for everyone

With full accessibility built in, this scheme will retain as much of the beach as possible whilst increasing options for all and giving access to this section of the South Devon coastline for those with reduced mobility.

In response to feedback, we are exploring options for a separate cycle path between Dawlish and Teignmouth via an inland route.



Coastal defence

To account for rising sea levels and climate change, a new coastal defence will be built. Measuring approximately 1.9km in total length, it has two distinct elements:

  • A new raised sea wall which is 2.5m higher than current and is near vertical to minimise impact on the beaches
  • Two sections of revetment (a sloping structure on the shoreline to absorb the energy of the waves). One, approximately 750m long in the central section which will extend 28.4m out from the current Sprey Point.

A second smaller revetment at the southern end of Parsons Tunnel will replace the current revetment.

Cliff stability

The design uses a combination of engineering solutions to address the potential risks and instabilities that are present in the cliffs. 



Buttresses are proposed at five locations and will provide the core of the support required for the sections of cliff most likely to suffer a landslip. They have been designed to require minimal land and will have an erosion mat installed that encourages vegetation to grow.

Rockfall shelter

A rockfall shelter will be built at the southern end of Parsons Tunnel. Essentially, an open-sided tunnel, this will retain views of the sea for train passengers.



Drainage will be improved site wide, through the installation of channels at regular intervals in the cliff face to catch existing drainage and help manage the ground water levels in the cliff.

Other cliff remediation measures

The significant engineering measures described above will be supplemented with further, less visible measures including netting on the cliff face, deep dowels (up to 30m deep), which secure unstable blocks on the face of the cliff into more competent rock, soil nails (to anchor less stable ground to more stable material behind) and catch fencing.


Environmental implications

A full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is being undertaken and will be presented in an Environmental Statement as part of our application for a Transport and Works Act Order.

This will identify any significant short and long-term impacts on the environment and include measures to reduce or manage them, such as opportunities for habitat creation to allow existing or new species to thrive.

Protecting the environment is a vital part of the proposed scheme. Network Rail is consulting with a wide range of statutory and non-statutory bodies including the local authority, Environment Agency, Natural England and Marine Management Organisation. This includes identifying where new marine and terrestrial habitats can be created or improved to mitigate the potential impacts of the works.

The full list of consultees and scope of the environmental impact assessment is available online and on request.

The need for resilience

The railway is a vital artery to the South West.

Each weekday, 134 passenger trains carrying around 12,500 people and up to 14 freight trains travel along this section of the railway.

It connects 50 towns and cities in the South West Peninsula to the rest of the UK, so it is crucial to the regional economy that it remains resilient.

46 known cliff stability events have occurred since the railway was built in the 19th century.


How this might affect you

Managing the impacts of our work

While our proposals have been developed using detailed geo-technical, marine and environmental surveys, we are committed to working with residents, businesses and passengers to ensure any disruption and environmental impact from our work is kept to a minimum.


Areas of land will be required temporarily for construction of the works and permanently for the new coastal defence, buttressing and cliff remediation measures.



To minimise impact on passengers and the regional economy, construction will be phased to allow the railway to remain open for the vast majority of the construction period.

Local roads

Road access in this location is extremely constrained so goods and materials will be primarily transported to and from the site via the sea.

Network Rail is currently exploring options for a temporary offshore facility to assist with this process. This will be considered and included within the Environmental Statement.

What are the benefits?

More reliable journeys

Improving the resilience of the railway means more reliable journeys for the  millions of people that choose to travel  by train to and from the South West each year. It also means greater certainty for the freight operators that transport vital materials from the South West to the rest  of the UK.


A boost to the regional economy

As the main route connecting the South  West Peninsula to the rest of the UK, improving the resilience of the railway through South Devon will provide a significant boost to the regional and national economy.


New leisure opportunities

The proposals would provide improved leisure facilities and amenities including  new, fully accessible, coastal walking and cycling routes.


Transport &Works Act Order (TWAO)

Our scheme proposals for Parsons Tunnel to Teignmouth will require significant works to be undertaken. These works will require access to and need to be carried out on, land which falls outside the railway boundary and will affect some public rights of way.

We will therefore be making an application for a Transport and Works Act Order to the Secretary of State for Transport in order to secure the necessary permissions and rights we need to carry out the works.

Prior to submitting that application we want to engage with you and obtain your feedback.

This feedback will help inform the further development of our proposals and enable us to review how and where we can build appropriate measures into the TWAO process to accommodate concerns, provide appropriate mitigation measures and properly manage the works.


Indicative TWAO timeline

Have your say


We want your feedback to help us develop the detail of our proposals in preparation for a TWAO application. You can find more detail on the web page below, including the full consultation document. Please submit your feedback by sending in our freepost feedback form, taking our online survey.

or by emailing

For further information you can also call Network Rail’s national helpline on

03457 11 41 41

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Consultation is open from 20 January to 01 March 2020