UK: Work begins on Rockfall Shelter Extension at Parsons Tunnel, Devon

Overnight engineering work begins on 24 January to improve the railway line that connects 50 towns and cities across the UK’s south west with the rest of the country.

Aerial view of Parsons Tunnel work site
Aerial view of Parsons Tunnel work site

Work will take place Monday–Thursday night for eight weeks to construct a 209 metre rockfall shelter extension north of Parsons Tunnel between Dawlish and Holcombe in Devon.

The last time the shelter was extended was over 100 years ago. Network Rail will add to this using modern materials and with open sides, rather than an enclosed tunnel extension.

This 37.4 million GBP (44.77m euros | 51.13m USD) project is part of Network Rail’s South West Rail Resilience Programme.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail Western Route and Strategic Operations Director, said:

“The worksite at Parsons Tunnel is in a difficult location, surrounded by sheer cliffs, the sea and a tunnel.

“While it’s disappointing to need to close the railway overnight for this period, the safety of those working on the project and our passengers is paramount and we have concluded the piling for this project is most safely achieved by using a rail-mounted piling machine.

“We have seen a shift in more passengers travelling on the weekends and for leisure, so we’re undertaking this work now ahead of the Easter break whilst ensuring weekend travel isn’t affected.”

During this project, Great Western Railway’s (GWR) Night Riviera Sleeper service between London Paddington and Penzance will only operate on Fridays and Sundays.

In addition, GWR’s 10.02pm service from Paddington to Newton Abbot will terminate at Exeter St Davids on the evenings that work is underway.

All other weekday and weekend train services will be unaffected.

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