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Collaborative Engineering: Supply chain cure link to South West railway

Looking down Dawlish coastline and railway

It’s been 10 years since a large storm hit Dawlish and washed away part of the sea wall and railway lines. Dawlish is a picturesque, traditional seaside town that 500,000 people visit every year. It is known for its Victorian railway line that runs alongside the sea.

The storm on the 4th & 5th February 2014, caused extreme damage. Eighty metres of track were left hanging, and platforms at the railway station & parts of the coastal path were washed away. It cut off the only railway line to the south west for eight weeks. This marked the beginning of a large-scale project to protect this line from extreme weather for generations. The ‘orange army’, as the Prime Minister called it, was mobilised at short notice, designing a temporary retaining wall made from shipping containers.

In the latter stage of the project, Network Rail delivered:

  • A stronger, taller sea wall for Dawlish, spanning 800m along the coastline.

  • A new footbridge with lifts at Dawlish station, making it fully accessible for all.

  • A 109 metre rockfall shelter, to protect the railway from the cliffs above.

  • The beginning of a project to install 19,700 square metres of netting to improve cliff resilience between Dawlish and Holcombe.

However a project this scale didn’t come without its challenges. The Network Rail team and their contractors had to deal with:

  • The harsh coastal environment – workers had to endure severe conditions including wind, waves, and heavy storms over the course of construction.

  • Early 2020 brought the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning the workers had to work in a way they’d never had to before, social distanced at 2m apart.

  • Lockdown also brought some supply chain issues, meaning materials required for construction were delayed.

  • With the increasing length of construction time becoming a problem, Network Rail had to create some innovative solutions to overcome this. This included installing pipes under the railway, through which the concrete needed could be pumped.

Values such as Collaborative engineering were shown throughout this project, as Network Rail partnered with BAM Nuttall and its supply chain to complete the works planned.

Whilst KITE Projects didn’t contribute directly to these works, we did carry out another project on the railway in Dawlish. This involved the design and supply of a KITE Safe Cross system, providing safe access to track workers whilst crossing the railway line.

Our KITE Safe Cross has provided access to overcome challenges faced by the uncertain weather along the coastline, as shown in the images below:

Our solution included the following aspects:

  • Mesh infill panels

  • 1200 mm wide

  • Palisade gate

  • Compliant to NR CIV 370

  • Anti-Trespass Surround

  • Powder coated D-end returns.

Both this project and the work that Network Rail undertook at Dawlish contribute to the bigger picture of ‘Protecting your Network.’ Protection is about inspiring safe and sustainable engineering. Access is about how we insure all people are protected when using our installations, by creating solutions that consider the full spectrum of users – from workers active on infrastructure projects, through the local communities that live alongside.

For us ‘Protecting your Network’ is a state of mind, demonstrated by ‘bigger thinking to make bigger impacts’. Protection is about the safety of each one of the workers who contributed to the project at Dawlish. At the end of the day, all we want is, as Network Rail say, “Everyone home safe everyday”.  

It is when we truly collaborate in the design and engineering of such a project that the whole supply chain delivers a sustainable, excellent project.


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