BAM’s work on new, bigger sea wall to protect railway and town of Dawlish reaches final stages

Work on the construction of the £80m new, bigger sea wall to protect the railway in Dawlish has reached its final stages as a new link bridge and stilling basin near completion at Colonnade viaduct.


Removal of heavy machinery from the beach means step-free access to King’s Walk promenade and beach from Colonnade underpass has reopened on Saturday 25th February. 

Work on the second 415-metre second section – stretching from Coastguard breakwater northeast of Dawlish station to Colonnade breakwater – with its wider, safer public promenade began in November 2020 following the completion of the first section – which runs for 360 metres from Colonnade to Boat Cove – which opened to the public in July 2020.

The second section of sea wall reached a major milestone last August with the installation of all 164 wall panels, 203 pre-cast blocks and 189 recurve units, which return waves back out to sea. 

Since then, Network Rail’s contractors BAM Nuttall have focused on joining the two sections of wall with a link bridge that runs parallel to Colonnade viaduct and building a new stilling basin, where Dawlish Water runs under the viaduct and into the sea.

Dawlish - BAM

Photo credit: Dawlish Beach Cams

Step-free access from Colonnade underpass to King’s Walk promenade along the completed first section of sea wall has been temporarily closed since autumn last year to keep everyone safe while the team has been working night and day in the confined space.

But with heavy machinery now removed from the beach and new paving installed, Network Rail has opened the first span underneath the viaduct to allow the public onto this section once more.

The new link bridge, stilling basin area and promenade and beach between Colonnade and Coastguard breakwaters will remain closed for now while work continues in this area.

Alina Wolfe-Murray, Network Rail senior sponsor, said: “It is great to see the new public areas really taking shape – we are making good progress. We have faced some considerable challenges during construction; not least the discovery of an uncharted gas main last summer which pushed our programme back by several weeks. 

“We faced further delays over the winter when heavy rain, wind and freezing temperatures – which caused widespread disruption across the country including on the rail network – slowed down or prevented activities such as pouring concrete and grouting paving.

“The recent better weather has allowed us to push forward with creating the new public area around the stilling basin, where 140,000 granite blocks that make up the surface are being laid by hand. 

“We’re pleased to say step-free access to King’s Walk and the beach has reopened on Saturday 25th February and we’d like to thank everyone for their patience while it has been closed.

“There’s still work to do and we are working to get it completed as soon as we can, depending on the weather. We’re looking forward to opening up more of the public areas later this Spring.”

Alan Cox

Alan Cox, Managing Director, Transport, for BAM Nuttall

“Our work with Network Rail at Dawlish is proof that great things can come from adversity. It’s a project that has exhibited incredible ingenuity and collaboration from all of our suppliers. The physical challenges of the site have really tested the problem solving skills of our engineers but the results are there for all to see. I’m particularly proud of the innovation that has been demonstrated, from the use of the WaveWalker to install piling to the use of low carbon concrete in the construction of the sea wall itself. 

“Our work in Dawlish was always going to bring us into close contact with the local community and I’m particularly proud of the efforts our team has made to communicate and keep our neighbours informed about developments. It’s a job that will leave a lasting legacy for the town and for the Great Western Railway and I’m sure that it’s a project that the team will look back on with a great deal of pride and satisfaction.”

Dawlish - BAM

Photo credit: Dawlish Beach Cams

The new sea wall at Dawlish is part of Network Rail’s ongoing efforts since 2014 to improve the resilience of the railway between Dawlish and Teignmouth in Devon, known as the South West Rail Resilience Programme (SWRRP).

For more information and to follow the latest developments on the new sea wall at Dawlish, please click here.

Dawlish - BAM