The rail line to Dawlish was re-opened today following its closure due to serious damage caused by severe storms in early February. Some of the crews involved were at Dawlish railway station this morning to see the first train since the closure pull into the station.
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service fire crews were called in when it was discovered by engineers that 20,000 tonnes of cliff face had sheared off above the rail line near Teignmouth, causing a potential hazard to rail workers repairing the track below.
Fire crews used high volume pumps to wash the sheared soil and rock down the cliff face and make it safe.
Group Manager Tony Heywood, of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Our crews were the first to see the gap appearing under the rail line at Dawlish during the February storms and helped the police to evacuate the homes at risk that night.
“That makes it even more satisfying to play a part in putting such an important part of the transport infrastructure back in place to support the communities of south Devon and further afield.”
Teams from Wellington, Sidmouth, Special Operations, Exeter, Teignmouth, Dawlish, Newton Abbot and Totnes worked with rail operators, contractors and geologists during the operation.
Crews worked 24 hours a day for two weeks from 14 March, using pumps to lift water from the sea 50 metres up to the top of the cliff, initially pouring it over the loose cliff face. The tactic was subsequently revised to provide water for two cutting jets which were brought in from the quarrying industry.
It was the first time the Service’s high volume pumps have been used in this way, and the complex operation involved the pumps being loaded onto rolling stock and taken along the railway line.
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