Open letters regarding Network Rail's plans

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I still want to know about the building traffic route into and out of Teignmouth, the works storage area etc. Are our roads up to this heavey traffic for eight years?

Jackie Russ

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Andrew Haines OBE


Dear Mr Haines,


Network Rail Resilience Programme – Parsons Tunnel to Teignmouth


I am a resident of Holcombe and am responding to the request by Network Rail for feedback relating to the proposal by Network Rail to undertake works between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth which would drastically and negatively affect the beaches and coastal environment between Holcombe and Teignmouth.

I recently attended the presentation, made by representatives of Network Rail to residents of Holcombe, of the present proposal and also participated in the presentation made by local people on the beaches of Holcombe and Teignmouth to demonstrate how much of those beaches would be subsumed by the proposed works. In both cases I found myself strongly moved by the devastating effect the proposed works would have and I am accordingly writing to urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider the proposals.

The area is necessarily dependent on the railway and one must applaud the recognition by Network Rail that the line from Exeter to Newton Abbot via Dawlish and Teignmouth should be preserved and protected for the benefit of the local community and regional and national business. However you must show yourselves to be worthy successors of the Victorian entrepreneurs and engineers who built the line, who were blessed with a lively awareness of the essential balance between the grand vision of their enterprise and the respect owed to the people they served and the countryside their railway passed through.

In the twenty-first century we have an even clearer awareness of the power and fragility of the present and future environment of this country and we have skills and tools far superior to those with which Brunel and his team worked. We, and you, should aim to do justice to these present-day imperatives and developments by channelling our efforts into more innovative and imaginative solutions than merely throwing vast quantities of steel, stone and concrete into the sea and onto the beaches in a probably vain effort to outdo the natural erosion of the coast. The methods you propose would destroy, not preserve, our precious heritage, both manmade and natural, treasured alike by inhabitants and visitors to Teignmouth and the surrounding area, the “Gem of South Devon”.

On this stretch of the coast the railway line is threatened, as you are well aware, more by the friability of the cliffs than by the power of the sea, as is the case in Dawlish. Unlike Dawlish, we have a beautiful seawall still performing its original function with engineering style and panache. We have wonderful beaches which draw many visitors, who still play a significant part in the local economy, as well as providing an essential part of everyday life for local people and, together with the red rock of our cliffs, being a spectacular natural feature. These must be preserved.

The Environmental Impact Assessment which is being undertaken for submission in the Environmental Statement which must accompany the application for a Transport and Works Act Order has not been produced for presentation to the public whose views are being sought in this consultation process; this is both improper and unhelpful. As you will have been informed by campaigners in the “Save the Beaches” effort, there is believed to be a significant and non-reversible threat to the inter-tidal flora and fauna (which include a number of endangered species) on the two beaches, and it is hard to see how in advance of the production of the Environmental Impact Assessment these can possibly have been given appropriate recognition in Network Rail’s present proposals, despite their statements that “Protecting the environment is a vital part of the proposed scheme” and the unequivocal statement on their website that “We have a sustainable approach to what we do, understanding how our role affects the environment locally and globally”.

It is unclear to me on what grounds the proposal to provide an added resilience to the line by regrading of the cliffs between Holcombe and Teignmouth is “not being considered” as stated in Network Rail’s published literature; the literature refers only to the visual impact, together with impact on the natural environment and on the railway as the reasons for this decision but I would urge you to reopen this possibility as these impacts seem to me and to many others to be less severe in the case of regrading the cliffs than in the course of rerouting the railway across the beaches.

Informed opinion also holds that those parts of the present proposals which do include efforts to stabilise the cliffs are derisory, being considered both unrealistic and of unproven design, and fail to address the main problem of groundwater drainage. These issues are certainly worthy of further consideration. The cliffs do suffer periodic collapses but the effects are exaggerated in the Network Rail literature. For instance, the closure of the line for a number of weeks in 2014 was the direct result of the destruction of the seawall and line at Dawlish (during severe weather on 4 and 5 February); during the period of restoration of this part of the line the landslip at Teignmouth occurred (on 4 March) and reparation works here were I believe completed within a comparatively short period and certainly before the line was ready to be reopened after the major works were completed in Dawlish.

I understand that the following scenario, brought to my attention by campaigners for “Save the Beaches”, will also have been already put to you and I can do no better than quote these below as expressed to me:


“The current plan to build a replacement sea wall further out, with the resultant loss of the beach, raises crucial concerns around the following scenario; the current sandy beach is capable of absorbing enormous storm forces, and represents the best barrier available to protect the surrounding coastline. Losing it could have devastating consequences, with the resulting extra millions of tons of water, swollen through rising sea levels as a result of global warming, swilling outwards towards Teignmouth. Under Easterly storm conditions, and with no Sprey Point structure remaining to break its flow, this massive volume of water would be propelled along the new wall before impacting on Teignmouth and Shaldon. Existing sea defences, designed without knowledge of these proposals, would be inundated and there would be devastating flooding. The railway might remain protected, but only at the cost of the loss of large parts of Teignmouth and/or Shaldon.

“In 1917, the community of Hallsands, approximately thirty miles west of Teignmouth, was lost to the sea as an unintended consequence of work to expand Plymouth Docks. Approximately thirty miles east of Teignmouth lies the town of Seaton, an important port for several centuries, and supplying ships and sailors for Edward 1’s wars against Scotland and France. In the 14th Century heavy storms caused a landslip, which resulting in the Port silting up and its commerce moving elsewhere. A complex natural cyclical pattern of sandbank build-up followed by removal currently exists offshore of Ness Point, and there is a high likelihood that this would be disrupted, with major consequences for Teignmouth Port, if Teignmouth beach is lost. “

I would also like to bring to your attention, if you are unaware of these, the public statements made by such disparate individuals as Jonathan Meades and Jeremy Clarkson, both of whom are of the opinion that the Network Rail proposals are insupportable on any basis; for your information I quote below from the statement published by Mr Meades:

“… Network Rail… are attempting to casually destroy yet another of Brunel’s great megastructures, the seawall and cobbled walkway that snakes along the Devon coast between Holcombe and Teignmouth and forms part of his South Devon Railway and the South West Coastal path. They say it is part of ‘resilience’ works.

“As Brunel mapped out the route for his line south of Exeter, he soon realised that the smoke and dust from steam trains would cause genteel displeasure in the newly-fledged health resorts of Teignmouth and Dawlish. His answer was the introduction of the experimental atmospheric railway to South Devon, which futuristically propelled engineless carriages along wide gauge tracks using a network of pumping stations. A few of the elements of this failed railway system have survived, but none is more hugely impressive than the wall itself. Although the atmospheric railway wasn’t able to endure the harsh elements and the relentless salt spray, the mighty wall did endure. 

“It's not to be confused with the wall at Dawlish, which has been much altered and upgraded over the years, the section between Holcombe and Teignmouth, has formed an unremittingly elegant buttress at the foot of the cliffs for 150 years.

“This Brunel structure is part of a scape of wild red sandstone cliffs, ferocious seas and Victorian solidity, just as Brunel, with grim determination, imagined it would be. Huge chunks of Haytor granite and limestone, sit on an expanse of fine red sand with ever changing seas beyond; sometimes explosive, sometimes serene.

“Unlike the Dawlish section of the wall which has suffered a pounding from the sea, this section is apparently vulnerable to rock fall and Network Rail are hoping to spend half a billion pounds burying Brunel’s wall, and half of the red sand beach that flanks it, in environmentally unforgiving concrete. This ham-fisted, sledge-hammer wielding plan is proposed in order to move the line away from the cliffs and further out into the thrashing sea.

“It is hard to understand why this great Victorian brainchild, an industrial Stonehenge, would not be preserved and cherished for generations.”

I entirely endorse his views, as well as urging you to recognise that destroying the Teignmouth and Holcombe beaches would be an act of irreversible vandalism in no way justified by Network Rail’s unaccountable assessment that it is the best or only realistic way to improve the resilience of this important arterial railway line. 

The beach at Holcombe and the running of the railway over the Brunel seawall behind the beach are part of our national heritage and their destruction must be fiercely opposed by all sane and honourable people. We should treasure our natural and manmade inheritance rather than sacrificing them to grandiose and unvalidated projects such as the present short-sighted and destructive proposal.

Network Rail boasts of its “work to preserve our heritage”; I therefore urge you to reconsider this proposal. I would be grateful for your acknowledgement of this letter.

Yours sincerely

Angela R Wilks

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The more I think about it, the more I believe there is a fantastic opportunity for Network Rail to do something iconic and revolutionary with our challenging 2km of railway.


If Network Rail was to work with conservation architects, forward-thinking engineers and marine scientists to break the boundaries we could have something remarkable, and in a good way.


Wouldn't it be great if Teignmouth could become an exemplar for modern, environmental construction that the rest of the world turns to for inspiration rather than disappointment?

Louise Waterton

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An open letter, by email, to Andrew Haynes and Julie Gregory of Network Rail


Dear Mr Haynes and Ms Gregory


I want to add my voice to the many in the campaign to save Teignmouth and Holcombe beaches and the historic sea-wall from wanton destruction.


Network Rail’s current plans as they stand can only be regarded as environmental vandalism and, very possibly, are unlikely to achieve the aims of protecting the important railway line between Dawlish and Teignmouth.


I am not a local resident to the area but we do own a holiday chalet in Shaldon which is used by family and friends and let out to holiday makers during the holiday season.

Everybody who uses the chalet, without exception, enjoys the beautiful walk along the sea-wall from Teignmouth East Cliff to Holcombe and back, passing or stopping at the lovely and peaceful picnic area at Sprey Point. It is impossible to overestimate the value this stretch of unspoilt coastline adds to people’s lives, physical health and mental wellbeing.


We have owned our chalet and been regular visitors to the Teignmouth area since the summer of 2013, and saw the effects of the dreadful storms of early 2014.

We were there and witnessed at close-hand the excellent work done by Network Rail at the time to stabilise the cliff faces, which appears to have been notably successful.

Looking at the cliffs today, with their repopulation by shrubs, wild flowers and grasses, it seems clear that their surfaces have been effectively reclaimed by nature and we have noticed no further movement of any significance in the last 5 or 6 years.


I believe the thrust of your plan is based upon the assumption that the cliffs represent a greater risk to the integrity of the railway line than the sea.

This seems counter-intuitive and distinctly short-sighted. 

As mentioned above, the cliffs seem to be very stable since your previous phase of work and you have shown yourselves capable of managing their risk very well. 

We regularly see on our TVs the scenes of a stormy sea breaking against and sometimes over the sea-wall – the sea is an ever present threat and with the growing effects of climate change and resulting sea-level rises this can only increase.

Moving the railway line further out to sea can never be a sensible approach, no matter how high you seek to build the wall.
The further you go into the natural tidal range of the sea, the stronger the impact and threat from the sea will be and I suggest it will be almost impossible to predict the impact on the substructure of your new wall and the sand and strata on which it would stand. Remember the old adage “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” !

I believe that some experience of this very problem has already been shown at Dawlish.


I understand the vital Environmental Impact Assessment for your project will not be available until many months after your consultation process with the General Public.
This clearly means the public will not be properly informed of the impact of your proposals until it is too late.

I would suggest your project plans at the very least should incorporate a further round of consultation once the Impact Assessment has been made available.


The fact that your plans suggest a construction period of up to 8 years is in itself a clear indicator of their heavy-handedness.

As can be seen from other major projects such as HS2, the longer a project takes, the greater the costs become and the harder it is to predict and contain the risks or the costs.

And of course the threat of damage by winter storms to a partially built structure would be enormous.
It would be easy to foresee a point 2 or 3 years into the project when a major winter storm makes it apparent that the project objectives are not going to be achieved and Network Rail find themselves in a position where it is extremely difficult to either move forwards or retrace your steps.


The proposals as they stand will savagely blight the town of Teignmouth and the neighbouring area with its dependence on the tourist economy, throughout the building phase and thereafter for evermore. Many thousands of people, both local residents and visitors, will bear witness to the devastation caused to the local landscape.

The name of Network Rail, and possibly even your own names, would be forever associated with an infamous and disastrous project that brought misery to thousands of people and still did not achieve its ends.



Yours Sincerely
Alan Jelf, Brownlow, Cheshire

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I am a resident in Teignmouth. I attended a public consultation and was fortunate to talk to some of the representatives there. I thought that Network Rail had listened to us and that they had improved a little on their original scheme but in my opinion the works are excessive and there will be enormous collateral damage as a result of the work.


I offer the following as food for thought:


Since 1846 Network Rail say there were 46 separate incidents involving cliff stability along the stretch of rail between Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth. Twenty of those have occurred between Holcombe and Teignmouth, only two of those in the immediate vicinity of Sprey point.


Network Rail have identified fifteen sections of cliffs between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth and given each of them a hazard rating from low to high. The degree of hazard being a negligible impact on the line to the line being affected for more than 48hours. The two cliff sections along Sprey Point are classed as low and medium. There is no expectation that the line could be closed for more than 48hours as a result of any cliff event before buttressing is added.


According to the latest proposal by Network Rail, Sprey Point will increase its length by 500% to 700m long and will feature a shallow sloping seaward facing boulder wall projecting far out to sea. The size of this structure does not make sense and begs the question, “what else is happening at Sprey Point?” Is the huge expansion of Sprey Point driven by geological considerations or convenience for Network Rail and its construction methods?


Sprey Point is an obvious location for site administration buildings, material storage and materials processing as it is the only dry, flat land in the area. Construction will require a vast amount of concrete to be batch processed. This will be done at Spray Point. Therefore, the size of NEW Sprey Point is very likely driven by the needs of construction and not the core reasons for the resilience works. 


Network Rail are planning to extend their works to include a facility at Teignmouth Docks. The docks are occupied with the commercial activities of ABP and it is reasonable to expect that the flat land at Polly Steps will also be taken over for Network Rails requirements. This will affect access/use of the public slipway and may encroach into the boat storage/trailer park area. There is the issue of whether ABP, THC and TDCouncil will benefit financially from supporting Network Rail with access to this site and are they therefore eligible to be counted as a stake holder or a consultee in the consultation process if they have a vested interest?


The consultation describes a construction methodology which will prohibit public access to Sprey Point and the top of Brunel’s wall from the very first day of construction and will only return limited access after completion of the entire works. Future access will be at the sole discretion of Network Rail. As soon as work begins on the footings for the new wall the beach will be closed. That will continue for as long as there is a perceived health and safety risk to persons who may be on the beach. The walkway and beaches between Teignmouth and Holcombe could be closed to the public for the entire duration of the works.


The construction methodology states that the backfill behind the new sea wall will be done by pumping material from a barge through a huge pipe and over the wall. The water that carries the backfill will then be discharged into the sea. Any contaminants will be carried in the sea and deposited on Teignmouth Town beach in a similar process to that seen in 2018 when the beach turned black after the spoil from dredging at Exmouth Marina was dumped off Sprey Point.


This same pumping method will be used to supply material to build the buttresses in front of the cliffs. Network Rail say the buttresses will require over half a million tons of material. It is reasonable to expect the discharge of contaminated water into the sea off Sprey Point for almost the entire duration of the works. How many billions of litres of contaminated water will be discharged into the sea off Spray Point over how many years? 


I doubt anyone really disputes that we need a resilient railway and the consultation events go some way to set out the problem and a potential solution, but Network Rail are not telling us anything about the impact of their works. I urge you all to look beyond the smart computer generated images and fancy model and consider how such a huge project would be implemented. Where will the hundreds of workers live, how will they travel in and out? Will tourists want to sit on a miniscule, black beach listening to the thump, thump, thump of pile drivers and diggers? Where will we all park? Will your house price be decimated, will rents go up because of increased demand from workers? Will all of this deter people from wanting to come here and spend their money for years to come? 


If you have not yet been to a consultation then please try to go and please complete Network Rail's questionnaire.

A concerned resident of Teignmouth

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Open letter to Network Rail, Anne Marie Morris and others


Subject: E.I.A. Scoping report - Teignmouth to Parsons Tunnel


Without Prejudice


Dear Mr Langman


Please can I draw your attention to the following specific concerns;


  1. lack of reference to interference with, and impact on existing fishing grounds.

  2. no mention of impacts on WCA schedule 5, section 9 protected species.

  3. no reference to cultural heritage sites being specifically identified and individually assessed.

  4. the possible threat caused under rising sea levels of a higher volume of water being held in the bay, and being transported towards the Teignmouth and Shaldon urban areas under storm conditions without the current damping action of the current beach.

  5. (ground conditions) Any historic contamination from past industrial use should be identified, and a management plan produced, through both desktop study and ground sampling, including past activity at Sprey Point, the Lime Kilns, any historic fuel storage areas, and along the track bed

  6. (transport) The reference to equestrians seems unnecessary. ​ The impact at the Smugglers Lane/ Hall Lane junction during both construction and operation needs consideration in light of previous planning history in this vicinity, requiring junction improvements before any developments involving increased traffic are permitted.

  7. the possible location and impact of any construction plant holding areas and compounds should be addressed.

  8. it is being suggested that the reinforced earth buttress proposed to support the cliff face will exert forces and loads onto the ground on which it is built. It is likely that this ground includes downwash materials and vegetation accumulated over the last 100 years or so from the cliffs. These foundation materials will have low bearing and shear strength properties. The reinforced earth buttress may therefore be subject to settlement and thus lack of effectiveness in providing support to the cliff. Loading of the weight of soil in the buttress may also result in toe failure at the level of the railway line. The high level of risk posed by this proposed activity demands independent peer review by experts in geomorphology.


As noted by other correspondents, this EIA is planned to be produced post consultation.
The scoping report appears to follow a generic format, and lacks any indication of authorship and a time mark.

As you will be aware, this aspect of the proposals is particularly sensitive, and will be closely monitored. With attention already being given to the possibility of a judicial review under Gunning 2 grounds of failure to permit of intelligent comment and response, it would be most regrettable if the E.I.A. was also found to reflect the casual approach and lack of attention to detail which has been suggested elsewhere.

Yours sincerely
Clive Sheppard-Allen

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I have read the publicity brochure and attended the public consultation at the golf course in Teignmouth. 


We moved to Teignmouth in 2018 to be near our daughter and to live in this magnificent area of coastline. 


We have been regular visitors for over 18 years. The rail line between Holcombe and Teignmouth is very dear to our hearts.


This stretch of coast/rail line is held in high regard by travellers, holiday makers, locals and historians and the beach is in constant use particularly by dog walkers.  The Brunel sea wall should be listed as a historic monument and recognised for what it is.  A beautiful sinuous double curving structure completely in harmony with its surroundings.


The proposal is to replace this with a monolithic concrete wall.  Surely to build a wall higher and further out to sea will be inviting problems with high waves and tides plus all the stones and rocks the sea hurls at the wall.  I am concerned about the effect on marine life.


The new scheme of Feb 2020 leaves a bit more beach at the Holcombe and Teignmouth ends but the plans are using mean tide levels and tides are consistently higher than this for much of the year.  So you exaggerate the amount of beach that will remain.


The cliff structure is not as bad as at first thought and the 'buns' look like a hugh abount of work for a motorway landscape result completely out of character with the  red sandstone cliff face.


Other suggestions have been put forward including rock shelters over the track, elegant curving jetties built out from the shore into the sea at appropriate points which would break the force of the waves.(cf Sidmouth, Lyme Regis, West Bay),  a railtrack on bridges and breakwaters completely away from this section of sea wall leaving the wall and beach and marine life untouched....


I am aware a lot of work and thought has gone into this section but I do not feel the current model is the right answer.  


I hope you will consider these points.


Irene Ward.

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To all of you who have the ability to make a positive change.


I am writing to voice my grave concerns for the future proposals that have been presented recently in the area sharing the latest proposals for the realignment of the railway through Dawlish, Holcombe and Teignmouth.


Firstly, I would like to thank National Rail for providing the opportunity to understand more about the proposals and giving the chance to ask questions, but having had this opportunity I now have some serious reservations about the proposals.


  • Consideration for saving the historic wall and the beach area has not really been fully explored.  In talking with the team, it seems that a blanket approach to build a concrete wall all the way along the line regardless of whether it is required at that particular site or not has been applied.  In my view building out from the cliff faces where there is concern is not the only option, and in fact if you look at the modelling presented, the areas of high danger could be reduced back in line with the other areas without having to build out the line at all.  The cliff face where there is significant danger does not have any housing above it and could be reduced.  I am concerned that this idea is not being considered as it would mean closing the railway line and impacting on revenue - rather than looking at what is required for the aesthetics of the area.

  • The scaled model that was shared at the events, was also very misleading to most people who went to look at it - showing a vast sway of beach which was wholly inaccurate.  A lot of people are visual and this will have targeted those people with a false view that everything would be fine and the beach would remain.  I think a proper scaled model with true representation of the shore line should be shared to allow people to make an informed decision.  We are so often given misleading information in order to get the decisions desired, rather than being given the facts openly to allow everyone to make an informed decision.

  • Since the landslides in 2014, and the remedial work that was carried out at the time, there has been little movement of the cliffs above Holcombe and Teignmouth.  But the historic lack of maintenance for both the cliff face and Brunel's wall needs to be reversed.  A better way to manage the area and monitor whether we are ever likely to get another cliff fall before the government spends vast amounts of money on a solution that could be complete overkill.

  • Environmental impacts.  as a small nation with a very proud and long history we should always be looking to protect our heritage for our future generations and for the tourism that comes to the UK precisely to view and see historical monuments and locations of environmental importance.   I am amazed that Network Rail have managed to apply and receive a 'Certificate of Immunity' to avoid registering these artifacts and protecting them for future generations.  The government should step in and review and reverse this immediately.

The government have pledged to keep the nation connected and pay more attention to those areas of the country who feel isolated or not listened to.  Devon and Cornwall are important areas for the country which survive with little support and I am amazed at how the community spirit is strong enough to keep these small communities going.  But they are on a knife edge all of the time, threats to hospitals, fire stations, schools are a regular battle on top of trying to make a living in a tourist driven economy.  Removing sites of historic importance will impact the local community and the tourism trade significantly.  This activity would never be allowed to happen to historic monuments in London.


You have the chance to make a change for the better for the local residents, explore all avenues, do not just think of revenue in your revised proposals, money is not the important point here.


Please consider the comments above, 


Kind regards


Kay Crellin, local resident

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Open invitation to Councillor Sylvia Russell and Russell and Councillor John Clatworthy:

I would like to personally invite you to the Human Chain event on Teignmouth Beach on 8th February at 11am. We will use humans to mark out the position of the new wall being proposed by Network Rail.


Measurements will be provided by Network Rail and accurately marked out by a local architect. A drone will be used to photograph the event.

It is important that you attend this event, or at least send someone in your absence. Without this powerful and important visual representation of the position of the proposed wall, you will not be able to give a fair opinion on the proposals.

Please let me know if you yourself will be attending or whether you will be sending someone in your absence.

Best wishes


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To Network Rail,


I’m writing to you with a response following my attendance at your consultation event hosted today at Teignmouth Golf Club. Firstly let me say thank for you putting this on and for giving the opportunity to provide feedback, I doubt this is something that the original South Devon Railway bothered to do when Brunel built it back in the 1850s. Secondly I’m writing to you as a regular rail passenger along the route (I work all over England and make regular trips to London via this route as well as weekly trips to Exeter) and as a part time commercial fisherman who fishes in close proximity to the wall during the Spring, Summer and early Autumn. 

I fully appreciate the need to do something about the sea wall and the rail services along it. I was directly affected when the wall collapsed in 2014 as I was unable to get to work in Exeter or anywhere else during that time and having to use the replacement bus was simply not practical. I have also been affected more times than I can remember by disruption caused by bad weather along the sea wall. 

Having said that, I do have some real concerns about what is being proposed in relation to my fishing activity, and the implications such a construction would have on the town of Teignmouth and its beach / marine habitat and fisheries. These are:

  1. When the cliff fall occurred during the storm in 2014 Network Rail removed the fallen sandstone by adding water to it and pumping it out into the sea. This was then taken around the Clerk by the tide and regularly filled my lobster pots with mud, with the result that I hardly caught any lobsters in 2014 which cost me a considerable amount in time, fuel and bait. How does Network Rail plan to deal with the immense amounts of spoil the debris and building a massive concrete wall will create? If there are a loss of fisheries as a result will fishers be compensated? The board at the consultation said the MMO have been involved, I have heard nothing from the MMO or Devon & Severn IFCA, where as they have been in touch regarding Exmouth marina dredging. 

  2. The proposal to move the sea wall much further out will cause the loss of a major lobster habitat in the rocks at Sprey Point and between Sprey Point and the Clerk. The area immediately off Sprey Point is where I regularly handline for Mackerel and is also an important Cuttlefish fishery for other boats. I also regularly put Sole and Plaice nets just off Sprey Point (as do others). The extra build up of sand once the wall is build will cover the rocks and the hard ground between Sprey Point meaning the loss of these habitats and fisheries. How does Network Rail plan to mitigate the loss of habitat (impossible) or compensate fishermen for lost earnings? 

  3. If the spoil and debris from the works is allowed into the sea again it will bury my lobster pots again and mean I can’t fish. Lobster pots cost £60 each. Also, freeing up stuck pots that are buried is time consuming and dangerous, if they are stuck by a storm that’s fair enough, but if they are stuck by Network Rail’s actions then that’s another matter. How does Network Rail plan to deal with this? 

  4. The sand currently runs along the coast from the mouth of the river to the Clerk, and then back again depending on the wind direction. The extra sand pushed up to the wall will cause reefs just off the beach to be buried as well as the reef around the Parson and Clerk, causing loss of fisheries and habitat. 

  5. The proposed wall looks bloody awful, it just does. The current 1860s sea wall is what most people think of when you say “South Devon”. Destroying it would be like knocking down Ribblehead viaduct and replacing it with a concrete bridge, or flattening the Royal Albert Bridge and replacing it with a box girder, would Network Rail do that? I think not. More consideration needs to be given to the aesthetics of the proposal and options for making it less ugly. 

  6. The images of the beach next to the new wall shown at the consultation are mis-leading and I would like to see them removed. At present you can only just walk around Sprey Point on a really big spring tide. The amount of beach shown next to the new wall in the images would only be visible on 2 or 3 tides a year. Most of the time the beach between Sprey Point and the Clerk will be covered with water, the images need to be changed to reflect that. 

  7. You have stated that 14 freight trains a day use the line. They do not. This is wrong. Most freight workings along the route are Network Rail departmental trains. There is the occasional china clay train, but not many. 


As someone who works beside the wall and travels over it most days of the year as well as being regularly affected by disruption I think the proposal is way over the top. The loss of the beach, fisheries, history, habitat and environmental damage that will be done just doesn’t outweigh the benefits in my view. Added to this, I can tell you for certain that if a big easterly gale blows up during construction it will smash it to pieces. 

Rather than taking such a drastic step I think there are other things that Network Rail and others should consider to mitigate disruption that are much less damaging or complex to impalement:

  1. Target new construction of defences to the main affected areas where waves overtop the wall. (Dawlish station, section between Dawlsih station and Kennaway Tunnel and section between Sprey Point and Teignmouth cutting. This could be done in the same way as with the new wall (build further out) and with rock armour. 

  2. Lengthen the Southern end of Parsons Tunnel to add a rock fall shelter, as has been done on the Northern end. 

  3. Work with train operators to ensure that the trains running along the sea wall can deal with the salt water. Usually Cross Country cancel trains either side of high water when the wind is over 40 mph and E, SE, S or NE. This is in fact the most disrupting thing. 

  4. Install additional point work and signalling to allow trains to pass between Parsons Tunnel and Clerk Tunnel when single  line working is in operation during high winds. Waves do not overtop this section and the cliffs are low, widening this section back into the land would also be pretty easy compared with further along the wall. This would reduce disruption for passengers and have no impact on the beach or sea at all. 

  5. Build rock fall shelters where rock falls are most common, such as half way between Sprey Point and Parsons Tunnel. This would obviously require the wall to be increased in size and built further out, but nowhere near as much as it proposed in the plans. 

  6. Work with the EA to repair the groynes to ensure sand builds up to protect the wall. 

  7. Repair the break waters each side of Sprey Point.

  8. Install rock breakwaters off the beach as has been done at Sidmouth. This would reduce wave height, decrease erosion, protect the wall and create marine habitat. 

  9. Replace the wooden fence at Dawlish station with a vertical bar stainless steel one to stop sea debris hitting trains. (Down platform). Or add a stainless steel grating on to it. 

  10. Route the streams that flow down the cliffs between Sprey Point and the Clerk in concrete gullies, as has been done on the Northern end of Parsons Tunnel. 

  11. Re-open the Okehampton line to provide a diversion and allow large communities on the route to be served by rail once again. Saying this isn’t feasible is wrong, it would cost a tiny fraction of HS2 and the benefits would be huge. Most of the line is still there. 


Thank you for taking the time to read my response. I hope that in due course Network Rail will look again and the proposal and come up with something that is more realistic and less damaging for South Devon. 

Kind Regards

I D, Teignmouth resident.

* * * * * 

Good morning, 

I am writing with concern for the plans put forward by Network Rail regarding the train line from Holcombe Beach to the Yacht Club and the potential effect these plans might have on the entrance to the harbour. As I'm sure you are aware, Network Rail are proposing to move this section of the rail line 40 metres out to sea, which would involve concreting over the stretch of beach which runs alongside Brunel's sea wall and Sprey Point. A recent report written by a consultant marine biologist for the Save Teignmouth Beach committee has stated that the proposal to move the railway line out to sea could have a dramatic impact on the micro cycle of the sand at the mouth of the river. I'm aware that Teignmouth Harbour Commission are responsible for the regular dredging of the river mouth in order to maintain a navigable pathway for the shipping trade in and out of the harbour, and I wondered if you had any plans to look into the effect the proposed plans will have on the river mouth.

I hope you don't mind me contacting you about this. I am simply a concerned local resident who doesn't want to see the railway works ruin our beaches and shipping trade.


I appreciate any time you take in replying to me.


Kind regards,
Rebekah Freshwater 

* * * * *

An open letter to the Andrew Haines, CEO Network Rail 

Dear Andrew Haines, 

I am a resident of Teignmouth and as such, my family and I are regular users of both the Railway (my son uses it daily to get to school) and the local beaches, including the beautiful stretch of beach from Teignmouth to Holcombe.

Both the Railway and the beaches are ingrained into our way of life; therefore, I am shocked to find out that Network Rail feel that the only way we can keep the railway as part of its Resilience program is to concrete over a large section of our beach. This will affect not only the environment and the economy of the town, but also surrounding areas due to effects caused by the movement of the tides that would cause drastic change to the coast line.

I understand the need to stabilise the cliffs from potential landslides and that part of the proposed plan hopefully eradicates the issue. I do not, however, see how the current plans which will move the track further out to sea will not, in its own way, cause a risk of just as potentially disastrous situation as cliffs falling. This time it could be caused by the rise in water levels and the increase in the frequency and strength of storms, which we are already seeing happen due to globe warming.  I would like to point out that over the 13 years I have lived in Teignmouth, we have had numerous times each year where the weather and high tides have stopped/or reduced the number of trains running on the line. There has to be some way to protect the railway from the cliffs without moving it out to sea; Avalanche shelters, which are planned to be used between Dawlish and Holcombe could be extended?

The current plans also run a huge risk to the surrounding coast line and beaches. We have already seen the effect on Dawlish Warren of sand erosion and the current proposal for the Teignmouth railway improvements will be equivalent to coastal erosion on steroids. It is bound to affect the main and back beaches in Teignmouth, the mouth of the estuary and Shaldon beach and beyond. It will also destroy large amounts of inter-tidal flora and fauna including a number of endangered species, all of which could be saved with a more sympathetic approach. If the Train has to be moved away from the cliffs, surely a viaduct could be a viable option?!?

The huge effect on the tidal path of water along that part of the coast line can be expected when you have removed a sandy beach, which is capable of absorbing enormous storm forces and a natural barrier to protecting the coast line. With the loss of Sprey Point, which breaks the flow of the movement of the tide, potentially meaning that the movement of water could end up flooding the lower part of Teignmouth. This was something that was considered in the construction of the original railway by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  The movement of the tide is bound to cause the build-up or loss of sand on other parts of the coast line and at the mouth of the river. This is bound to have an effect on numerous businesses: from Teignmouth Port, to local fishing boats, musselling, water sport company’s, as well as the huge number of people who use the mouth of the river and along the edge of the coastline for water-based leisure pursuits.

The loss of the large section of walking beach in Teignmouth will have a huge effect on the local economy, especially in the winter, when it is one of the main draws to the town. You only need to come on any dry (and for the hardy, wet) day to see that the walk from Teignmouth to Parson tunnel, along the beach and on the sea wall is busy with people of all ages walking along. Although the current proposals do offer a walk way along its length, we will have lost the walk on the beach enjoyed by all, especially those with dogs, and those walking along the wall will no longer have that stunning vista of beautiful beach, historic sea wall and beautiful cliffs. Instead they will have a concrete monstrosity jutting out to sea! 

If the loss of the beach, as we fear, will stop people from walking that stretch of Teignmouth, it will reduce the number of visitors to the town. Not everyone comes to play on the main beach, a lot come for the long walk to Holcombe. The reduction of visitors, especially the loss of dog walkers on the beach, and coach trips which regularly stop in Teignmouth all year round could have an adverse effect on the local economy. After walking along the sea wall, visitors often like to stop at the local cafes, bars and shops. These will feel the full economic impact of the loss of custom. This in turn will affect the overall economy of the town, and that is a slippery slope!  

But it is not only the views which will be affected, for me and many like me, that part of Teignmouth beach has offered me a space in which to recharge my batteries and take time to sort through issues effecting my day to day life. Whether walking on the beach, jogging on the sea wall or even watching my son play along the shore line as he has grown from a toddler to teenager. These plans will affect the tranquillity of this area and will remove a natural support to health, both physical and mental.


So please, please, please come up with a more sympathetic solution, one that meets the needs of the Railway and locals, and one which we can all be proud of for generations to come!

If nothing else you own it to the memory of Isambard Kingdom Brunel!  



Lucy Cadbury, Teignmouth

* * * * *

An open letter to the Devon Wildlife Trust

Dear Bill,

I am writing as a member of DWT and as a concerned resident of Teignmouth, regarding Network Rail’s plans for realignment of the railway on Teignmouth Beach.

This appears to be being pushed through by NR under its statutory powers, with lip service being given to either the environment or local consultation. As an example; the majority of their Teignmouth consultations are being held at Teignmouth Golf club, which is a long way out of town and likely to dissuade any but the most committed from attending.

Present plans would I believe be disastrous for local wildlife:

  • The Eastcliff section of beach, which hosts a wide range of species in the intertidal zone, would almost entirely be lost, replaced by a sterile concrete structure.

  • The construction of a large concrete structure on the beach is likely to affect longshore drift, with potential impacts on the Teign estuary – and perhaps even on Dawlish Warren. As we saw following recent remodelling of defences at Dawlish Warren, even the EA have not yet been able to model these systems adequately.

  • The proposed very substantial volume of concrete, equivalent to multiple football pitches, will have a negative impact on global CO2 emissions

  • There will be a very significant visual impact (even if painted green as proposed by NR).


I work as a geologist (albeit mining rather than geotechnical), and have yet to be convinced that the scheme on this section is even necessary. These works have been proposed in response to the 2014 cliff collapse, due as I understand it, to saturation of muds in the cliffs at that time due to rainfall, which then collapsed, rather than due to coastal storms.


There has to my knowledge been only one such major failure in over 100 years of operation of the line. I believe that valid alternatives are likely to exist including:

  • Rockfall shelters

  • Dewatering of the cliffs through a borehole field, to reduce the pore pressure of water held in the cliffs, combined with stability monitoring

  • Alternatively, if a realignment is the only solution, then construction on piers rather than as a continuous platform would allow retention of the beach and some of the marine habitat

We suspect that NR’s response is largely driven by the current structure of fines around line closures, meaning that even closing a single side of the current two lines makes it more cost effective for them to institute an entirely new alignment. Clearly cost to NR should not be the only consideration.

I am sure that you are already aware of these plans, and that when statutory bodies are consulted DWT will respond appropriately. Their EIA is I believe due to be released later this month. I wanted to stress though that this development, if it goes ahead, is presently one of the largest threats to wildlife in Devon, and would potentially be worthy of publicising to our members.

With best wishes,



​Brett Grist FGS MAusIMM (CP)

* * * * *

Dear Anne Marie Morris,

You will be aware of the ongoing consultation with regard to the railway line between Parson's Tunnel and Teignmouth Station.  You will also have noted that NRA's existing option appraisals take no account, financially or otherwise, of the loss of amenity afforded by the 1.7 km of our wonderful unspoilt sandy beach that will be destroyed if the preferred option is implemented.  A beach beloved of many, many people and one which contributes to the physical and mental wellbeing of local residents and visitors as well as to our outstanding natural eco-system.  

It seems that NRA has no duty to take account of such considerations.  Perhaps you could ascertain whether or not this is true?  Indeed, the fact that NRA fail to recognise the value of the special place is betrayed by their statement that the scheme, as it stands, represents a "New leisure opportunity"!  For they have the gall to say "The proposals would provide improved leisure facilities and amenities including new, fully accessible, coastal walking and cycling routes."

Please ask your colleagues in government and in particular the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to set out at what stage in the approval process for a scheme such as this will the loss of amenity and related economic impact be taken into account.  A response which simply points to the duty to carry out Environmental Impact Assessments and to mitigate adverse impact will not suffice.  As I am sure you will agree, the mitigation of environmental impact is not the same as the preservation and enhancement of amenity.  

I look forward to your reply.

All the best,

Simon Worswick, Teignmouth

* * * * *

Ann Marie Morris MP,  


Are you listening to your constituents in Teignmouth or do you subscribe to the proposal by network rail which will essentially sacrifice a substantial part of Teignmouth’s economy and business, but that this is OK because it’s for the greater good of the  south west? Do you believe that given the millions spent with so called experts that this is the most effective solution or are the comparatively recent events at nearby Dawlish leading to a knee jerk reaction with a simplistic but detrimental proposal?


I’m a relatively newcomer to Teignmouth having only lived here for 46 of my 73 years. When I had the chance to decide where I wanted to live in South Devon it was my childhood holiday memories of the red sand of Teignmouth that drew me here. I remain convinced that those like me who use the beach pretty much every day are grateful for it, whereas those holiday visitors remember the uniquely red sand and cliffs with the historic and steadfast seawall and where the trains are really unobtrusive to the whole scene – somewhat different to the concrete monstrosity envisaged by Network Rail.


Given the millions spend on developing this proposal, why not spend at least a proper sum on an analysis by experts on the effects that Network Rail’s proposal will have on Teignmouth, because at the moment the course action taken by Network Rail, whilst arguably democratic is laughably one sided.

 Kind Regards

Dennis Mason

* * * * *

To whom it may concern,


I would hate to see the beach from Teignmouth to Holcombe change, not only will we lose a pleasant panoramic outlook, but also the ability to walk along the beach enjoying the peace and tranquillity it gives, unless during a spring tide, we will not be able to walk the with a neap tide.

The sea wall and beach is renowned for its beauty and is very picturesque too and attracts tourist to use it and enjoy what we have now.


Also the tidal flow will change and so will the tidal current too and it is clear that the Rail Network is not looking what is best for the environment or the public, you only have to look at Dawlish and that seawall collapse was due to poor maintenance where they just pointed in cracks that appeared and the sea found the weak spot eventually, that would not have happened if the remove the damaged area and repaired the whole area correctly and none was held accountable for that and their contact with the public was a pure PR exercise and they were not interested the public objection and this is happening again with Our beach and sea wall,  they are not wanting to listen and accept OUR opinion!

I also feel that the sea wall should be protected by National Heritage.

The Network railways have not protected the sea point at all and have allowed the protection it had to erode totally and also the so called repairs are pathetic with a dab of concrete rather than repair the actual damage and along the sea wall they have made no adequate repairs as they know the sand has covered it , but it will reappear in time!


I have seen in Italy France and Greece how their railways are protected without disturbing the country side and sea area by putting protective covers over the railways.


I  am amazed that The Railway network has not looked at the structure of their trains, to suit the environment that they are used in the West country coast line i.e the sea and its waves and possible cliff fall which is a rare occurrence!

I feel the Government should take a far more bigger intervention and save OUR environment and heritage and ensure that The Rail Network are listening to us the Local knowledge and using the money to be invested wisely and not be a short term fix and ruin what we have NOW.


Michael R J Moses, a born and bred Teignmouthian!!

* * * * *


I was born near the sea in Devon and after living in various places returned to live near Teignmouth this summer. One of the main attractions was the long unspoilt beach in the town.


Now I learn that Network Rail are proposing to concrete over 1.7 km of this unspoilt sandy beach, beloved of many many people and contributing to the health and welfare of people as well as the natural eco-system.


I am pro rail but I gather there are other options and really this particular idea is appalling and would do untold damage to the town. In fact I cannot believe anyone would ever even consider concreting over a beach in this day and age when we are trying to protect our precious natural resources.


I mentioned the idea to my 8 year old grandson yesterday when he was playing with his dog on the beach in question and unprompted he said: 'But it can't be the choice of a rail company – it  must belong to the whole neighbourhood'. 


I have yet to see support from our MP (copied) but I presume she is not supportive of a beach in her constituency being concreted over, not least as tourism is so vital to the area and many hotels etc have expressed concern, as well as the locals who have loved this beach for centuries. I imagine John Keats who walked this area and wrote a poem about it is turning in his grave.


Please can you reassure me that you will ensure that this option is not taken up by Network Rail?


Thank you,


Yours sincerely,

Jenny Balfour Paul

* * * * * 

Hi Alice, 

Many thanks for trying to save Teignmouth   Beach, a place we use all year round and a great and beautiful area that needs fighting for. 

Having been in engineering all my life I truly cannot understand Network rails ill thought out scheme to just effectively throw concrete over the beach i n the vain hope that it will hold back the sea and underpin the cliff until the next big storm or the one after.

We in Great Britain have a history of  producing some of the finest  engineers and consequently supplying some truly innovative solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems just look at the achievements of Brunel in his short life.

There is an opportunity here for Network Rail  to set a challenge and utilise  the fantastic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Universities,and Maritime Universities that we have in this country to find innovative and ground braking solutions to this problem which may in the long term address  coastal erosion not just in Teignmouth but in all areas  where it occurs. The cost involved to set this challenge and produce outline proposals would be relatively small compared to the overall scheme but it needs  Network Rail to accept that they are in need of help and are found wanting in this area of expertise.

Best regards,


Peter Watling 

* * * * * 

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