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Posts Tagged ‘Dawlish

Gone coastal

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Earlier this year £35 million was spent repairing storm damage to the coastal Great Western railway in and around Dawlish. Now a 20-foot [6 metre] long stretch of the sea wall has been damaged again, leaving holes and precariously exposed coping stones, the Western Morning News reported.

[‘PICTURES: Cracks and holes appear in new Dawlish sea wall’, Western Morning News, November 12, 2014]

But Julian Burnell from Network Rail said he wasn’t too concerned.

“I’m not too worried about this.

“It is pretty much business as usual at Dawlish.

“We had a thumping storm and that is why we have a team of men that have for many years gone up and down that wall all the time checking for damage and fixing it.

“In this case the coping stones at the top of the wall have been hit enough to loosen them so we closed the walkway to assess the damage.

“But we will fix the stones back in position – this is the kind of thing we deal with at Dawlish every day.

“Everybody is very sensitive after the catastrophe in February – this is nothing to worry about on that scale.”

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Written by beleben

November 12, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Planning, Politics, Railways

Tagged with ,

Dawlish random numbers

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Network Rail claim that the current Meldon viaduct could not be restored for railway use

Network Rail claim that the current Meldon viaduct (in Option 3) could not be restored for railway use

Network Rail has provided transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin with its West of Exeter Route Resilience Study, which was established following the storm damage at Dawlish earlier this year. But who actually undertook the study, is not apparent.

[Network Rail]

Appraisal work was commissioned by Network Rail to assess the outline business case for each of the seven potential diversionary routes described in the previous section. The scope of this appraisal activity can be summarised as follows:

• To establish a base case, the existing railway via Dawlish would remain the only rail route between Plymouth and Exeter as now. This base case also includes review of the extent to which the Dawlish route could be expected not to be available for traffic due to planned engineering possessions and unplanned disruption, and the road replacement services to be assumed

• To identify the scale of disruption compensation costs for the base case, which potentially could be avoided were an alternative/diversionary route to be available

• To devise appropriate train service specifications for each route option, taking advantage of the new route:

– For planned train services only where it offers journey time savings compared with the existing route via Dawlish

– For diversions on those occasions when the route via Dawlish is not available for traffic

• To assess the likely scale of passenger demand and revenue impacts for each option

• To assess the annual operating costs for each option

• To prepare an outline UK rail financial business case appraisal and DfT WebTAG compliant transport economic appraisal, including unpriced user and non-user benefits. The appraisal compares the seven alternative/diversionary route options against the base case

• To test the extent to which stakeholders’ aspirational higher train service level scenario would change the appraisal results, together with appropriate sensitivity testing to illustrate the robustness of the results and conclusions.

In all the options, the route via Dawlish is retained with existing calls at the intermediate stations maintained. It is assumed that in the short to medium term works will have been undertaken to the route to ensure comparable standards of resilience to levels of risk similar to the average over the last 40 years.

Network Rail Great Western route to West Devon and Cornwall, west of Exeter resilience options, 2014

The study considered the following courses of action:

• Option 1, Base Case (maintenance / repair / operating regime same as pre-breach)

• Option 2, Strengthening the existing railway, is the subject of a separate Network Rail study, due to report in the first part of 2015. An early estimated cost of between £398 million and £659 million would be spread over four Control Periods with a series of trigger and hold points to reflect funding availability, spend profile and achieved level of resilience

• Option 3, Alternative Route A – rebuild the former London & South Western Railway route from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock at an estimated cost of £875 million

• Option 4, Alternative Route B – constructing a modern double track railway on the alignment of the former Teign Valley branch line from Exeter to Newton Abbot. This has an estimated cost of £470 million. There is doubt as to whether a resilient railway is practical on this route

• Option 5, Alternative Routes C (C1 – C5) – five alternative direct routes to provide a new line between Exeter and Newton Abbot at an estimated cost between £1.49 billion and £3.10 billion.

The study found that Options 3, 4, and 5 represented very poor value for money, while the VfM of Option 2 was “To be assessed”.

Although not stated explicitly in the study, in conventional transport economic terms, the best performing option would be the current, “reactive” Option 1, but the wider economic impacts question was not really addressed. The Great Western Main Line is not an “economic lifeline” for the South West, but the option of closing all lines west of Exeter was not on the table.

Currently, the vast majority of passenger travel to and from the peninsula is by road, and railfreight volume is negligible. But if South West rail access is to be maintained and developed, the best long term option would probably be to abandon the coastal alignment at Dawlish, and build something like Option C5. The Option 2 notion that the coastal route could be made storm-proof, sea-level-proof, and electrification-ready, for “£659 million”, looks highly suspect.

According to Network Rail, Option 3 is unattractive for a number of reasons. Construction of a new viaduct at Meldon would be required, and the running of stopping trains between Plymouth, Okehampton and Exeter would generate minuscule economic benefits and revenue.

Shortcomings in the study include the lack of detail about what Option 2 would actually involve, and the absence of a cost breakdown of Option 3. The storm damage in early 2014 cut off rail access to the South West for around eight weeks in the off season, but the cumulative sum of disruption from meaningful hardening of the existing route over four Control Periods (i.e. two decades) would probably be a large multiple of that. So, in the humble view of the Beleben blog, Option 2 is likely, in disruption terms, to prove a cure worse than the disease.

Network Rail west of Exeter assessed options, 2014

Network Rail west of Exeter options, 2014. Note the curious absence of a VfM assessment for Option 2

Politically and publicly, do nothing (Option 1) is ‘not an option’, but significantly improving the resilience of the existing railway (Option 2) is not achievable without effectively rebuilding it over a distance of several miles. The study glosses over that fact, which would tend to suggest an ‘Option 2 Lite’ (Option 1 dressed up as Option 2) is the preferred option.

Written by beleben

July 16, 2014 at 11:04 am

Once more unto the breach

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Mail Online flood tourists, 11 Feb 2014After transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s photo-op on Friday, today it was the turn of prime minister David Cameron to visit the Great Western rail breach at Dawlish.

[‘Prime Minister David Cameron visits Dawlish’, Torquay Herald Express, 11 Feb 2014]

Mr Cameron made a whistlestop visit to the town as part of a tour of the South West that has been gripped by flooding.

Engineers are working six hour shifts between high tides to erect a temporary sea wall and getting to work on rebuilding the rail line, which should be open within six weeks, the Exeter Express and Echo reported.

[‘Network Rail bosses explain latest on Dawlish repairs as six week reassurance given’, Express and Echo, 11 Feb 2014]

Julian Burnell, governance and corporate affairs for Network Rail said that all workers are wearing life jackets and safety harnesses because of the sea location.

He added: “The other hazard that we face is there may be some additional movement in the houses [adjacent to the railway breach], so far our monitoring says they haven’t moved so we are keeping our fingers crossed for that.”

Mr Burnell said that plans for an alternative rail access to west Devon and Cornwall ‘were not even on the drawing board.’ (No surprise there, of course.)

He said: “This is the best route into the South West from a rail point-of-view, it remains the best, the most direct and the fastest and that is why it is the only one that still remains.”

But clearly, since there’s a big hole in Dawlish where the tracks should be, it isn’t “the only one that still remains”. Perhaps the numptyesque Mr Burnell is the Network Rail “source” who told Railnews that the company plans “to develop a strategy and scheme that will provide increased levels of resilience to marine erosion as part of the Western Route Climate Change Adaption Plan by 2019. Implementation is currently planned for 2019 to 2024.”

It would be interesting to know whether there even was a ‘Western Route Climate Change Adaption Plan’ in January 2014, and if so, what was in it. At the time of writing, there’s no trace of any such document online.

The Railnews article attracted some amusing ‘green ink’ comments, such as suggesting enclosing the tracks through Dawlish in a massive concrete box. Unless an ‘unconventional’ solution such as an offshore breakwater were feasible, the seafront route through Dawlish is likely to be increasingly difficult to maintain, and something like the GWR’s proposed avoiding line may be the way forward.

Obviously, the railway resilience issue is much larger than a few kilometres of track in South Devon. Reallocating the HS2 budget to the classic network would permit its capability to be massively improved.

Written by beleben

February 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Tagged with , ,

‘Dawlish will not fail’

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Network Rail Dawlish Denial, C4 NewsNetwork Rail is only considering the Okehampton — Tavistock — Plymouth route as a candidate to improve rail resilience for Cornwall and west Devon, according to the BBC. In other words, re-routeing the Great Western route off the seafront in South Devon is off the agenda.

But people might need to think hard, before deciding to take Network Rail’s advice on matters like this. Or putting them in charge of bunting at a village fete. A November 2010 Devon county council committee report noted

Network Rail are confident that the railway sea defences around Dawlish will not fail in the foreseeable future.

Network Rail later denied that it had a favoured solution. It said ‘no firm decision had been made’ and a further study would be conducted ‘to look at the pros and cons of alternative routes’.

Written by beleben

February 10, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Planning, Railways

Tagged with ,

The men who stare at waves

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Patrick McLoughlin in 'The men who stare at waves'

Network Rail Media Centre “has appealed for help from the public to stay away” from the site of the severance of the Great Western at Dawlish, “as the combination of heavy machinery, concrete spraying, and the waves means it is not safe to be around”. However, it was apparently safe enough for lumbering transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to be pointlessly shown around the site on 7 February. A makeshift line of containers has been placed along the seafront in a bid to prevent the breach from worsening.

Written by beleben

February 9, 2014 at 7:07 pm