Since 2000 the railway line that connects the south west of England to the rest of the UK has been closed for lengthy periods due to severe flooding, causing widespread travel disruption and costing the regional economy millions of pounds a day. We are delivering a programme of works to improve the line’s resilience in its five most vulnerable locations between Exeter and Newton Abbot in Devon.
Our multidisciplinary team is developing practical solutions to a diverse array of flooding issues: fast-flowing river flooding, standing water and wave action, rainfall run-off, groundwater flooding combined with overland flow, and overflowing aqueducts. To improve forecasting and warning thresholds, we are evaluating flood prediction systems that maximise the use of Environment Agency river gauges, Met Office rainfall radar and existing lineside cameras. We are also looking for opportunities to improve flood conveyance not just within Network
Rail land but across the wider hydrological catchment, co-ordinating with other flood management schemes, for example, to remove weirs and improve culverts.
We are developing cost-effective, sustainable flood resilience solutions despite challenges posed by the historic location of the railway line on the floodplain and predicted increases in rainfall and river flow with climate change. One of the region’s most important transport links – essential to connecting communities and economic growth – will be more robust in the face of extreme weather of increasing severity and frequency.