Engineers have been working through the night at Dawlish, Devon, to shore up a seriously damaged section of sea wall before another Atlantic storm system arrives on Saturday.
Around 80m of sea wall has been destroyed by high tides and stormy seas, causing a significant stretch of railway to collapse into the sea. The road adjacent to the railway and several houses have also been damaged, along with damage at Dawlish station itself and several other sites in the area.
Work last night and into this morning saw the rails and sleepers cut away from the hole and removed. That meant it was then safe for staff to access the site and begin removing debris. This was then used to help build an access ramp so machinery could be brought onto site.
A concrete spraying machine, that was previously used to refurbish Whiteball tunnel, will begin work later today (Friday) to build up a layer of material over the subsoil exposed by the wall collapse. This will be a sacrificial layer, to absorb some of the force of the storm forecast for tomorrow.
Work is ongoing to demolish the most damaged platform at Dawlish station itself, prior to rebuilding.
Full assessment of repairs will come with calmer weather after the weekend, along with a revised timescale. Initial assessments are that it will be at least six weeks to completion from when work begins.
Network Rail has mobilised a range of specialist contractors, engineers and suppliers from across the country to help with the work needed at Dawlish and has also taken up the offer of discussions with the Ministry of Defence to see if there is any help which can be provided by armed forces personnel based in the south-west.
In addition, engineers are on site at a number of locations in the south west of England and are making repairs where the weather conditions permit. Services have resumed between Plymouth and Newton Abbot, but there will be no trains east of Newton Abbot to Exeter until the line is repaired at Dawlish.