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Mon June 14 2021

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Morgan Sindall to extend Devon’s Parsons Tunnel

14 May Network Rail has awarded Morgan Sindall a £28m contract to extend the existing rockfall shelter over the railway line between Dawlish and Holcombe in Devon.

Artist's impression of how the extended Parson Tunnel will look from Coryton Cove
Artist's impression of how the extended Parson Tunnel will look from Coryton Cove

Morgan Sindall Infrastructure plans to start construction of the 209-metre long extension of Parsons Tunnel in August. Construction of the rockfall shelter on the north side of the existing tunnel is expected to take a year to build. It is designed to protect trains against falling rocks.

Construction of more rockfall shelter over the rail line in south Devon follows on from the new seawall in Dawlish, the first section of which was completed last July.

Parsons Tunnel was previously extended 100 years ago. This project will extend that further by providing a rockfall shelter in modern materials, but with open sides rather than a brick built enclosed tunnel extension.

The rockfall shelter will be constructed from a series of six-metre modular pre-cast concrete sections. Faced with the challenging coastal location, Morgan Sindall Infrastructure has developed an innovative installation method to minimise the risk of weather-related disruption and reduce the impact on train services.

Preparatory work at the top of the cliffs overlooking this stretch of railway began in March 2021 with Network Rail crews cutting back some of the vegetation.

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How the tunnel looks now
How the tunnel looks now

Chris Pearce, Network Rail’s Western route interim director, said: “This is our latest phase of work to increase the resilience of this integral stretch of railway as part of our South West Rail resilience programme.”

Peter Kirk, managing director of Morgan Sindall Infrastructure’s rail business unit, said: “Parsons Tunnel north portal is an incredibly complex project and we are extremely pleased to bring a number of innovations to this project, helping to ensure the resilience of the railway line for the local community and those travelling to and from the area.”

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