The line between Taunton and Exeter St David’s reopened on Saturday 9th March after Network Rail robots completed maintenance work through Whiteball tunnel in Somerset. Meanwhile human workers completed track renewals further down the line in Marley tunnel in Devon.
Robot machines called Ivy and Holly relined the walls of Whiteball tunnel with sprayed concrete to safeguard against loose masonry and bricks falling on the railway. They applied 830 cubic metres of concrete in 21 days, with one machine constantly stirring the concrete mix to stop it setting and another sprayed the tunnel lining.
Scott Pillinger, programme manager for Network Rail, said: “Whiteball Tunnel is over 100 years old and this work will make sure that it stays safe for use for another century, ensuring passenger journeys won’t be affected by falling masonry inside the tunnel. During the three-week closure, the team worked both night and day. Ivy and Holly really helped speed up the time the work took, allowing us to get passenger services up and running again.”