The new sea wall deflecting huge waves // Credit: Coast Cams

UK - Dawlish sea wall wins top prize while facing Storm Ciarán

A newly erected sea wall, designed to protect the Dawlish coast's railway, has won a coveted prize days after being tested by Storm Ciarán.

The second phase of the Dawlish sea wall's construction, which was completed in May, won two awards at the ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards. The project won the top Showcase Award, in addition to the Over £8m Re-engineered Award.

Dawlish is a seaside resort town on the coast of Devon. It has a population of over 13,000 permanent residents, and is a popular holiday destination during the summer months.

It was necessary to replace large parts of Dawlish's sea wall after a large storm in 2014 broke down the previous coastal protection, causing severe damage to Dawlish's railway line and leaving the town cut off from the rest of the country's rail network.

The project to rebuild Dawlish's coastal defences was an £82 million public investment as part of the South West Rail Resilience Programme.

The sea wall features underpasses to allow for access to the beach, while the wall itself is eight metres tall – two and a half metres taller than the previous defences.

The project was presented with the ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards just days after being thoroughly tested by one of the largest storms of the year.

Storm Ciarán caused heavy winds and rough seas to hit Dawlish in late October through to early November, with some waves as tall as five metres in height.


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In celebration of the award wins and in recognition of the hard work required to complete the sea wall, Network Rail has released footage of Storm Ciarán failing to breach Dawlish's new coastal defences.

According to Rail Minister Huw Merriman:

“The Dawlish sea wall was delivered through £82 million of Government funding and just a few months later that has already helped protect our rail network from Storm Ciarán.

“I've seen first-hand the Dawlish sea wall and the importance of our investment to protect this vital coastal rail route from extreme weather conditions.

“This is a true example of civil engineering at its finest and has rightly received prestigious awards. I commend everyone who has worked on this project for its successful delivery.”

Huw Jones, executive director BAM, added:

“We're pleased to see the wall performing as designed in recent weeks when faced with some exceptionally high winds and stormy conditions. Our work at Dawlish will protect the railway and the town for the next hundred years, so I'm sure Storm Ciarán will be the first of many.

“Dawlish was an example of exceptional collaboration, drawing on expertise from Network Rail, BAM and our outstanding suppliers. It's great to see that their work has been rightly acknowledged in recent awards.”

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