Published: 31 December 2015
The recent winter storms have breached another coastal section of main line railway closing the route for up to two months. The unwelcome Christmas present has closed the line between Dover Priory and Folkestone Central stations on the English Channel coast and follows the stormy weather combined with high tides causing severe damage to the sea wall at Dover.
The electrified main line runs along the top of the wall which also acts as a sea defence just west of Dover Harbour with the damage being found on Christmas Eve. In the week after the damage was found, the wall condition has worsened and now has severe damage to several sections including sink holes two or three metres deep along its length Network Rail says.
The repairs will be like with Dawlish a year ago and have to made in conjunction with the tides and weather as the sea wall will need to be rebuilt. Once engineers have completed their assessment they will be able to estimate how long the repair work will take.
Until this happens, a bus replacement service is running between Dover Priory and Folkestone Central and some Southeastern high speed ‘Javelin’ trains will be diverted to run between Ashford International and Ramsgate via Canterbury West. Passengers travelling between Dover and London will also be able to use trains to London Victoria via Canterbury East.
An additional service will run each day between Dover Priory and Ramsgate calling at all stations (Martin Mill, Deal, Walmer and Sandwich).
And for locals who like to use the beach, be aware that the footbridge to the local beach has also been damaged and has been fenced off for repairs, which will also be carried out by Network Rail engineers.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We know how important the railway is for people in this area and our orange army is working round the clock to establish what action needs to be taken, though we know the damage to the sea wall supporting the railway is severe.
“Teams of engineers are on site and we will do everything we can to reopen this stretch of railway as quickly as possible.
“In the meantime, passengers should check with Southeastern Trains for the latest information before travelling.”
A spokesman for Southeastern added: “Network Rail have encountered a great deal of damage and the repair works will take a significant amount of time.
The line has a history of service interruptions but usually due to chalk falls. There is a special warning system in place in Shakespeare tunnel for example made up of trip wires. If these are hit by falling rock or chalk, they activate the danger signal to stop all trains.
Because of the chalk formation, the tunnel has a unique shape, tall and narrow to minimise the chances of rock falls.