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Soldiers join specialist fire crews in bid to set off controlled landslide at Dawlish

By Herald Express  |  Posted: March 19, 2014

Dawlish landslide

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SPECIALIST fire crews have been helping to set off a controlled landslide above the Dawlish to Teignmouth rail track where workmen are battling to reopen the line.

Now the army has been called in to help reinstate the line.

Network Rail hopes the Royal Engineers will be able to use specialist equipment to remove 20,000-30,000 tonnes of rock face so the line can be reinstated.

The landslide operation has been planned by Network Rail since the storm of February 14 and it has reassured the public in the area there will be no dramatic shift of land.

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"The army has been involved and helping since the damage was caused to the line," said Julian Burnell, Network Rail spokesman said:

"When they first arrived there wasn't a lot for the army to do, but we've since used them to help with helicopter aerial pictures.

"We have a small team of one or two officers in place helping us.

"Now we are considering using the army's armoured excavators as they are more resilient than ours.

"This controlled landslip has it's own time scale as it's not an exact science. We hoped it will take around a week to sort, but we can't be sure.

"Currently our tactic is to pour water from the top and nibble away at the sides with our excavators

"We're also consulting with experts at the Camborne School of Mines."

High-volume water pumps and specialist fire crews from across the region are working with Network Rail between Teignmouth and Dawlish off Exeter Road to start the controlled landslip of soil and rock above the main line railway.

Network Rail requested the fire brigade's assistance on Friday, reportedly because during the previous 48 hours a large area of soil and rock directly above the main line was noticed to have slumped.

It was first reported there was potential for a catastrophic collapse posing a risk to workers and causing further damage to the railway infrastructure.

Fire service specialist high volume pumping teams from Wellington and Sidmouth, supported by fire crews from Teignmouth and Newton Abbot, have been working with Network Rail contractors and their geologist to pump water from the sea 50 meters up the cliff face.

Crews have also set into a hydrant in Teignmouth Road, Dawlish, to provide further water.

Group commander Andy Rowse told the Herald Express the cliff face had slumped further on Saturday. Two crews remained on Saturday afternoon as the pumping operation continued.

He said the plan was for the loose material to be brought down over the rail line then moved by Network Rail out to sea so the line could be reinstated. It is still hoped the line can re-open on April 4.

The high volume water pump was loaded on to Network Rail rolling stock at Dawlish railway station and taken along the railway line to the scene of operations. A meeting took place on site on Saturday morning between the fire service, Network Rail and geologists to assess any movement and consider the pumping strategy.

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