WATCH: How BAM used ‘adversity’ to build mighty sea wall defence


Major works to repair, re-enforce and reconstruct a sea wall on the Devon coast is nearing completion.  

Dawlish coast
Credit: Network Rail
by Rory ButlerFebruary 27, 2023

BAM Nuttall has played a key role in the construction of a larger sea wall defence and railway in Dawlish for Network Rail, valued at £80 million. 

A portion of railway track was destroyed during a fierce storm in early 2014. 

Its ruin left Cornwall and much of Devon without rail connections to the rest of the UK for weeks. 

The first section of new sea wall, which runs 360m from Colonnade to Boat Cove, was complete in July 2020.  

Work on the 415m second section, stretching from Coastguard breakwater northeast of Dawlish station to Colonnade breakwater, began in November that same year. 

Credit: Network Rail

How does it work? 

BAM constructed and installed 164 wall panels, 203 pre-cast blocks and 189 recurve units, which return waves back out to sea.   

The firm also built a link bridge running parallel to Colonnade viaduct that joins the two sections together, and a new stilling basin (including 140,000 hand-laid granite blocks) where Dawlish Water runs under the viaduct and into the sea. 


BAM faced many challenges during construction, including the discovery of an uncharted gas main which pushed its programme back by weeks. 

Then heavy rain, wind and freezing temperatures during winter caused further delays.  

Walking on sunshine  

For the first time since Autumn last year, the public was able to access King’s Walk promenade and beach from Colonnade underpass on Saturday (25 February). 

However, the new link bridge, stilling basin area and promenade, and beach between Colonnade and Coastguard breakwaters will remain closed for now while work continues in this area. 

Credit: Network Rail

“Our work with Network Rail at Dawlish is proof that great things can come from adversity,” said Alan Cox, managing director for transport at BAM Nuttall. “It’s a project that has exhibited incredible ingenuity and collaboration from everyone involved right from the outset back in February 2014. 

“The physical challenges of the site have really tested the problem-solving skills of our engineers but the results are there for all to see.  

“I’m particularly proud of the innovation that has been demonstrated, from the use of the WaveWalker to install piling to the use of low carbon concrete in the construction of the sea wall itself.” 


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