From 18 January, Network Rail will be carrying out works to repair Whiteball tunnel to prevent the ageing structure from deteriorating. In addition, work will be carried out to expand the drainage system and to improve the embankment around the area as part of a wider programme to alleviate flood risks posed by extreme weather.
Around three miles of track will be renewed and seven units of switches and crossings relaid separately at Taunton and Tiverton to enable trains to travel at a higher speed of 80mph. This effort will significantly help boost rail performance whilst complementing Network Rail’s long-term aspiration to improve services between Bristol and Exeter.
Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s director of asset management on the Western route, said: “We are carrying out essential improvement works on a vital rail link and on one of the more popular freight and commuter routes in the south west of England. The programme also forms a key building block to support our long-term vision to improve journey times between Bristol and Exeter.
“Unfortunately we have to close the railway temporarily to enable us to carry out this complex piece of work safely and efficiently within a confined space. To minimise disruptions, we have carefully designed our work by integrating three separate projects into one programme, which enable us to tackle the tunnel and the railway together without having to close the railway many times.”
The railway between Tiverton and Taunton will be closed between 18 January and 10 February but there will be alternative services provided for by First Great Western. Network Rail and First Great Western will also be providing additional car parking spaces at Taunton railway station to minimise any potential disruption to passengers.