The UK has opened the first section of the new Dawlish sea wall built to protect a key stretch of a rail link connecting Devon and Cornwall.

The first section of the structure stretches from the Colonnade underpass, west of Dawlish station, to Boat Cove. This section will protect around 360m of railway, as well as the homes beyond the lines.

The sea wall is 2.5m higher compared with the previous wall and features a curved top to deflect the sea waves.

UK Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Our investment in this new sea wall will provide a resilient railway for generations to come, delivering for the thousands of passengers that rely upon this vital link every day, and the residents whose homes and businesses must be protected.

“This rigorous set of defences forms part of our ambitious plans to deliver reliable, punctual journeys across Devon and Cornwall, improving connections between communities to help the South West build back better, boosting the local economy and tourism.”

The £80m sea wall scheme was conceived to protect the vital rail link from extreme weather conditions and increasing sea levels after the site was severely damaged following the floods in 2014.

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By GlobalData

In the next section, the wall will be extended by 415m from Coastguards to Colonnade breakwaters. Last month, the project received planning approval from Teignbridge District Council with works slated to begin from next month.

The second section is expected to be completed in two years.

Network Rail Western route director Mike Gallop said: “We are now looking forward to starting the next section of the project, continuing to provide this much-needed resilience for the railway line in the south-west.”