Christmas Eve was a dark day for our community. On that day the railway sea wall at Dover failed. The line has been closed ever since. We all hoped a running repair could be made. Sadly it turned out that a full rebuild would be necessary. Usually these projects take two years from start to finish. Network Rail and their civil engineers Costain worked out how they could do it in a year. Incredibly the line is planned to reopen on 5thSeptember. The rebuild will have taken just nine months.
The failure of the sea wall caused real problems for everyone. Our area has been seeing a sharp increase in commuting to work in recent years. This has been a real boost to our local economy. The break in the line caused made in hard for people to get to work and set back the great change we have been seeing. The beach by the Shakespeare Cliff was washed away in the big December storms. This meant that the foundations of the sea wall were exposed. They were undermined and that caused the failure of the sea wall.
It had been hoped that a running repair could be made. Unfortunately the Victorian timber viaduct the rails originally ran on had rotted away. An entirely new viaduct had to be built on massive piles driven deep into the chalk bedrock. The new viaduct will be protected by rock armour rather than a traditional sea wall. It has been a very big job and cost over £40 million.
Everyone thought the rebuild would take to the end of the year. Yet I quietly hoped it could be quicker than that. My first priority was to make sure there were no bureaucratic hold ups. The Sea Wall Repair Task Force I chaired worked hard to clear all obstacles. The District Council gave permission for 24/7 working. This teamwork made sure repairs were taken forward as quickly as possible and that any obstacles were overcome right away. I went through the project timetable in detail with Network Rail and Costain, looking to see what glitches might arise. Finally we were incredibly lucky with the weather and the last concrete for piling came to the site the week before the traffic chaos we suffered a month ago. All this meant that the rebuild has taken the shortest possible time.
I am incredibly proud of this achievement. I know how Commuters have suffered and the line reopening so quickly will make an incredible difference to their daily lives. We will always have challenges to overcome. Yet it's how we deal with the challenges and overcome them that matters most. More is happening in Dover & Deal now than for many decades. I am so optimistic about the change we can make together. There is a real sense of momentum – let's keep it up!
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