Professor Robert Duck from the University of Dundee says that numerous sections of railway in Wales, Cumbria, Devon and elsewhere are at risk of being washed away because they skirt so close to the sea. Three lines had to close in 2014 after being damaged by waves, most memorably at Dawlish on the south coast of Devon where the track was left hanging in mid-air.
Trains on some of the vulnerable coastal tracks carry nuclear waste to the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria and from the Wylfa nuclear site in north Wales. They are also vital lifelines for hundreds of communities.
Duck is the author of a new book on UK coastal railways called ‘On the Edge’ to be launched this week. It points out that over 150 kilometres of the operating railway network in Wales are on the coast, along with many other stretches around England and Scotland.
The seawall protecting the railway at Dawlish was destroyed in February 2014 and the line was out of action for two months. “This was a dramatic example of the problems we face as climate change leads to more storms and exacerbates coastal erosion,” says Duck.