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Restored railway line and unique flood alleviation scheme receive industry awards

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A £40.5million scheme to reconnect communities by restoring regular trains services to a mothballed railway has celebrated double success at the ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards 2022.

The Dartmoor Line, between Okehampton and Exeter in Devon, won the prestigious Showcase Award at a gala ceremony in Bristol last night (22 November).

The project, which was a partnership between Network Rail, Great Western Railway (GWR) and Devon County Council also won the Community Award in recognition of outstanding community engagement and the benefits it brings to rural communities on Dartmoor.

The railway is the first to be reinstated under the Department for Transport’s Restoring your Railway initiative. Completed in just nine months during the COVID-19 pandemic, the project involved laying 11 miles of track, replacing 24,000 concrete sleepers, and installing nearly 29,000 tonnes of ballast. The Dartmoor Line has also been highlighted as a good example of investment in low-carbon infrastructure in a new report by ICE on the financing of green infrastructure projects.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said:

“Winning these two awards is an incredible achievement and we’re proud to have been part of the partnership team that reinstated the Dartmoor Line. More than 250,000 journeys made on the line in its first year highlights the benefit this project is providing local communities in the area.”

Sally Walters, chair of judges, said: “The Dartmoor Line is an inspirational example of what can happen when civil engineers and communities work together. The project shows how infrastructure can improve connectivity for rural areas and how quickly improvements can be delivered for everyone’s benefit. What’s more, the scheme has created a template for the successful restoration of other disused railways across the UK. Congratulations to all involved with this outstanding scheme.”

Among the other award winners was a flooding solution in Sidmouth, which attracted the Judges’ Special Award. Its clever design, combining floodwater storage and sustainable drainage with a beautiful outdoor amphitheatre, impressed the judging panel. The Sidmouth Flood Alleviation Scheme also proved the public’s favourite, winning the South West People’s Choice Award, following an online vote in earlier this year.

Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Equality, said:

“It’s great to see this innovative flood alleviation scheme recognised with this award. Its unique design is a world away from the traditional bund storage for floodwater and the partnership team behind the scheme should be applauded for their ingenuity.”

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member for Highway Management and local Member for Sidmouth, said:

“This is yet another award for the floodwater storage scheme and it’s extremely well deserved. The amphitheatre is a fantastic asset for the community while also providing important storage to protect homes and businesses from floodwater.”

The ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards in association with Kier BAM, which are held annually to recognise achievement among regional engineers and project teams.

Miranda Housden, ICE South West Regional Director, said: “This year’s awards showcase the challenging work undertaken by civil engineers for the benefit of regional communities. The project winners demonstrate how social value, economic growth, climate resilience and inclusivity can be unlocked through excellence and innovation in the design, construction and implementation of infrastructure schemes. The awards confirm that the South West is building for the future by investing in the new talent we need to help the region thrive in the years to come. All our winners and finalists should be very proud of what they are achieving and the contribution they are making to the South West.”

Full details of all the shortlisted projects and awards sponsors are available on the ICE website.