Passengers urged to check before travelling as essential maintenance work starts on Victorian era tunnels in the south west

Passengers planning journeys to and from the south west between Monday 18 February and Friday 8 March are being urged to check before travelling, owing to essential maintenance work taking place at both Whiteball Tunnel near Tiverton Parkway in Somerset, and Marley Tunnel near Totnes in Devon.

Whiteball Tunnel will be closed for three weeks to allow for vital engineering work to be completed on the 170-year-old structure. The tunnel walls will be relined with concrete to safeguard against loose masonry and brick falls, a task which will be carried out using specialist robotic equipment which sprays a concrete lining onto the walls of the tunnel. Whilst the tunnel is closed, work to improve the drainage will also be carried out. Great Western Railway (GWR) will be operating rail replacement buses between Taunton, Tiverton Parkway and Exeter St Davids whilst the tunnel is shut.

Marley Tunnel, near Totnes in Devon, will be partially closed during this three-week period, owing to track maintenance work which is taking place in one of the two tunnels which make up the structure. This partial closure means that GWR will be running a limited train service through the unaffected tunnel. Although trains between London and the south west will continue to run, there will be fewer services, and journey times will be increased by up to an hour. Passengers are therefore advised to check before travelling and allow plenty of time to complete their journeys.

Scott Pillinger, programme manager for Network Rail said: “We would like to thank passengers for their patience whilst we carry out this essential maintenance, which is part of our Railway Upgrade Plan and continued work to upgrade the railway in the south west.

“The tunnel maintenance work is vital to ensure the continued safe running of the railway. We will be utilising robots to reline the walls of Whiteball Tunnel to safeguard against brick fall and future deterioration; once complete, this will ensure that the tunnel is fit for purpose for at least the next 100 years.

“Track maintenance work will be taking place in one of the Marley Tunnels, which will increase the resilience of the railway in the area. GWR’s new Intercity Express Trains are running on the route, which, alongside this work, will also help to improve the reliability of the railway for passengers in the south west.”

To find out how your journey will be affected please visit https://www.gwr.com/travel-updates/planned-engineering/swupgrade