TRANSPORT Secretary Mark Harper is to officially open the new sea wall at Dawlish today. 

His visit will mark the completion of the £82 million wall to protect the vulnerable coastal rail line. 

The specially constructed sea wall was opened six weeks ago, four years after work started, allowing the public to walk the entire 415m length of new promenade. 

The accessible walkway above the underpass means wheelchair users and families with pushchairs can now access the walkway and the beach.

The Minister will also visit the new railway station at Marsh Barton in Exeter. 

A spokesman for the transport department said: ‘As a key transport artery for the South West, the projects demonstrate the government’s commitment to the region and its continued investment in infrastructure to help grow the economy.

‘The new, rebuilt sea wall will protect the safety of local passengers from extreme weather conditions along the coast.’

Work has been carried out in two phases and also protects the Grade II listed station where work is also well underway to install a lift, for the first time in its history, and a new pedestrian overbridge. 

Mr Harper said: ‘I am delighted to see the completion of two major projects today, delivering a government commitment to improve a vital rail route for passengers in the South West.

‘These projects demonstrate a government that is delivering our promises, investing in vital infrastructure and improving transport connections to help grow the economy.’

The work in Dawlish forms part of the £165 million South West Rail Resilience Programme to create a more resilient railway following devastating storms in 2014, which damaged the tracks beyond use for eight weeks and disconnected passengers from the network.

The completion of the works marks a major milestone for the programme and will offer a promenade and new public areas for the local community. 

Further cliff protection work, to deliver two additional phases of the programme, continues including a rockfall shelter at Holcombe.

Michelle Handforth, Regional Managing Director of Network Rail’s Wales and Western region, said: ‘I’m delighted that we could be joined by the Secretary of State for Transport to mark the official opening of the sea wall in Dawlish.

‘Working with world-leading engineers and with funding from the government, we’ve been able to protect the railway line and town of Dawlish for generations to come.

‘I’d particularly like to thank the Dawlish community for their patience and support while the construction took place close to their homes and businesses over two-and-half years.’