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Project Location

Client: Devon County Council
Contract Value: £900,000
Year completed: 2010

Exe Estuary Cycle Trail

This project involved the completion of a 1.2km cycle path and footway along a challenging stretch of land. The original scope of works was for 900m of cyclepath but innovative design changes proposed by SWH allowed an additional 300m of track to be instructed without an increase in the overall costs. Our proposals were accepted by Devon County Council who agreed they would be of benefit to the scheme.

The most significant change related to the construction of a section of cyclepath in a restricted area along a steep embankment between the boundaries of privately owned land and the security fence to the Exeter to Exmouth railway line. The original client design required an elevated path to be constructed on gabion baskets backed with imported fill. Once dense vegetation had been cleared, it became apparent that this method of construction would be impractical and could result in significant delays and costs being incurred. We suggested an alternative method of construction, cutting the track into the side of the existing embankment. When proposing this alternative, we were able to offer a number of benefits, including:

  • Construction operations would be moved further away from the railway line which reduced the potential for damage to the fencing or inadvertent incursion onto Network Rail land.
  • The resultant site-won sandstone could be used in other areas of fill. This reduced the amount of material being taken to landfill and the volume of imported fill material
  • The works could progress more quickly and so the construction period would be shortened.
  • Significant cost savings could be achieved, allowing the additional length of track to be built at no extra cost

Other works included the construction of reinforced earth banks which elevated the cycleway sufficiently for a 12m span steel bridge to be installed across a small water inlet. We suggested another item of value engineering, which led to the use of alternative geogrids in the construction of these embankments which again allowed a quicker and ‘greener’ construction process.

The trail was on Network Rail land, adjacent to the busy Exmouth branch line and within close proximity to the Exe Estuary, a designated SSSI, a SPA and a RAMSAR site. Because of this, serious ecological issues had to be taken into account: potential pollution risks to the estuary and how the noise and visual effects of the construction might impact upon the breeding behaviour of the migratory wetland birds were carefully considered.

Due to the proximity of the Exmouth branch line, the new bridge had to be lifted into place under a rail possession. We liaised closely with Network Rail to ensure compliance with their requirements. We also liaised closely with three residents owning land adjacent to the site to ensure their daily routines could continue without disruption.

The entire scheme, inclusive of the additional length of cyclepath, was completed within the original contract period and at a lesser cost than initially budgeted.

Project Location

Client: Devon County Council
Contract Value: £900,000
Year completed: 2010