A new stretch of sea wall that should help protect the rail link to Cornwall has been opened ahead of the winter.

On Friday Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris unveiled the first section of the new wall at Dawlish, which is infamous for suffering major issues with flooding during extreme weather conditions and has suffered damage many times over the last decade.

The structure forms part of an £80 million project in Dawlish to protect the key section of rail line for the next 100 years.

The Rail Minister took part in a socially distanced opening ceremony, beginning with a tour along the new 360m long promenade that runs for the entire stretch of the new wall.

The new sea wall is 2.5 metres higher than the previous one and includes a new curved top to deflect the waves back towards the sea.

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The tour included a look towards the next section of the project - a 415 metre stretch between Coastguards and Colonnade breakwaters - which received planning approval from Teignbridge District Council in August, before the ceremony concluded with the unveiling of a plaque to mark the official opening of the first section.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail Western route director, said: “Work on the finishing touches is progressing really well and we have been delighted that the new wall has received lots of positive feedback from the local community and is already better protecting the railway. We hope that the new wall proves a real asset to the town for generations to come.

“We are now looking forward to starting the next section of the project, continuing to provide this much-needed resilience for the railway line in the south west. We expect to start work later this year.”

Rail Minister Mr Heaton-Harris MP said: “Our investment in this new sea wall will provide a resilient railway for generations to come, delivering for the thousands of passengers that rely upon this vital link every day, and the residents whose homes and businesses must be protected.

“This rigorous set of defences forms part of our ambitious plans to deliver reliable, punctual journeys across Devon and Cornwall, improving connections between communities to help the South West build back better, boosting the local economy and tourism.”