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Solution to flooding in Exeter proposed

Words: Laura Edgar

Network Rail has announced how it plans to tackle the continued flooding at Cowley and Stafford bridges in Exeter. 

Flooding at these bridges is a recurring problem that has had a devastating impact on a nearby railway line, including four weeks of disruption in the past two years, and the local community, who have been inconvenienced by the issue.

To alleviate the problems caused by the River Exe flooding, Network Rail has been working on a long-term solution. It has undertaken a detailed environmental study of the area to find out the cause of the flooding and an assessment of the options to reduce the chances of flooding in the future.

The result of its research will see Pynes, Exwick and Cowley weirs removed from the River Exe so that the water level falls by up to a metre.

Joanna Grew, Network Rail’s commercial scheme sponsor for the project, said: “Over the years, flooding at these two bridges has caused huge disruption on the Great Western Main Line, severely inconveniencing passengers and harming the region’s economy. As a good neighbour, we are also aware of the extensive problems it causes the local community, which is why we have been working to find a long-term solution.

“The preferred option of removing the weirs is the most favourable as it would not only limit the chances of flooding in the future, it is also the option that provides good value for money for the public.”

Network Rail is now working with Exeter Council to see what it thinks about the proposal and will keep the community up to date with its progress.

The Environment Agency’s George Arnison says the agency is supports Network Rail’s plans. "It’s great to see a solution emerge that complements the Exeter Flood Defence Scheme proposals and seems to offer both flood risk and environmental benefits.”