‘Holly’ and ‘Ivy’ speed up Whiteball Tunnel repairs


A THREE-WEEK closure of the West of England main line between Taunton and Exeter saw essential repairs made to two Victorian tunnels on the route. 

Whiteball Tunnel, between Taunton and Tiverton Parkway, was closed from February 18 until March 8 while Network Rail relined its walls with concrete to prevent loose masonry and bricks falling onto trains. The work was carried out with the assistance of two remotely controlled robots, nicknamed ‘Holly’ and ‘Ivy’, which sprayed 830 cubic metres of concrete onto the 170-year-old tunnel walls in just 21 days – a much faster rate than traditional techniques. 

During the closure, drainage improvements were also made to reduce the chance of flooding. At the same time, GWR train services were also reduced between Exeter and Plymouth as NR undertook track repairs in one of the twin bores of Marley Tunnel, near Totnes, in Devon. Trains continued to run, but capacity was reduced as only one track was available on this section.

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