Network Rail engineers have been working though the night to protect the most damaged section of sea wall in the coastal town of Dawlish, Devon.

Around 80m of sea wall has been destroyed by high tides and stormy seas, causing a significant stretch of railway to collapse into the sea. The road adjacent to the railway and several houses have also been damaged, along with damage at Dawlish station itself and several other sites in the area.

Rail and concrete sleepers that once carried trains along the sea wall have been cut away and placed across the bottom of the damaged section. These are gradually being reinforced with sprayed fast-drying concrete, which will form a temporary barrier to take the brunt of today's forecast heavy seas.

It is hoped this will absorb enough of the force of the waves over the next 24 hours so that the weakened sub-soil, which is very soft, will not erode further. The most damaged platform at Dawlish station has been demolished and will be rebuilt in the coming weeks.

Network Rail has appealed for help from the public to stay away from the worksite, as the combination of heavy machinery, concrete spraying, and the waves means it is not safe to be around.

Engineers are working in very difficult conditions with work taking place on a six-hours on, six-hours off basis, designed around the tidal patterns. Full assessment of repairs will come with calmer weather after the weekend, along with a revised timescale. Initial assessments are that it will be at least six weeks to completion from when work begins.

Network Rail has mobilised a range of specialist contractors, engineers and suppliers from across the country to help with the work needed at Dawlish and has also taken up the offer of discussions with the Ministry of Defence to see if there is any help which can be provided by armed forces personnel based in the south-west. In addition, engineers are on site at a number of locations in the south west of England and are making repairs where the lines have been blocked by flooding.