The Environment Agency (EA) agreed in 2014, following flooding of the railway line in 2012 and 2013/14, to assist Network Rail in finding a technically appropriate solution to the problem, whilst ensuring that it does not conflict with the £30 million investment in new flood defences in Exeter.
The EA has had regular meetings with Network Rail to provide advice on its culvert installation and weir removal works at Cowley Bridge. The EA has also been working with Network Rail since November 2017 to advise on the flood risk modelling for its weir removal proposals. This includes the EA providing flood history information, geomorphology commentary and examples of issues experienced in other local weir removal projects.
The EA has also established a team to assist Network Rail with the technical and permitting requirements of both phases of its works at Cowley Bridge, and has accelerated the issuing of permits for the culvert works.
Network Rail’s modelling is expected to be completed in spring 2018 and on completion the EA will provide feedback on the outputs. This is to ensure that Network Rail’s proposals do not increase flood risk to residential properties or adversely impact on the level of protection provided by new flood defences in Exeter. The EA will prioritise this work to ensure a timely response to Network Rail.
Although flood risk models have been available for discrete areas around Exeter and the Cowley Bridge location since 2005, no single model takes account of the whole system or all watercourses. The EA is working with Network Rail to ensure its latest modelling is comprehensive. In the interim there is a flood warning system for Cowley Bridge. This has been in place since 2012, with improvements to the forecasting model introduced in November 2017.