Kent, U.K. - A severely damaged stretch of railway between Dover and Folkestone will need to be completely replaced with a new viaduct before trains can run again.  The £44.5 million project to rebuild the line has already begun and Network Rail engineers say they are targeting December 2016 for the railway to reopen to trains.

Work to protect the existing structure and cliffs has been under way since the start of the year, and preliminary construction on the 235m-long viaduct started last week.

Designed to last 120 years, the new viaduct will be supported by 134 concrete columns sunk into the beach.

Network Rail’s Steve Kilby, who is leading the project, said: “The railway at this location was originally built on a timber viaduct and our modern, concrete viaduct will follow the same principles – although it will be hidden behind a wall of rock sea defences. We will also put a new footbridge back where the old one was, so people can continue to enjoy Shakespeare beach.

“It’s a massive job but we have a good plan in place and we are already cracking on.”

In addition, almost 750m of the sea wall is being defended with more than 90,000 tonnes of rock – the same weight as two modern cross-Channel ferries.

Alasdair Coates, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “Passengers have been incredibly patient while their railway has been closed and I want to assure them that everyone at Network Rail and principal contractor Costain has been working incredibly hard on a plan to reopen the railway as quickly as possible.

“We hope to have trains running again in December. As with all projects of this scale, and this kind of exposed location, we will face challenges with the weather and the ground we are working on, but I am confident this is the right plan and one that will give us a strong railway, years into the future.”

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