THE GWR Night Riviera sleeper train is returning to full service after not running for almost two months while critical engineering work at Parson’s Tunnel, near Dawlish in South Devon, was completed.

The service, which has been partly suspended since the end of January, will now return to full operation with trians once again operating from Penzance and London Paddington on Sunday to Friday evenings. Stations served by the train in South East Cornwall between St Austell and Plymouth are Par, Lostwithiel, Bodmin Parkway and Liskeard.

The overnight closure of the railway over the past eight weeks has enabled Network Rail’s engineers to safely complete crucial piling work as part of its £37.4m resilience project to construct a rockfall shelter extension north of Parson’s Tunnel between Dawlish and Holcombe.

Work on this important resilience project had already started. However, engineers identified that the condition of the ground was not sufficient to be able to safely begin the piling work from the side of the railway, and that all piling must therefore be done by a specialist piling rig from the track itself. As a result, the railway line between Exeter St Davids and Teignmouth needed to be closed overnight for eight weeks to enable the work to be completed safely.

This project forms part of Network Rail’s wider South West Rail Resilience Programme (SWRRP), which is helping protect the vital rail artery to South Devon, Plymouth and Cornwall, helping to ensure a reliable train service for generations to come.

Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director, said: “Our Night Riviera sleeper service is extremely popular and provides an important link between London and Devon and Cornwall and we are sorry for the disruption that this vital engineering work has caused.

“By carrying out the work when the Night Riviera sleeper service is quieter means it has caused the least disruption to our customers and now means it is ready for the busy spring and summer period.”

Mike Gallop, Network Rail Western route and strategic operations director, said:

“I would like to thank passengers for their patience while we have progressed important piling work at Parson’s Tunnel, which has prevented the Sleeper Service from running as normal over the past eight weeks.

“The safety of both our engineering teams and passengers is paramount and while it was frustrating to have to temporarily close the railway overnight, this was the only option to enable our teams to complete their work safely.

“This is a critical project for the South West which once complete, will help protect trains against falling rocks along this vital stretch of railway.”