Dawlish Railway, UK

Cellular Bonding | Transportation | Disaster Recovery

In February 2014, following a devastating storm, the Dawlish railway tracks in Devon, England collapsed and were left hanging in mid-air. A national emergency was declared. Many high profile parties got involved, including the Prime Minister. The railway had to be repaired and train service restored within a two-month deadline. The best contractors were brought in, including Trellisworks, a leading networking solution provider. Trellisworks was put in charge of coming up with a construction communications solution that could be deployed in such an inaccessible environment and withstand challenging weather conditions.

Dawlish Railway National Emergency #2

Challenge

An area so remote that it is unreachable by the nation’s LTE cell towers. An area so weather-torn that 80 meters of its sea wall were destroyed by pounding February storm waves. Those waves also took down a vital set of railway tracks, paralyzing much of the traffic between Dawlish and the rest of the UK. When the sea wall fell, the incident was quickly declared a national emergency. The UK’s “Cobra” crisis management committee was brought in to handle the situation, with Prime Minister David Cameron eventually taking over the chairmanship. Over 300 homes were evacuated due to the flooding that followed. The power was out and public transportation cut off. The area was not only uninhabitable but still faced unpredictable weather.

Dawlish-Railway National Emergency #3

Requirements

Cobra ordered train services to resume within two months. They brought in the best construction contractors to do the urgent repair work. To support the entire site’s networking needs, Cobra chose the wireless network experts at Trellisworks.

Bam Nuttall, the construction company, required extensive network access to cater to the whole construction site, provisioning guest access as well as visitors, press, and Cabinet office personnel. Bam Nuttall also needed high bandwidth to handle large blueprint file transfers efficiently and securely. If that wasn’t enough, the network would need to guarantee high availability.

The challenges of providing robust and reliable connectivity in an environment like Dawlish cannot be underestimated.

Jim Kernahan, co-founder of Trellisworks
Dawlish Railway National Emergency #4

Solution

Trellisworks chose Peplink devices for their unique ability to to create an Unbreakable Cellular Bonding connection. They took in total 8 SIM cards as numerous different providers to create bulletproof WAN diversity. They closed down a large car park and put a cabin in place to house the Pepwave MAX HD2s and HD4 as well to act as a mobile office. Everything was then connected to a Balance 710 at Bam Nuttall’s data center. The resulting solution delivered high bandwidth using bonded cellular connections, high resilience enabled by cellular provider diversity, and military-grade encryption provided by Peplink’s Unbreakable VPN.

Solution Topology

1. Construction personnel are able to transmit large blueprints

2. Visitors, members of the press and Cabinet officials have access to fast secure Wi-Fi

3. Multiple cellular connections are bonded together for maximum bandwidth and resilience

4. An Unbreakable VPN connection is established with Bam’s datacenter, providing exchange of vital information

The Peplink solution that Trellisworks created was absolutely vital to the smooth running of this project and ensured that the team on site were able to communicate and collaborate effectively with colleagues who were not based at Dawlish.”

– Rob Youster, IT Director at BAM Nuttall.
Dawlish-Railway National Emergency #5

Results

£35 million and less than two months later, train service resumes ahead of schedule. Everyone had a vital part to play in achieving such a remarkable feat, and David Cameron revisited the site to congratulate the team and reopen the tracks. Repair work continues, albeit at a slower pace that accommodates the recently restored train schedule.

Deployment