Historic viaduct restored ahead of visitor surge


Network Rail and its contractors have completed work over the winter to restore the world-renowned Ribblehead viaduct in North Yorkshire.

With many more people expected to take holidays in the UK this year, visitors to the Ribble Valley can see the historic piece of Victorian railway architecture in all its glory after months of specialist repairs.

The viaduct with Network Rail route proving train and snowplough crossing, February 2021 - Credit Tom Beresford

Since November, 30-metre high scaffolding towers have moved across seven of the viaduct’s 24 arches to carry out masonry, drainage and repainting work.

Network Rail said the £2.1m project, which is part of its Great North Rail Project, will secure the Grade II listed structure's future as both an historic landmark and vital railway link on the Settle-Carlisle railway line.

Philippa Britton, principal programme sponsor for Network Rail, said: 'The teams have worked throughout a harsh winter to restore this hugely important and impressive piece of Victorian engineering for the future and I’m hugely proud of the work we’ve carried out.

'We’ve worked incredibly closely with heritage experts and conservationists to make sure the repairs were sympathetic to the historic structure but would also last the test of time. Now these once in a generation repairs are complete we hope you won’t see scaffolding on this scale at Ribblehead again for many years to come.'

Rope access team inspecting the viaduct, January 2021

Mark Rand, vice-president of the Friends of the Settle to Carlisle line, said: 'Thirty years ago it was declared to be life-expired and in need of replacement or the entire line would have to close. Happily, neither of those things happened.

'All credit to Network Rail and their contractors who have done this work through a bitter Ribblehead winter. The viaduct stands proud and strong, a monumental tribute to those who lived, and died, to build it.'

Network Rail said that during the project laser and drone survey technology was used to map every inch of the viaduct for the first time, giving a detailed record of its condition so it can be closely monitored in future.

In February, additional works were carried out after minor faults were found during the course of the planned work. Carrying out the repairs as part of the same project saved a significant amount of money, Network Rail said, including the cost of re-erecting scaffolding.

The infrastructure operator said it does visual exams of the viaduct annually and detailed inspections every six years. It also typically carries out a major renewal every 10 years and any minor works when necessary.

One of the main challenges it faces is severe weather as the viaduct crosses open land in an exposed position.

Ribblehead viaduct key statistics

  • 30.5 metres high
  • 402 metres long
  • 24 arches
  • Built between 1870 – 1875
  • Opened on 1st May 1876
The Ribblehead viaduct at sunset, January 2021

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