A troublesome railway cutting at Arley, near Nuneaton, Warwickshire, is getting some long-awaited attention.
The sides are steep, so Network Rail called in specialist abseilers to help stabilise the slopes, prevent rockfalls, stop the need for costly temporary repairs and ensure the reliability of this key route between the West Midlands and Leicester for passenger trains and freight customers.
The work is more complex than it looks and is costing some £6 million for a permanent solution. This is because, although the area is hilly, it is not the natural landscape. In fact, it was shaped by the man-made leftovers from coal mining before the railway was built in the 1840s.
Network Rail senior asset engineer for geotechnics, Luke Swain, explained: “The cutting by the Arley tunnel is very steep, so this is a really challenging job. The nearby hills are former slag heaps from the mining industry which means the earth is unusual and can become unstable.”
Above the cutting, to the east of Arley tunnel, there is a slag heap which sits on top of a mixture of natural soil and rock. This increases the risk of landslips and rocks falling onto the lines.
To counter this, engineers are using large drills to drive more than 3,600 huge soil nails into the walls of the cutting, to strengthen the ground for the next 120 years. In addition, nine hundred metres of new drainage will be installed and 1.2km of fencing and netting will stop anything else from falling onto the track.
By using the abseilers, and working from the top of the bank, no trains will be delayed by this work.