Eskmeals viaduct reopens after 8-day closure for track replacement

The 18-arch Eskmeals viaduct has carried the railway across the River Esk since since 1868.

Track-replacement work on the historic Eskmeals viaduct on the Cumbrian Coast line has been completed after an eight-day closure of the railway between Millom and Sellafield.

Wooden timbers and 600 metres of rail were renewed on the 18-span Eskmeals viaduct, which carries the railway over the River Esk estuary, in a £2 million investment to lift precautionary speed restrictions for trains and speed up journey times for both passenger and freight services between Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness.

Timbers and rails were replaced during an eight-day blockade of the line.

The iconic 18-span viaduct was built in 1868 and still has its original wrought iron girders, though these were strengthened in the 1920s, and its red sandstone piers, which support the structure in the estuary itself.

While improvements were made to the viaduct structure, engineers also upgraded walkways and handrails, making future maintenance work easier and safer for railway staff.

Network Rail programme director Peter Luby said: “Our teams have worked hard to ensure that this planned upgrade scheme could be completed as scheduled, providing passengers in Cumbria with faster and more reliable journeys.

“It’s not easy working day and night in the middle of a Cumbrian estuary, and staff have had to contend with more challenges from the weather and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m really proud of the team for completing the work successfully, and look forward to welcoming back passengers in Cumbria to a more reliable railway.”

Chris Jackson, Northern.

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, added: “We would like to thank Network Rail for completing this upgrade to the track along the historic Eskmeals viaduct as part of the Great North Rail Project.

“This vital work will improve the reliability and speed of our services along the Cumbrian coastline between Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness.

“Our rail replacement buses have kept people on the move since the line was closed between Millom and Sellafield to carry out this work, but we’re looking forward to, once again, operating trains between these stations.”

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