More work needed on Ribblehead viaduct

Ribblehead viaduct in the snow, with scaffolding around the central arches.

Engineers working on refurbishing the iconic Ribblehead viaduct on the Settle and Carlisle line have discovered additional faults that will need more work than expected to repair.

A £2.1 million project is underway to upgrade stone blockwork and drainage on the historic structure, which opened in 1876, bridging the gap between Ribblehead and Dent on the exposed and windy Batty Moss and carrying the railway 400 metres across the Ribble valley in Yorkshire.

Close inspection of the structure has revealed more damage than was anticipated.

Detailed laser and drone surveys have mapped every inch of the Grade II* listed viaduct for the first time, and huge scaffolding towers have been built for the repairs to take place. This has given rare access for a much closer inspection of the 144-year-old railway link’s condition.

Engineers are working off scaffolding towers constructed around the viaduct’s arches.

Some of the blockwork on the viaduct’s supports is cracked. When water gets inside and freezes in cold weather it turns to ice and expands, making the damage worse.

Plans have been submitted to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to carry out the extra repairs to the newly found cracks as soon as possible as part of this same project.

Mark Vipham, Network Rail.

Marc Vipham, route asset manager for structures at Network Rail, said: “Being up close restoring Ribblehead viaduct for several months now, we have found deeper issues that need attention to protect this amazing feat of Victorian engineering for the future.

“As with any heritage project of this kind, when plans need to change it is standard procedure to submit further planning applications to adapt our work. Carrying out these extra repairs now, when the experts are in place and the scaffolding is already up, will save a huge amount of taxpayers’ money and stop us needing to come back all over again.

“We’re continuing to work closely with heritage experts and conservationists at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority so we’re all on the same page as to how we can best restore this much-loved structure for generations to come.”

Cracking has been found in the masonry, which could allow water to enter, freeze and cause more damage.

Work already underway includes:

  • Stone blockwork repairs along the structure;
  • Removal of vegetation and repairing the damage caused by plants and weeds;
  • Upgrades to drainage systems across the viaduct’s 24 arches;
  • Repainting of metal and pipework in one universal colour.

As the viaduct is a Grade II listed structure, Network Rail is working closely with Historic England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to ensure the work is sympathetically carried out in line with guidance for historically significant structures.

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