Network Rail to undertake repairs to Ribblehead Viaduct after masonry fell onto the ground below

Grade II-listed Ribblehead Viaduct needs extensive repairs to ensure the Victorian railway structure remains safe in future years.
Ribblehead Viaduct during the annual Three Peaks RaceRibblehead Viaduct during the annual Three Peaks Race
Ribblehead Viaduct during the annual Three Peaks Race

Network Rail has applied for permission to undertake 'intrusive repairs' on the famous viaduct, which carries the Settle to Carlisle line across some of the most remote and inhospitable terrain in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

It was built in the 1870s by gang of itinerant 'navvy' labourers who lived in harsh conditions in camps on Batty Moss Bog. After the line survived closure threats in the 1980s, passenger numbers have grown and it now handles Northern services between Leeds and Carlisle, freight and steam charter excursion trains.

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Documents published by the National Park Authority reveal that the work is imperative because there have been instances of masonry falling from the viaduct near members of the public walking beneath it.

The deterioration of the structure's condition was one of the reasons cited by British Rail in attempting to justify the line's closure 30 years ago, but the projected repair costs at the time were later found to have been overestimated and the route was allowed to remain open.

Network Rail states that across the viaduct here are numerous defects to the masonry, fractures to arches and piers as well as drainage system issues.

The rail infrastructure body states 'a programme of remedial interventions is required to prevent these defects escalating into a more significant and complex concern'.

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The documents reveal a lengthy list of interventions needed to tackle engineers’ concerns.

Network Rail has underlined its determination to minimise the risks for workers, but states the proposed works will involve specialist high access throughout the viaduct. Works will range from stitching fractures in masonry, inserting anchors and reinforcing stone to repainting metalwork.

The work would need to take place in the summer.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “The interventions are consistent with the sympathetic ongoing maintenance of this historic structure. The scale of intervention is the minimum required to preserve this iconic structure whilst ensuring the safe running of the Settle and Carlisle line and the safety of the public visiting to enjoy the structure.

“It is clear that there will be a degree of ‘intrusive’ works, most notably the concealed cintec anchors proposed. The works are considered to be in the best interests of the ongoing conservation of this historic structure. The scheme will not adversely impact upon the overall heritage significance of the viaduct.”

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Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock said the viaduct was crucial not only for bringing tourists into the Dales and as an attraction for visitors, but to enable residents of the area to shop and attend football matches in cities such as Leeds and Carlisle.

The viaduct is also used by local quarries and woodyards for the transportation of timber and stone.

Coun Peacock said: “I absolutely support Network Rail in seeking to undertake this work. I want them to get on with doing it and make sure it is safe. The railway line is very important to residents in the Upper Dales.”