Cumbria rail route to reopen following massive landslip

The Settle-Carlisle railway line in Cumbria is to fully reopen in March 2017 more than a year after it was partly closed due to a major landslide.

Some 500,000 tonnes of earth under the tracks at Eden Brows gave way in February 2015 after weeks of downpours, shutting the scenic route which is popular with tourists.

Engineers are building an enormous concrete and steel tunnel-like structure that will sit beneath the railway, 70 metres above the River Eden, to provide a stable base across the damaged and unstable ground.

Two rows of high-strength piles - steel tubes filled with concrete - will then be driven into the sloping bedrock of the Eden gorge, north of Armathwaite.

The hundreds of piles will form a corridor, set into the hillside, on which a 1.5 metre-thick, 100 metre-long concrete slab will then be placed. This slab will form a solid base for the tracks.

This £23m engineering solution was selected by Network Rail from among six possible options.

This structure will stabilise a section of gorge bank above the River Eden which gave way causing ground below the railway to slip 1.5 metres below its normal level in the weeks that followed.

Since then the line has been shut, initially between Appleby and Carlisle, until Northern services began running as far as Armathwaite in June, with buses operating between Armathwaite and Carlisle.

In addition to the solid structure being built beneath the railway, an extensive earthworks project costing an estimated £5m is planned to protect the foot of the bank down to the river. Drainage systems and ‘rock armour’, which helps prevent erosion, followed by tree replanting will stabilise the land.

Martin Frobisher, managing director for NR's London North Western route, said: "The tunnel-like structure we're building will safeguard this section of railway for generations to come. If the land gives way again, the railway will not. This is a complex repair job many months in the planning.”

Douglas Hodgins, chairman of the Friends of Settle-Carlisle Line group, said the landslip could have been a "catastrophic event" for the future of the rail route.

"The enormity of the repair task cannot be overstated,” he added. “We are very grateful that such effort has been put into getting us to this stage and we are all working hard to ensure that the line - built as a main line between London and Scotland - can resume its role as a vital part of the UK's rail network as soon as possible."

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