SPECIALISTS restoring the Grade II* listed Ribblehead viaduct have found it needs more work than expected after discovering cracks in the masonry.

Network Rail has released photographs showing progress on its ongoing £2.1m investment into Ribblehead Viaduct.

Stone blockwork and drainage is being upgraded on the historic structure, which carries the picturesque Settle to Carlisle railway 402 metres across the Ribble valley in the Three Peaks region of Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Detailed laser and drone surveys have mapped every inch of the viaduct for the first time and huge scaffolding towers have been built for the repairs to take place.

The Northern Echo:

This has given rare access for a much closer inspection of the 144-year-old railway link's condition.

Network Rail said that, while the expected repairs have been progressing well, further minor faults in the masonry have been found which need fixing.

Some of the blockwork on the viaduct’s supports is cracked.

The Northern Echo:

Severe weather is a major issue affecting its condition, as it is in an exposed site, and 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 discovered cracks as soon as possible as part of this same project.

The Northern Echo:

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.”

The Northern Echo:

Photographs released today show the work currently taking place which includes repairs to stone blockwork, removal of vegetation and repairing the damage caused by plants and weeds, upgrades to drainage systems across the viaduct’s 24 arches and repainting of metal and pipework in one universal colour.

As Ribblehead Viaduct has listed status, Network Rail said it works closely with Historic England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to ensure repairs are sympathetically carried out in line with guidance for historically significant structures.

To keep it safe and protect it for future generations, the company carries out visual exams every year and detailed inspections every six years. Minor works are done when necessary and a major renewal happens around every ten years.