Settle-Carlisle line reopens after orange army repairs to major landslip: Final work taking place to install new track

Friday 31 Mar 2017

Settle-Carlisle line reopens after orange army repairs to major landslip

Region & Route:
| North West & Central
  • Network Rail engineers complete most challenging railway repair ever
  • Northern train services resume on world’s most iconic railway
  • Flying Scotsman, the world’s best-loved steam train, marks the occasion

The Settle-Carlisle line reopened to train customers today after more than a year of repairs by Network Rail’s orange army engineers to a 500,000-tonne landslip which had threatened the future of Britain’s most iconic railway.

Martin Frobisher, managing director of Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “I am beyond thrilled that customers and goods are moving again on this vital economic artery through Britain’s most beautiful landscape. Our orange army has ensured that even if the ground gives way again in future, the railway will not.”

This section of line was shut to trains on 9 February 2016 at Eden Brows, near Armathwaite village, south of Carlisle, after Network Rail’s aerial surveillance and track monitoring teams detected the ground slipping beneath the railway towards the River Eden 70 metres below.

Over the next several weeks a 100-metre section of track subsided 1.5 metres. Buses would replace Northern train services along this stretch of line until the railway was made safe and repaired.

The size and scale of the repair job coupled with the inaccessible location and the fact the ground was still on the move made this the biggest repair challenge Network Rail has ever faced.

After careful deliberation engineers chose a piling solution: two rows of high-strength piles - steel tubes filled with concrete - driven into the sloping bedrock, forming a corridor upon which a one metre-thick, 100 metre-long concrete shelf has been placed. This is the solid base for the railway.

Paul Barnfield, regional director for Northern, said: “The Eden Brows engineering project has been a mammoth task for Network Rail and we are delighted to once again be able to offer a direct train service between Settle and Carlisle. We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and look forward to welcoming them back to this iconic stretch of railway.”

Paul Maynard, rail minister, said: “This is an excellent example the government’s vision for the future of our busy rail network – one that is run by an integrated team of people with a commitment to improving services for the benefit of passengers. Network Rail, contractors and train operators have together worked hard to get this historic line - which first opened 130 years ago - running again. Our railways are crucial to our economic future and whether it’s improving services or completing essential repairs, the commitment is the same. That is why I am delighted to be part of this event marking such a significant moment.”

Douglas Hodgins, chairman of the Friends of Settle Carlisle Line, said: “It is great to be back in business. We shall be working tirelessly with the railway industry to ensure the line regains its role as a through route to Carlisle and Scotland as quickly as possible - and to seeing the splendours of the Eden Gorge from the trains again. Well done Network Rail and its contractors.”

Matt Stroh, chairman of the Keighley Worth Valley Railway, said: "It has been a privilege for the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway to have been involved in the reopening of the Settle Carlisle line. Praise must be given for all the hard work undertaken to re-open the line" 

Fred Story, chairman and owner of Story Contracting, said: “For Story Contracting to be part of the reopening of the iconic railway, especially being a Cumbrian-based company, is something we can all be really proud of. Our project team have been working day and night to ensure passengers can once again travel on this much-loved section of the Settle-Carlisle railway line."

After the first Northern service out of Carlisle at 5.50am today, the Flying Scotsman, hired for the day by the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, will make a one-off chartered trip from Keighley via Settle, Appleby and Armathwaite, arriving into Carlisle at 1.05pm.

Notes to editors:

Engineers have picked this solution from six potential options, each of which has been robustly worked up. In addition to the solid structure being built beneath the railway, an extensive earthworks project (see groundworks below), 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. Drilling started for the piling operation (see diagram below) in summer 2016 after access roads and a site compound were installed in recent months by Story, our contractors. 

Eden Brows repair facts:

  • Tricky location: work site set-up required more than a mile of access roads across farmland.
  • Ground investigation: multiple boreholes drilled 30m deep on the embankment slope.
  • Challenge: a major engineering solution on a 70m embankment continuing to slip.
  • Expertise needed: geotechnical, structures, drainage and track designers.
  • Clearing the 70m slope of vegetation.
  • Excavating 4m below track level before installing piles.
  • 16,000 tonnes of spoil removed from site.
  • Installing a concrete guide wall to assist with piling works
  • 226 steel-cased piles. Laid end to end the piles would stretch more than 4km.
  • 1,300 cubic metres of concrete poured.
  • Installation of five sections of one metre-thick reinforced concrete slabs.
  • 3m retaining walls: 180-tonne steel reinforcement; 1,200m cubic metres of concrete.
  • Waterproofing of the slabs and walls and installation of new drainage.
  • Landscaping above the slabs: 6,000 tonne of stone; 3,000 tonnes of railway ballast.

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