Endangered crayfish rescued during Victorian viaduct strengthening: Docker Garths viaduct and white clawed crayfish composite

Tuesday 20 Aug 2019

Endangered crayfish rescued during Victorian viaduct strengthening

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Work to reinforce a 173-year-old railway viaduct is providing a more reliable railway for passengers and helping protect endangered crayfish in Cumbria.

Water erosion means the Grade II listed Docker Garths viaduct in Lambrigg needs to be repaired and strengthened.

The £750,000 investment as part of the Great North Rail Project required the Flodder Beck river to be diverted* and wildlife safely moved so the viaduct’s foundations could be reinforced.

Two hundred endangered white clawed crayfish, along with another 400 less rare fish, were caught and moved downstream**.

Andrew Campuzano, ecologist at Network Rail, said: “We are refurbishing Docker Garths viaduct as part of a £750,000 Great North Rail Project investment. This will help ensure it continues to be safe and reliable for economically important Anglo-Scottish passenger and freight trains for years to come.

“We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and ensured we removed the endangered white clawed crayfish and other fish before work started.”

White clawed crayfish have nearly been wiped out after American signal crayfish were introduced into the UK in the 1970s as food for trout farms but escaped into the wild.

The larger invasive species not only competes for the same food, but also carries a disease which is deadly for the native crayfish.

The Docker Garths viaduct carries Europe’s busiest mixed-use railway - the West Coast main line - over the Flodder Beck valley between England and Scotland.

The essential safety work on this Victorian viaduct is being carried out until the end of August.

Once complete it will provide reliable passenger and freight journeys on the economically important route through Cumbria for decades to come.

Notes to Editors

*The Flodder Beck river has been diverted so engineers can reinforce the viaduct’s vulnerable foundations with what’s known as ‘rock armour’. This is when large boulders are positioned around the viaduct’s supports which can then take the full force of the river flow and stop erosion of the structure itself.

** Due to the high number of native species recorded during the fish rescue, the figures have been reported to Natural England and the Environment Agency. These findings could help support the river’s designation as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) in the future. 

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