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Video: Cheshire viaduct repairs

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New drainage systems are being installed on two Grade II listed viaducts as part of a £17 million investment on the West Coast Main Line. Dating from the 1840s, the structures’ original drainage had failed, causing track quality issues and numerous brickwork defects which are undergoing repair.

An 11-day blockade is needed to take the track off the viaduct and install pre-cast concrete ballast retention units which will collect water and discharge it into down pipes. An additional benefit of this solution is the relieving on lateral loadings into the parapets, the cause of longitudinal fracturing of the arch barrels.

Although clearly undesirable on such a strategically important route, the 11-day closure minimises the disruption caused by the works overall by driving efficiency improvements. Had they been done piecemeal, six months’ worth of weekend possessions would have been needed; around £500,000 of cost benefits are also generated.

As well as waterproofing the viaducts, two bridge reconstructions, remedial works to an overbridge and a considerable amount of routine maintenance has been progressed during the blockade.

Graeme Bickerdike
Graeme Bickerdikehttp://therailengineer.com
SPECIALIST AREAS Tunnels and bridges, historic structures and construction techniques, railway safety Graeme Bickerdike's association with the railway industry goes back to the mid-nineties when he was contracted to produce safety awareness videos and printed materials aimed at the on-track community. This led to him heading a stream of work to improve the way safety rules are communicated and understood - ultimately simplifying them - for which he received the IRSE’s Wing Award for Safety in 2007. In 2005, Graeme launched a website to catalogue and celebrate some of the more notable disused railway structures which still grace Britain’s landscape. Several hundred have since had their history researched and a photographic record captured. A particular focus has been the construction methods adopted by Victorian engineers and contractors; as a result, the site has become a useful resource for those with asset management responsibilities. Graeme has been writing for Rail Engineer for the past ten years, generally looking at civil engineering projects and associated issues. He has a deep appreciation of the difficulties involved in building tunnels and viaducts through the 19th Century, a trait which is often reflected in his stories.


  1. Critics of HS2 often assume that increasing capacity on existing mainlines is an easy and realistic option. As this article shows, it is a huge challenge just to keep these Victorian era infrastructure assets in a good enough condition to cope with weather extremes and existing train frequencies, Major disruption in future for repairs like this are inevitable. In 2016 we need these viaducts to cope with higher train weights, speeds and frquencies than they were ever designed for – that pressure will not ease off until HS2 is built. New build railway infrastructure will greatly increase service reliability and truthfully it can’t come a day too soon for the UK economy.


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