Published: 26th February 2016
Network Rail (NR) continues to be hit by the effects of bad weather and the latest long-term disruption is on the famous Settle-Carlisle line where a landslip 130m long and 70m wide has closed the line between Appleby and Carlisle.
On Tuesday 9 February, the Settle - Carlisle railway north of Appleby was closed after aerial surveys and ground monitoring of Eden Brows, an area two miles north of Armathwaite, detected significant earth movement.
A few days earlier, as a result of a track fault due to the earth movement, one line on the two track railway was closed but after a few days, the land, being tightly monitored, was still moving and both tracks had to be closed. NR has an increasingly busy team of geotechnical specialists who are carrying out detailed ground investigations at the location using specialist borehole equipment.
Once the results are known, they will be used to effect a comprehensive repair which will be designed to last for decades. The whole repair project is expected to take several months and NR has not yet even guestimated a re-opening date. Northern Rail operates services over the line and they have introduced temporary timetables until April.
The River Eden has severely eroded the base of the embankment carrying the extra water and combined with the frequent recent storms and resulting saturated ground, the land has become unstable.
The mountainous terrain, which attracts most passengers to the line, means that there is little or no road access so haul-roads have to be provided by NR’s contractors to the landslip area. They have commenced constructing these access roads and work compounds which will enable heavy machinery to get to where it is needed and securely stored. Once the remedial works’ design has been completed, reconstruction work will commence.
Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “An estimated 500,000 tonnes of earth have moved already and the embankment is still moving. The extent of this landslip means it is no longer safe for this section of railway to be open to trains.
“Our monitoring has detected a twist fault in the tracks caused by the ground movement. The slip is accelerating and it is not safe to run trains in this situation. “Our engineers on site are undertaking detailed ground surveys and this will enable us to design a permanent and lasting repair. This is a vital rail link across the north of England and I am very aware of how important the railway is to the local community and local economy.
“I can assure everyone that we are doing all we can to design a lasting solution and to reopen the railway as quickly as possible. We will continue to work with Northern Rail to keep passengers and communities informed of what we are doing and the progress we are making.”
Alex Hynes, managing director for Northern Rail said: “This is clearly another challenging and complex engineering project for Network Rail to tackle. While their engineers assess the extent of the work, we will continue to ensure our customers are kept on the move, up to date with the latest information and that disruption is kept to a minimum.
Northern Rail continue to run trains between Leeds and Appleby but travel between there and Carlisle is by a replacement bus service.
One of the main users of the scenic line are charter trains which will be cancelled or diverted. But given that the main charter operator West Coast Railways has been suspended from operations, many of the charters would not have run in any case.
The combined effects of the landslip and the loss of charter traffic will seriously hinder the local economy at Appleby which suffered badly from the recent record rainfall and consequential flooding.
Landslips do not always occur in mountainous areas, in fact there was one near Leighton Buzzard in February which badly hit the West Coast Main Line as one line was closed forcing all London-bound trains onto one track causing delays and cancellations. Again, a haul road had to be provided to get plant and machinery to the worksite.