After more than a year of work costing just shy of £23m, the famous Settle to Carlisle railway route is fully back in business this morning, graced by the presence of a famous locomotive.
Significant and “unique” restorations to the line have taken place after a 500,000-tonne landslip near Eden Brows – the result of severe storms in late 2015 and early 2016 – caused journeys to be halted.
This morning, Flying Scotsman, courtesy of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, set off from Oxenhope to North Yorkshire, carting ticket-holders of a sell-out special charter to the Cumbrian heartland.
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.”
Matt Stroh, chairman of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, said it was a privilege to have been involved in the line’s re-opening.
Northern train services also resumed fully out of Carlisle at 5.50am, today after the last train passed through to the station on February 9 last year.
Since then, Network Rail workers have carried out the biggest set of repairs it has ever faced.
Network Rail project manager Rhiannon Price said: “It’s definitely unique, I’ve never seen something of this size.”
She said that the usual cost of emergency repairs ranges from £500,000 to £2m.
Her organisation’s “mammoth task” came after Network Rail’s aerial surveillance and track monitoring teams detected the ground slipping beneath the railway towards the River Eden 70 metres below.
Then in the weeks after, a 100-metre section of track subsided 1.5 metres, meaning a bus replacement service for the route had to be arranged for the northern end of the line.
At Eden Brows, near the village of Armathwaite, two steel tubes have been filled with concrete and driven into the sloping bedrock, forming a corridor upon which a one-metre thick, 100-metre long concrete shelf has been placed.
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.
Paul Barnfield, regional director for Northern, added: “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.”
Coincidentally, when the line was constructed in the 1870s, the Midland Railway surveyors had to decide the best route through the Eden Gorge. Shortly after work began, a five-acre landslip started and was only stopped by covering the hillside with vertical shafts filled with rubble.
• Video of historic Settle-Carlisle footage courtesy of Kingfisher Productions - www.railwayvideo.com