Abseil teams tackle steep conditions to protect railway cutting from rockfalls

Specialist abseiling teams are protecting a section of Victorian-built railway in Warwickshire to prevent delays caused by rockfalls.

Network Rail is investing £6m as part of Britain’s Railway Upgrade Plan to secure a steep railway cutting at Arley near Nuneaton on a section of line which links the West Midlands to Leicester.

The permanent fix will stop the need for costly temporary repairs and will ensure the reliability of the key route for passenger trains and freight customers.

Although the area is hilly it is not the natural landscape – it was in fact shaped by the man-made leftovers from coal mining before the railway was built in the 1840s.

Above the cutting to the east of Arley Tunnel there is a slag heap which sits on top of a mixture of natural soil and rock. This increases the risk of landslips and rocks falling onto the lines.

Now engineers are using large drills to drive more than 3,600 huge soil nails into the walls of the cutting to strengthen the ground for the next 120 years.

Luke Swain, Network Rail senior asset engineer for geotechnics, said: “The cutting by the Arley Tunnel is very steep so this is a really challenging job. The nearby hills are former slag heaps from the mining industry which means the earth is unusual and can become unstable.

“This vital upgrade as part of Britain’s Railway Upgrade Plan will improve the reliability of trains for passengers and will secure the railway for generations to come.”

Nine hundred metres of new drainage, 1.2 km of fencing and netting to stop anything else from falling onto the track will also be installed as part of the £6m upgrade.

No trains will be disrupted during the work.