Ground stabilisation work on the iconic Settle to Carlisle railway is nearing completion.
The line was closed in February 2016 when around 500,000t of earth gave way causing the ground below the railway to slip 2.5m below its normal level during the weeks that followed.
Network Rail is spending £23M on a project to stabilise the ground beneath the tracks, which slopes away steeply towards the River Eden.
As part of the solution underneath the tracks, the engineers are installing a 75m long, 3.5m high retaining wall with a 12m wide, 1m deep reinforced concrete footing at the top the slope which is supported by two rows of high strength piles – steel tubes which will be filled with concrete - driven into the bedrock.
The work, which is being carried out in the Eden gorge, north of Armathwaite, has now reached a critical stage in which nearly 3,000t of concrete is being poured into steel casings to form the piles.
Forty two concrete trucks will deliver the concrete to site, travelling through Cumwhinton.
Network Rail scheme project manager Phil Middleton said: “This latest phase of the work means that we are getting closer to completion and we are confident that we will reopen the line on 31 March.
“We understand that the increase of heavy vehicles in the villages around the work site will be disruptive to the local community so we really appreciate the patience from residents as we work to re-open the historic and well-loved railway line.”
Network Rail said that although some deliveries have had to be made by road, materials had been delivered to site by rail where possible. This includes ballast – the foundation of the track and 2000m worth of iron casting, along with the removal of 8,000t of material excavated from the site.
Once the railway is reopened Network Rail plans to carry out earthworks improvements to the foot of the embankment below the line and above the River Eden.
This will include drainage ditches and pipework, rock armour to guard against erosion when flows are high, and finally replanting trees over the entirety of the affected area.
The rail company said that great care was being taken to ensure the ecology in the area was protected, including badger setts and spawning salmon. It said that Natural England would advise on the tree replanting.