Network Rail engineers have agreed a plan to repair a 500,000-tonne land slip which has forced closure of part of the much-loved Settle to Carlisle railway line.
The repairs at Eden Brows, near Armathwaite, Cumbria, will involve building a structure underneath the affected section of railway to support it.
The project, expected to take many months, will also involve major earthworks to stabilise the embankment.
It is not clear at this stage precisely how long this work will take due to the scale of the slip, the fact the earth is still moving and the inaccessibility of its location.
Northern Rail customers are currently travelling on train services operating between Leeds and Appleby, which remains open for business, but on replacement bus services between Appleby and Carlisle.
The line between Appleby and Carlisle was closed on 9 February after Network Rail's aerial and ground surveillance detected that a 130-metre-by-70-metre section of the Eden gorge embankment, below the railway and above the River Eden at Eden Brows near Armathwaite, was giving way.
Since then 80 engineers and geotechnical experts - half in an office, half on site - have been assessing the magnitude of the problem and have worked to agree a single engineering solution.
Rhiannon Price, Network Rail’s project manager for the Eden Brows repairs, said: ‘We have carefully considered many repair options and we are satisfied the one we’re going with is the best.
‘Our aim is to do a thorough job that leaves the Settle to Carlisle railway line in better shape than it was before this land slip. As well as tackling this problem we intend to bring forward other, less major jobs we have earmarked on the shut section of line.
‘We are acutely mindful of the impact on communities served by this line, including businesses reliant on tourist trade. We are working to fix this slip as quickly as possible.’
Alex Hynes, managing director for Northern Rail, said: ‘It’s clear from the extent of the repair needed at Eden Brows that this landslip is indeed an exceptional incident.
‘We will continue to operate trains between Leeds and Appleby and look at more options to help keep our customers and the local communities around the affected area connected.’
Richard Morris, chairman of the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line, said: ‘We are working closely with Network Rail to get the very best of outcomes for this very special railway line. This is an enormous job and we do appreciate what is being done - and how long it is likely to take.
‘Our volunteers will be working with Northern Rail to ensure passengers can still enjoy the spectacular section of line from Leeds as far as Appleby which is very much open for 'business as usual' as the tourist season approaches.’
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