British Rail's Unsettled Viaduct
Tony Aldous comments on a scheduled ancient monument on the Settle-Carlisle Line.
Just before Christmas English Heritage announced that it had offered British Rail 1m pounds towards the repair of a nineteenth-century stone railway viaduct on the top of the Pennines. Calke Abbey apart, this is by far the biggest grant offer it has made. Could anyone refuse?
Well, British Rail could (though so far it has not), because Ribblehead Viaduct – 24 arches long, 165ft high at its tallest point, and a scheduled ancient monument – is on the Settle-Carlisle Line, which it wants to close. The statutory 'hardship' hearing long completed, it is waiting for the Minister's decision. Until then it is not saying either 'yea' or 'nay'.
The viaduct is the great man-made setpiece of a 78-mile Settle-Carlisle Line, which British Rail itself, in recent promotional leaflets, calls 'England's greatest historic mainline railway', its 'greatest historical scenic route'. For, paradoxically, while bidding for closure, it has been simultaneously promoting the line in order to maximise revenue as long as it has it.