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EXCITING: Historic Sankey Viaduct Undergoes Major Renovation

EXCITING: Historic Sankey Viaduct Undergoes Major Renovation
photo: Network Rail/Historic Sankey Viaduct Undergoes Major Renovation
21 / 09 / 2023

The world's first major railway viaduct, Sankey Viaduct in Newton-le-Willows, stands as a testament to Victorian engineering prowess. Opened in 1830 and designed by the iconic George Stephenson, this structure, fondly known as 'Nine Arches', facilitated the world's first intercity passenger route linking Manchester and Liverpool. Fast forward nearly two centuries, and the viaduct is at the center of an elaborate £3.8m refurbishment effort by Network Rail, a move to preserve its storied history for future generations.

Advanced technology is playing a pivotal role in this restoration. Laser scanners, drones, and LiDAR surveys commissioned by Commendium and heritage consultancy Wardell Armstrong are capturing the viaduct in unprecedented detail. This cutting-edge approach produces high-definition imagery, from which Network Rail's specialized computer-aided design team crafts a precise 3D model. This modern resource not only informs the current restoration but also provides an invaluable tool for the proactive monitoring of the structure in the years ahead. Furthermore, collaborations with St Helens and Warrington council planners underline the dedication to ensuring the restoration abides by stringent heritage guidelines.

The restoration work is not a simple task. Over the coming four months, an expert team of 25, including engineers and scaffolding specialists, will tackle many tasks, from erecting scaffolding towers to undertaking extensive brickwork repairs. The Grade I listed viaduct will witness the repointing of its masonry with heritage mortar, cleaning of stonework, painting in traditional colours, and fortification with new metalwork called pattress plates. Respectful of its heritage status, the initiative will employ free-standing scaffolding, a decision geared towards preserving the originality of the monumental structure.