National Highways team breathes life back into historic viaduct

28/02/2023
Chris Ames

National Highways Historical Railways Estate (HRE) has returned a 16-arch viaduct in Scotland to its former glory with extensive restoration and repair work, making future use as an active travel route ‘a real possibility’.

The Westfield Viaduct, built in the 1850s, straddles the River Avon on the West Lothian and Falkirk border, near the small village of Westfield that it was named after. 

National Highways said the detailed £2m programme included masonry repairs, waterproofing and the installation of 19 bat bricks, six bat tubes and two bat boxes.

It took 18 months to complete and will ensure that the structure will be preserved for many generations to come, National Highways added.

HRE civil engineer Colin McNicol said: ‘We are delighted to be breathing life back into this physical reminder of an important part of railway history in central Scotland and we’re very pleased with how well the work has gone.

‘The viaduct had numerous issues that needed attention to ensure it remained safe and in good order and the work that has been completed makes any future plans to reopen the viaduct as an active travel route for pedestrians, cyclists and other users a real possibility.’

Westfield Viaduct is among the 3,100 former railway structures maintained by National Highways’ HRE on behalf of the Department for Transport.

It was constructed between 1854 and 1855 as an extension of the Monkland Railway branch line.

The structure features 12 large arches of about 47ft span and two small ones at each end. In total it stretches for 660ft over land and water and stands 60ft from the top of the arch to the riverbed.

Before renovations could begin, two rounds of bat surveys were carried out, including a summer re-entry survey to ensure that bats had not returned to work areas for hibernation.

Surveys included abseilers under the direction of bat licensed ecologists checking dozens of crevices in the masonry with endoscopes for signs of bat activities. Drones were used for further checks.

Other work included extensive vegetation clearance and repairs to all 16 spans, along with north and south parapet repairs and waterproofing work. New cast iron pattress plates, manufactured to match the originals, have also been installed to replace damaged elements and stone repairs were colour matched to the original unweathered material.

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