UK: LiDAR Helps Protect 19th Century Railway Viaduct

Laser scanners and drones have been used to plan essential maintenance of the 19th century Whalley railway viaduct in Lancashire.

The technology was used to map every inch of the 48-arch Victorian viaduct, which carries the Blackburn to Clitheroe railway line 550 metres across the Ribble Valley and over the river Calder.

Wide angle image from Whalley Viaduct LiDAR scan
Wide angle image from Whalley Viaduct LiDAR scan

Over 300 scans were taken from locations underneath and on top of the viaduct using LiDAR technology. These were used to develop a 3D computer model of the structure that provides a digital blueprint of the viaduct’s current condition.

This allows teams to closely monitor any changes in the structure and identify problems in the ornate Victorian brickwork.

It’s also safer for workers as in the past only manual checks using abseilers or scaffolding towers would uncover any issues.

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West Route Director, said:

“We’re always looking to innovate on the railway and seeing drones and lasers being used to care for such an historic structure is really impressive.

“Using this 21st century technology gives Whalley viaduct’s engineers a forensic way to plan its essential maintenance for the next 18 months.

“Great care and attention is going into make sure our work is right from a heritage perspective. This digital model plays a major role in that as we secure the Grade II listed-structure’s future for passengers, local people and tourists.”

Maintenance work will take place over the next 6–18 months.

This will include strengthening of the viaduct’s structure, brickwork repairs, removal of vegetation and repairing any damage it has caused and work to stop its bases suffering from river erosion.

Trains will continue to run as normal while the maintenance work takes place.

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