Project outline

In November 2018, a section of a Victorian embankment collapsed onto the Cumbrian Coast line due to it being saturated by rainwater from the surrounding land.
Passengers and freight were delayed and one train was stuck in the mud from the landslip.

A team from Murphy was mobilised to free the train and reopen the line. A £4 million project was then put in place to prevent a recurrence. The height of the embankment – 50 metres – and its steepness posed real challenges to the team, as did the winter weather which, in this region, can be amongst the harshest in the British Isles.

Key challenges
  • This work was a reaction to an emergency and so had to be carried out in weather that was, at times, atrocious.
  • Parton headland is remote and accessible only through farmland that has minor road connections to a main road. The site was between a working wind farm and the railway which, in turn, was hard up against the foreshore of the Irish Sea.
  • Network Rail’s land management team negotiated not only the acquisition of about 10 metres of land but also the rights for access over a temporary haul road.
  • Unstable lenses of glacial till were augmented with bands of running sand and undocumented coal measures.
  • There needed to be extensive research into the details of the adjacent windfarm structures to ensure their stability whilst the works took place.
  • The steepness of the embankment slope required the use of long-reach excavators and a Menzi Muck ‘spider’ excavator.
  • Weight restrictions on the M6 at Tebay meant that heavy plant had to negotiate lengthy diversionary routes.
  • All plant had to be off-loaded at the farmyard and driven to site rather than being off-loaded close to hand.
Project delivery and innovation

The railway between Maryport and Whitehaven in Cumbria, built in the 1840s to a modest budget, runs tight along the shoreline between the Irish Sea and the Cumbrian Fells for most of its route.

At a particularly exposed headland near the village of Parton, the railway was built on a rock shelf cut into the toe of a 50-metre-high embankment.

The retreat of the glaciers after the last Ice Age has left a very difficult geology with the area consisting of a mixture of coal measures, assorted layers and lenses of clay, soft sand and broken rock. As a result, the railway has always been affected by the threat of disruption by rock falls and land slips.

On 4 November 2018, after a prolonged period of intense rain, 80 tonnes of rubble washed down the steep Parton embankment and blocked the railway, trapping a passenger train that had collided with the mudslide.

Within two hours of receiving an emergency phone call, Murphy was able to mobilise staff to assess the situation on site and to start releasing the train.

  • Best Project between £1 and £5 million, CECA NW Annual Awards 2019

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Transportation at Murphy

Murphy is a multi-disciplinary specialist in the Transportation sector, working across rail, highways, aviation and ports to deliver sustainable solutions.From renewals to electrification, bridge building, highways and aviation, our award-winning team has extensive experience

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