Premier Rail

Holmes Chapel Viaduct

Holmes Chapel
Written by Roma Publications

Improving Holmes Chapel & Peover viaduct

Holmes Chapel

A project to improve the railway lines between Crewe and Wilmslow and the freight line that runs from Sandbach to Northwich is nearing completion. The project has largely focused on two key structures – Holmes Chapel viaduct and Peover viaduct – as well as a series of bridges.

Infrastructure specialist Murphy has been working on behalf of Network Rail to complete the work on Holmes Chapel viaduct. Meanwhile, award-winning infrastructure company, Story Contracting has been working on behalf of Network Rail to complete the work on Peover viaduct.

Network Rail has invested £7million to upgrade Holmes Chapel viaduct. This iconic Grade II listed asset, built in 1841, boasts a 500m long brick and sandstone structure and comprises 23 span semi-circular arches.

A fine example of Victorian civil engineering at its very best, the viaduct at Holmes Chapel looks splendid from any viewpoint as it stretches across the valley of the River Dane. The viaduct was designed by George Watson Buck, engineer-in-chief to the Manchester and Birmingham Railway, and has been described as one of the finest viaducts in Cheshire.

The programme of work at Holmes Chapel viaduct has included long-term structural improvements through the installation of a waterproof membrane. Work to repair the brickwork and track has also been undertaken.

It is estimated that Holmes Chapel viaduct has required the replacement of some 68,000 bricks, whilst other areas of the viaduct have been cleaned and re-pointed. Vegetation has also been removed.

The work on Holmes Chapel viaduct was initiated after investigation by Network Rail revealed that the viaduct had failed waterproofing and drainage tests.

An additional £3million has been invested by Network Rail to enhance the Peover viaduct. This historical Grade II listed asset, which was built in 1842, features a 500m long brick and sandstone structure and comprises 10 semi-circular arches.

Peover viaduct had suffered from the same defects as Holmes Chapel viaduct, including failed waterproofing, brickwork damage and vegetation growth. As with Holmes Chapel viaduct, the work at Peover involved the installation of retention units, the provision of a waterproof membrane and new drainage. Brickwork repairs to all ten spans were also required to refurbish this asset.

Speaking to Rail Construction News about Peover viaduct, Scheme Project Manager, Alasdair Thomson of Story Contracting, said:

“Peover viaduct is a ten-span, brick viaduct, situated right in the middle of Cheshire. The viaduct is just over 138 metres in length and has a standard ballast track throughout. Our remit was to incorporate a new waterproofing system on a new, pre-cast concrete deck, strengthening the structure along the way.”

During the height of the viaduct refurbishment programme, the Crewe to Manchester and Sandbach to Northwich railway lines were closed, so that crucial work to both viaducts could be carried out. Completing work on both viaducts at the same time helped to save £500,000 of taxpayers’ money and minimised the level of disruption as much as possible for passengers and freight services along these routes.

During this closure period, services to Manchester from London and South Wales (and vice-versa) temporarily by-passed Crewe and were diverted via Macclesfield and Stockport. Replacement bus services were provided for all passengers who were affected in between Crewe and Wilmslow.

The majority of the work is now complete on Holmes Chapel viaduct and Peover viaduct; all that remain are a few associated works.

Alasdair, said:

“We’re nearly finished. In addition to our waterproofing remit, there have been a number of brickwork repairs and general maintenance works, which we’ve just finished. We’re now in the process of demobilising.”

Work on Peover viaduct has run smoothly, without any major problems.

Alasdair commented:

“The project ran as we would expect. We had the odd niggle here and there, but anything that did rear its head was quickly dealt with, meaning we have had no real issues on the job, which is great.”

Alasdair added:

“In my role, I get given projects that I can take through all the different stages but this project was a little different, as the scheme was designed by Network Rail’s in-house design team, so we were appointed as the building contractor only. However we were still able to offer our experience and advice during the early stages of the project, which helped in the delivery. It was a good project to be involved with.”

In addition to the viaduct refurbishments, work has also been undertaken on bridges in the surrounding area, including Hungerford Road Bridge in Crewe; steel bridge at Alderley Edge; and an overbridge at Shipbrook Road in Rudheath.

Hungerford Road Bridge in Crewe is a three-span skewed brick arch overbridge incorporating riveted steel girders and brick jack arch widening. The bridge had suffered from corrosion to the girders, leading to inconsistent capacity across the structural members.

Rectification on Hungerford Road Bridge largely focused on the replacement of the failing section. Meanwhile the single-span steel bridge that crosses the A34 at Alderley Edge has benefited from realignment of the ballast retention, while the single-span overbridge at Shipbrook Road in Rudheath has benefitted from a series of reconstruction and extensive brickwork repairs.

Holmes Chapel


Murphy possesses an enviable reputation for delivering high quality services, particularly in their core sectors – rail, water, power and natural resources. Murphy also boasts a thriving building business.

The company has a long and distinguished record of delivering varied rail projects and a fundamental understanding of the complexities involved in all types of railway construction. With experience working on large infrastructure projects, Murphy works for clients such as Network Rail, Crossrail and Transport for London.

For more information about Murphy, please visit:

Story Contracting

Based in the North of England, Story Contracting is a family-owned award winning infrastructure specialist. The company provides construction, plant and rail solutions and was named Network Rail Supplier of the Year in 2014.

Past projects for Story Contracting have included the reconstruction of Appleby Station Bridge; a package of works at Arcow Quarry; and the reconstruction of an underbridge at Scarborough Bridge.

For more information about Story Contracting, please visit:


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