The Permanent Way Dept and the Winter Storms

Serious flooding occurred on Friday 8th November throughout the Derwent Valley in response to heavy rainfall over many days on a saturated catchment area. During the morning I received a phone call from the Office making me aware of the situation and that peak flow would be around midday. I decided upon seeing the situation for myself and parked at Darley Dale Station. I had observed from the car, whilst travelling along the A6, the floodwater was not near the track north of Darley Dale. A sad sight along Station Road, at Four Lane Ends, was an abandoned car, one of whose occupants had drowned in the fast flowing floodwaters in the early hours of the morning. As I proceeded to walk south towards Matlock Riverside the extent of the floodwaters became evident. Beyond Red House Cutting the whole valley floor was under water. By Bridge 38 the floodwater was also on the Up side of the trackbed, this was to be the case right down to Bridge 35 over the River Derwent, being aided by Bridges 38, 37 and 36 being underpasses, originally for farmer access. The floodwater was up to the deck at all three of these bridges. Just south of Statham’s Crossing/ Bridge 37 and down to Bridge 35 the floodwaters had earlier completely covered the track according to locals in conversation. One local mentioned that there were at least 25 large bales of hay stuck against the deck of Bridge 35. These bales had been stored in the field near Statham’s Crossing. By the time I arrived at Bridge 35 the water level had dropped sufficiently to allow most of them under. An astonishing sight was that of one bale stuck a long way up a tree. The A6 at this point was also under water. Later that evening the BBC 10 o’clock news opened with an aerial shot of the area north of Matlock and the whole line was shown to be under water south of Bridge 37.

From my observations I could not perceive any obvious damage to the track formation. Train operating was suspended and the following week the P-Way team carried out a full line Track Inspection to ascertain if any damage had been caused to the track formation and structures. All drains were also checked for blockage or damage. As the floodwaters receded it became clear that Bridge 35 had suffered some damage. The cross bracing between the two bridge piers at the southern end of the bridge had been hit, most likely by one of the hay bales, and detached. The bridge was structurally inspected by a bridge engineer and weekly testing allowed the Santa Specials to traverse it at a reduced speed of 5mph. The repair work was scheduled for w/c 10th February but due to the impact of Storms Ciara and Dennis and further heavy rainfall thereafter meant postponement until the river level dropped.

Whilst Storm Ciara raised the level of the River Derwent again it did not cause the widespread flooding of the valley floodplain like Storm Dennis exactly a week later. Thankfully on a Track Inspection around peak flow the floodwaters were not high enough to reach the track formation. However the floodwaters did again reach the Up side of the line through the underpasses. An assessment as per the November flood event was carried out.

Since these flood events all Track Inspections will focus particularly on the track formation between Bridges 38 and 35. With a prolonged dry spell this Spring, following on from the extremely wet Winter, it is prudent to do so as this section is on an embankment that had floodwater surrounding the structure. The bridges on this section will also be visually inspected on a more frequent basis.

Roger Hallatt.

P-Way Manager.