WORK has been undertaken to secure the banks of the River Isbourne and to reduce the risk of eroding the railway embankment.

The river flows beneath the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, just north of Winchcombe station, which is an area with a history of being flooded by runoff from the Cotswold hills.

The recently completed works involved two separate contracts to correct developing bank erosion and mitigate the risk of flooding.

Walsh Construction completed significant works to improve the flow of the river and eliminate the risk of the railway embankment being eroded which, left unchecked, could eventually have led to significant embankment stability problems.

 Ian Scholey, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway infrastructure manager and a civil engineer, said: “Recent heavy rain in the aftermath of Storm Babet – which fortunately was not as severe as elsewhere in the country – has vindicated this work and gives me confidence that the works will also cope with the aftermath of Storm Ciarán. 

"The river, which carries runoff from the Cotswold hills was over a metre and a half higher than its normal level, yet it flowed unimpeded beneath the bridge that carries the railway, causing no damage to the river banks or surrounding property. "

The River Isbourne rises on the northern edge of Cleeve Hill and runs 14 miles (22km) to the River Avon near Hampton, Worcestershire.

Dr Graham Plant, the railway’s civil engineering director, said: “Operating beautifully restored steam and heritage diesel locomotives and rolling stock is of course a key reason why visitors are attracted to our railway. 

"But this is only a small part of running our wonderful heritage railway for the benefit of the public. 

“With some 60 culverts, bridges and an aqueduct taking water across a 14-mile (22km) line, drainage is a vital aspect of maintaining the integrity of the railway. 

"The bridge over the River Isbourne is 13 feet (4m) high and 16ft 6in (5m) wide, the largest of these structures.  The work completed here will help secure the railway for future decades.”

The railway is now gearing up for the Santa Specials, between Cheltenham Racecourse and Winchcombe,