Abseiling engineers carry out surveys above the M5 Wynhol Viaduct, Somerset


12 Jun 2023

Over 20 specialist rope operatives carry out ultra-safe surveys high above traffic.

Abseiling engineers carry out surveys above the M5 Wynhol Viaduct

Scaling rock faces high above the ground with motorway traffic roaring below may not be for everyone.

Especially on the M5 Wynhol Viaduct, one the highest and longest rock cuttings on our network.

As this video clip shows, it’s all in a day’s work for our specialist surveyors.


Rope operatives from our suppliers BAM Ritchies and WSP, were carrying out ten-year maintenance checks on the slopes above the viaduct.

The surveys will tell us whether anchors, bolts and netting that help secure the slopes will need updating.

We've fitted cutting edge sensors to monitor bolts, anchors and the rock itself - at heights up to 38 metres (125 feet). We also took the opportunity to clear ditches and remove loose stone and invasive plants.

Before starting work, we carried out a state-of-the-art drone survey. At over two miles (3.5km), this was the longest drone overflight of a live motorway in the country. It gathered information to help our teams assess rock condition and plan work efficiently and economically.

Rope operatives surveying M5 Wynhol Viaduct
Surveyors abseiling above motorway traffic
Overnight maintenance work on M5 Wynhol Viaduct cutting
Overnight maintenance under southbound carriageway

Jon Durnell, Principal Engineer for National Highways’ Geotechnical Asset Management team, said:

“Given the location of the cutting and the criticality of the M5, a lot of planning and design was undertaken, along with the requisite safety management, and thanks to the collaborative work with BAM Ritchies and WSP, we will now have a lot more information to take us forward for the next 50 years."

Matt Ewing, BAM Ritchies’ Business Development Manager, said:

“The use of rope access techniques, nightshifts, ecologists, detailed planning, and limited traffic management meant the works had minimum impact on the road user and the local ecological environment."