Project profile: Pensford Viaduct

Pensford Viaduct is a beautiful Grade II listed structure, made up of sixteen arches of differing widths and heights, supported by tall tapering piers in the centre and thicker shorter ones at the sides. Constructed in stone it’s 332 yards in length and reaches a maximum height of 95 feet.

Project profile: Pensford Viaduct

Location: Near Pensford village, a short drive from Bristol city centre

Project managed by: National Highways / DfT

Status: Not open to the public

About the structure

The viaduct was originally opened in 1873 to carry the Bristol & North Somerset Railway over Chew Valley.

The last passenger train to travel over the viaduct headed northwards in October 1959; after that, the line was only used for transporting goods. Apart from occasional excursions, the line was officially closed in July 1968, after flooding in Pensford weakened the structure.

Since September 1984, Pensford Viaduct has been Grade II listed. It was put on sale for £1 to the public the same year, but the associated liabilities meant there were no takers. National Highways and the Historical Railways Estate carried out renovation work in 2003 to the surface to improve drainage.

What is the project?

The Historical Railways Estate is carrying out repairs, maintenance and ecology work on the viaduct. This is to keep the viaduct safe, but also to preserve this stunning heritage asset and listed structure for future generations to enjoy.

Work was carried out around 15 years ago on the piers, drains and arches. Since then, water has been getting into open joints within the parapets with water freezing then expanding causing the mortar to pop off – each time the freeze/thaw cycle repeats, the problem worsens. So now we’re doing something to tackle this and provide a long-term fix.

What works are going on?

After completing ecology surveys in 2022, we’re investing over £300,000 to fully repoint the viaduct’s parapets.

Due to the viaduct's Grade II Listed status, our contractors have been working closely with the local heritage officer to ensure maintenance work is in keeping with the structure’s existing aesthetic.

This includes the use of traditional lime-based mortar. To complete the repairs safely a specially designed scaffolding rig will move on tracks – moving the 300m length of the viaduct, both sides.

Aerial view of Pensford Viaduct

What stage is it at?

Work was completed in November 2023, and we're pleased that people can continue to enjoy the structure safely from the ground.

Pensford Viaduct at dawn

Points of interest

The viaduct has 16 spans each 8.66 metres in width. Although not part of any cycling or walking routes, it is near Culvery Wood which is a popular local beauty spot for Bristol residents, and visitors to the city. A mixed-age woodland that is home to veteran oak, ash and hornbeam, and is alive with birds, bats and insects.

In 2023 it will have been 150 years since the old station opened.