Project profile: Shepton Viaducts and Windsor Hill Tunnel

Work is under way on two historic viaducts and a tunnel that will soon become part of the growing active travel network in Somerset. We're working in partnership with the Greenways and Cycleroutes charity and other key local stakeholders to make history.

Project profile: Shepton Viaducts and Windsor Hill Tunnel

Location: Shepton Mallet, Somerset

Project managed by: Greenways and Cycleroutes

Tunnel and viaduct managed by: National Highways on behalf of the Department for Transport

Status: In progress

About the structures

(Train using the line in August 1960. Photo credit: The late Derek Cross)

The Ham Wood and Bath Road Viaducts together with the Windsor Tunnel form part of the old Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. The original single-track route opened in 1874 and was doubled up in 1893. This doubling up led the expansion of the two viaducts and the construction of a second tunnel - the newer tunnel is earmarked for an active travel route.

Windsor Hill

Construction on Windsor Hill started in 1890. Its 120m length was bored alongside the old tunnel. The portals of the new tunnel were at different mileages to that of the old one, as well as being shorter. The new tunnel acted as the up tunnel serving the many quarries.

Bath Road Viaduct

(Bath Road viaduct after collapse in February 1946. Photo Credit: Colin G. Maggs Collection)

The Bath Road Viaduct is a Grade II listed structure, which means it's of special interest. Containing six spans, at 110m long and 23m high, it's the tallest of the three viaducts in the area.

This route was always challenging for freight and passenger traffic due to tricky topography in the Mendip Hills area. The Bath-Templecombe route was typically busiest during the summer as families ventured to the seaside resorts of the south.

In 1946 one arch on the down line became unsafe, then strong winds caused the parapet and highest arch over the roadway to collapse. Repairs were completed and despite remaining a popular route it was decided to close it. The last train ran on 5 March 1966.

Since 2013, when we took over management of the estate, we’ve invested £300,000 in maintenance and repair works on Bath Road Viaduct. We also continue to fund regular examinations of all three structures.

(Scaffolding used during repair work in 2015)

What is the project?

We're working with Greenways and Cycleroutes, Friends of Windsor Hill Tunnels, Somerset Council and the Department for Transport to connect Bath Road Viaduct, Hamwood Viaduct and Windsor Hill Tunnel with the existing active transport network.

These former railway structures are set to become important links within the larger local plans for the Somerset Circle, which already includes 76 miles of traffic free walking/cycling paths.

We're keen to make sure the new route that will use these structures is safe for all and have advocated that it be truly multi-user – suitable for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and disabled users alike. We know that fully integrating the structures in the existing active travel network has long been an aspiration for the community, and we’re thrilled to be helping this become a reality.

What stage is it at?

Work is in progress, and we’ll update this page once it's open for public use.