Network Rail has turned to drones and LiDAR to create a photo-realistic 3D scan of North Yorkshire’s Ribblehead viaduct in the UK to assist in the restoration of the iconic rail structure. The high-tech restoration is a part of Network Rail’s £2.1 ($2.8) million Great North Rail Project.

The 144-year old bridge that spans over 400 meters across Ribble Valley was scanned over 100 times from various locations around the bridge to create an almost perfect 3D scan.

Network Rail contracted the job out to 3D scanning and LiDAR specialist Commendium, which shared it has never scanned such a large structure before. The bridge is 104 feet high, consists of 24 arches, was built over five years, and opened on May 1, 1876.

Phil James, Network Rail’s Northwest route director, said:

We’re always looking to innovate on the railway, and seeing drones and lasers being used to care for such a historic structure is really impressive. I was at Ribblehead viaduct when we started work a week ago and saw for myself the huge scaffolding platforms now in place so my team can improve brickwork, mortar, and drainage. Great care and attention are going in to make sure our work is right from a heritage perspective. This digital model plays a major role in that as we secure the Grade II listed structures future for passengers and tourists as part of the Great North Rail Project.

The 3D scan will allow the bridge to be restored but still keep the same look it has always had. During the restoration in the new year, the bridge will undergo the following:

  • brickwork repairs
  • removal of vegetation and repairing the damage caused by plants and weeds,
  • upgrades to drainage across the viaduct’s 24 arches
  • repainting metal and pipework

Richard Walters, chief executive officer for Commendium, added:

We have all known and loved this location for most of our lives, it is even part of our children’s’ cultural awareness with them learning songs about it at school. So to survey, it has been a privilege. The resulting LiDAR scan not only shows areas which need repair but also areas where water could damage the stonework in the future, so leading to other preservation works.

You can look at the 3D scan below to see a large amount of data the drone and LiDAR were able to capture.

Photo: Network Rail


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