West Coast main line protected as Cumbrian river restored to original course

Restored River Leith beside West Coast main line in Thrimby Credit: Network Rail

Rail passengers and wildlife are being protected by major work to restore a river which runs next to the West Coast main line in Cumbria.

The River Thrimby flows at the foot of the embankment of Europe’s busiest mixed-used passenger and freight railway.

As the river was historically straightened, it doesn’t provide good conditions for wildlife and puts the railway it bordered at risk from erosion.

Phase one of the River Thrimby restore project Credit: Network Rail

Network Rail, the Eden Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Natural England and landowners are working together as part the Cumbria River Restoration Programme to return the River Leith near Thrimby back to its natural course.

Forty-six passenger trains and seven freight trains go past every 24 hours - carrying up to 18,500 tonnes. The new river will be 33% longer than the previously straightened river and those working on the project say once complete the line will be more reliable for passengers and freight.

Rory Kingdon, senior sponsor at Network Rail, said: “Restoring the river at Thrimby to its natural course not only benefits the environment, but it also protects the track from flooding, making the West Coast main line more reliable for passengers and freight.

Pooling resources with Eden Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency to make the railway more resilient to climate change is a win-win for wildlife, passengers and freight users.

Rory Kingdon, senior sponsor at Network Rail