AN ICONIC North Yorkshire landmark is undergoing important maintenance work to secure its future for decades to come.

The 144-year-old Ribblehead viaduct will have its drainage improved and brickwork restored, in order to make journeys for passenger and freight trains more reliable on the Settle-Carlisle railway.

The £2.1m investment in the Grade II listed structure is part of the Great North Rail Project.

Work has already commenced and is expected to be completed by February next year.

Phil James, North West route director at Network Rail, said: “It’s a privilege to look after so many significant buildings and structures across the rail network, but Ribblehead viaduct has got to be one of the crown jewels of Victorian civil engineering.

“We know the structure is incredibly important both locally and internationally, and we want to give it the care and attention that it deserves so it can be enjoyed by future generations of passengers and sightseers.”

Engineers are currently in the process of installing scaffolding to provide a safe platform to carry out the repairs to the 400m structure.

Network Rail is working closely with Historic England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park to ensure the work is sympathetically carried out in line with guidance for historically significant structures.

Steve Hopkinson, regional director at Northern, said: “The viaduct is iconic and we’re really proud to have such a magnificent piece of engineering on our network.

“It is also a vital and much-loved part of the hugely popular Settle-Carlisle line. The work being carried out will ensure future generations are able to enjoy one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the UK.”

Paul Brown, chairman of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line group, said: “This work has come about as a result of regular inspections of the Ribblehead viaduct. We work closely with Network Rail and welcome this investment in the line's future.

“The Ribblehead viaduct was once seen as the route's major weakness. It is now probably stronger than it was when the Victorians built it. This work is needed to keep it that way.”

No major disruption is expected for passengers using the Settle-Carlisle line during the viaduct's 2020 maintenance.