Trespassers on the historic Victoria Viaduct warned they are risking ‘fatal consequences’
Officials have warned that it is illegal to access the Victoria Viaduct as the 120ft-high structure is ‘extremely dangerous and can have life changing or even fatal consequences’.
The 1838 viaduct, which crosses the River Wear between Fatfield and Penshaw, is a disused railway bridge, but no train has crossed it since 1991 and it has been mothballed ever since.
However, the UK’s rail management organisation, Network Rail, still has responsibility for the structure and are warning trespassers to stay away.
They say inspections are carried out and that the public should be aware that trespassing is extremely dangerous.
The viaduct’s track, which at its highest point the viaduct stands 120ft above the river, has long since been removed and steel gates erected at either end. One side of the viaduct has a gate that is is welded shut, but on the other side the gate has been vandalised, although it has now been repaired and locked.
Any unauthorised person on the viaduct is trespassing, although warning signs are difficult to read due to vandalism.
Thom Bennett, senior asset engineer for Network Rail, said: “We are aware of the issues relating to unauthorised access on the viaduct and have a regular inspection programme in place. This involves repairing the locks on the gate when they are vandalised.
“Network Rail is unable to weld both gates closed as our teams need to access the viaduct to carry out essential inspections and maintenance work.
"When considering further restrictions, we also need to protect the viaduct’s Grade II listed status. We are committed to working with local stakeholders on a longer-term solution.
“Trespassing on this viaduct, as well as on the railway, is extremely dangerous and can have life changing or even fatal consequences.”
The Victoria Viaduct has recently become a focal point for the campaign to restore the Leamside Line to its former use. The railway line ran between Ferryhill and Gateshead.
It is 30 years since it carried freight and no passenger train has used it since 1964 after the “Beeching Axe”. Reviving the line could also help bring the Metro to Washington and Houghton, which currently have no rail access of any kind.