Victoria Viaduct trespassers warned of potential ‘fatal consequences’
Trespassers on the historic Victoria Viaduct have been warned of possible ‘life changing and even fatal consequences’ if they continue to break the law.
The disused railway crossing lies over the River Wear between Fatfield and Penshaw. No train has been on it since 1991, since when it has been mothballed.
Gates on the Penshaw (south) side are welded shut. But in March 2021 the Echo reported that at the Fatfield end the gate had been forced open while trespassers had simply, but very dangerously gone around the south gates.
The same has now happened again and people have been seen strolling, or even just sitting on it in broad daylight. However, Network Rail who remain responsible for the 1838 viaduct, have since secured the gate and coated it with anti-vandal paint.
There are no tracks left on the crossing, only gravel. There are handrails on either side, but they appear to be quite old and would be very easy to clamber either over or through.
At its highest there is a 120-foot drop from the Grade II*-listed viaduct to the river. There is warning signage at both ends, but it is too badly vandalised to be easily read.
Simon Phillips, asset engineer for Network Rail, said: “We’re continually working to prevent trespass on the viaduct and we have a number of anti-trespass measures in place.
“Unfortunately, some people continue to choose to ignore the warning signs and deterrents and illegally access the structure. This is incredibly dangerous and could lead to life changing and even fatal consequences.
“Trespassing is illegal and we would urge people to report incidents of trespass to the British Transport Police.
“We’ll be visiting the site in the coming weeks to see if any further measures can be taken.”
There had been hopes that the much-loved viaduct could be used again as part of a reopened Leamside Line between Ferryhill and Pelaw, as well as being used for a Metro extension to Washington.
No passenger train has used the Victoria Viaduct since 1964 after the “Beeching Axe”. It was hoped that restoring the Leamside line would improve transport links to Washington and Houghton, which currently have no rail access of any kind.