Workers scale down Houghton Cut as safety efforts go on to prevent rock danger

Work is under way at Houghton Cut and is likely to take until next month to complete.
Work is under way at Houghton Cut and is likely to take until next month to complete.

Work is under way to prevent rocks falling on to one of the busiest routes out of Sunderland.

Works to drape more of Houghton Cut with protective rock netting are now underway, with the installation expected to take until early December to complete, weather permitting.

The scene last March as the Beast from the East left a large amount of snow overhanging the A690 at Houghton Cut.

The scene last March as the Beast from the East left a large amount of snow overhanging the A690 at Houghton Cut.

The steel netting aims to help contain erosion and prevent rocks from falling on to the A690.

Netting works were already being planned by Sunderland City Council before over-hanging ice and snow, and a rockfall, caused the cut to be temporarily closed for several days in March, when the Beast from the East brought a huge amount of snow to the region.

Work has been scheduled for this month due to contractor availability and because it is also outside of bird nesting season.

There will be a nearside south-bound lane closure during the works.

Cabinet Member for environment and transport, Councillor Amy Wilson said: "As a council, we must keep investing in our highways infrastructure and the Houghton Cut is on one of our city's key and busiest routes.

"These works aren't on the road surface but on the rock faces above the road and will reduce the risk of rockfall.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service was drafted in to help bring down the snow from the top of Houghton Cut last March.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service was drafted in to help bring down the snow from the top of Houghton Cut last March.

"To allow for works access and safety reasons, there's going to be a lane closure so please be patient - they're important works."

The western side of the cut already has rock netting and the eastern works are being undertaken by Derbyshire company CAN Ltd.

The netting, which is made of PVC coated galvanised steel, will cover approximately 1,800 sq metres, or nearly half-an-acre of the cut's rock face and has an expected minimum design life of 50 years.

Jodi Sharman, project manager for CAN, said works included removing shrubs and any loose rocks, as well as installing bolts and mesh.

She said: "As the rock naturally erodes due to weathering, this drape of mesh will contain any rock that comes loose.

"The rock will travel down inside the mesh which can be opened at the toe, for maintenance, to empty any accumulation of rock debris."

CAN are working over alternative weekends to shorten the duration of the works so the road can be re-opened as soon as possible and minimise disruption.

The company have worked around Houghton before, including at the former landfill site.