Rail line between Sheffield and Manchester open after closure over dam collapse fears

The rail line between Sheffield and Manchester has reopened this morning – after it closed for several days amid fears a dam in the Peak District could collapse.

Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 5:32 pm

Thousands of residents were evacuated from Whaley Bridge last Thursday after the dam wall at Toddbrook Reservoir became cracked and started to fall away following torrential rainfall.

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A major operation involving a multi-agency taskforce consisting of the Environment Agency, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Canal River Trust, police, military and many others, has been ongoing in recent days to try and secure the damaged dam.

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As a precaution the Hope Valley railway line connecting the two cities was shut down, but Northern has announced that this has now reopened.

Meanwhile, residents in the Horwich End area of Whaley Bridge that were evacuated from 55 homes on Saturday are now able to return to their properties.

Police said this is following the lowering of the water level in the dam to below nine metres, meaning those properties are not now in danger.

However, about 1500 other residents are still not able to return home yet, and they continue to seek refuge at a makeshift shelter set up at a Chapel-en-le-Frith High School.

Sand bags at the dam.

A further assessment on the dam is due to take place today.

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: “Since Friday the Toddbrook reservoir water level has been lowered well below that required for engineers to be able to access, and survey, the damage to the interior dam wall.

“As I have repeatedly stated over the past days, as soon as it safe for residents to return then we will make this happen.

“It is my very happy duty to announce that the residents of the 55 homes in the Horwich End area of Whaley Bridge will be able to return to their properties tonight.

“While this is obviously good news for those residents there are many hundreds that are unable to return to the area.

“The dam wall still poses a significant risk to the properties that were evacuated on Thursday.

“Without a full assessment of the structure I am not able to be given the assurances I need to be able to say the threat to life has been eliminated.

“I am fully aware of the concerns that residents have and their wishes to get back to normality.

“You have my promise that as soon as it is safe - as we have shown today – we will get you home as quickly as possible.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the scene on Friday and promised that the damaged reservoir would have a "major rebuild" as he met locals at nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith High School, which is being used as an evacuation centre.

Describing the damage to the dam as "pretty scary", he said: "I was talking to one of the villagers from Whaley Bridge who said that he remembered something like this happening 50 years ago.

"We've had an exceptional weather event, we must make sure that this dam can cope with it in the future.

"That will mean a major rebuild, clearly."