A multi-million-pound project to improve a crucial coastal viaduct will start next month to make journeys faster and more reliable for Cumbrian Coast line passengers.

A £2m Great North Rail Project investment will see wooden timbers and 600 metres of rail renewed on the 18-span Eskmeals viaduct which carries the railway over the River Esk estuary.

Eskmeals viaduct was built in 1868 and still has its original wrought iron girders, which were strengthened in the 1920s, and its red sandstone piers which support the structure in the estuary itself.

When the new track is installed on the important link between Ravenglass and Bootle, speed restrictions imposed on trains can be lifted meaning faster journeys for passengers.

Phil James, route director for Network Rail’s North West route, said: “This significant Great North Rail Project investment at Eskmeals viaduct will ensure that the Cumbrian Coast line remains safe and reliable for passenger and freight trains for many more years to come.

“We know that this is the second time in a month that part of this line has been closed, and I want to thank passengers for their patience while work takes place.

“In line with government advice around coronavirus, we’re continuing to ask passengers to avoid public transport if at all possible and to only travel by train where your journey is essential.”

The work means the viaduct will be closed to trains for eight days between Saturday 20 and Monday 29 June.

To keep passengers on the move rail replacement buses will be provided between Millom and Sellafield.

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, said: “The viaduct at Eskmeals is iconic and an important part of the railway heritage in Cumbria. But it’s more than that, it’s also a vital part of the current rail network.

“The viaduct has stood for more than 150 years and the improvements being carried out by Network Rail will future-proof it for generations to come.”

Engineers will also take the opportunity to upgrade walkways and handrails across the viaduct which are used by railway staff.

This will enable future maintenance work on the structure to take place more easily and safely.

Meanwhile, passengers should continue following Government guidelines around the use of public transport.

People who need to make journeys are advised to check www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest information.