URGENT repairs have got under way on an East Lancs viaduct which is a favourite with walkers and cyclists.

Council chiefs in Rossendale say Hareholme Viaduct, in Rawtenstall, was in danger of collapse without remedial work. Stonework is visibly bulging in places.

The nine-arch viaduct, which links Rawtenstall with Waterfoot and Bacup, needed up to £400,000 worth of refurbishments, it was reported earlier this year.

But with interest and other factors the final bill to the borough could end up being around £600,000. The rail line between Rawtenstall and Bacup ran its last passenger service in 1966.

Borough council leader Cllr Alyson Barnes and chief executive Rob Huntington have recently been shown the scale of work needed to restore and make the viaduct safe.

Cllr Barnes said: “We’re lucky in Rossendale to have so many magnificent structures from our industrial past still in use in some shape or other.

"Reusing and repurposing structures, as was done with this viaduct, can be more environmentally sustainable than demolishing and rebuilding so it’s important we maintain them.

“Seeing just how much some of the arches and brickwork are damaged is quite unbelievable.

"But when you think about how long it’s been standing and the work it’s done carrying trains, people, bikes and horses and the weather that’s been thrown at it, it’s hardly surprising that it’s now in need of some TLC.

“I would like to see more financial help given to councils though. It costs a lot to carry out repair work like this and when council budgets are stretched anyway it becomes very difficult.”

Mr Huntington added: “It’s a big task to repair and make safe a structure like this but it was vital that the repairs be carried out now before any further damage was done or it became a serious safety risk.

"Once the work is completed, the viaduct and the pathway will be in use and enjoyed for another 100 years, which is great to see.

“But as Cllr Barnes says the financial burden to district councils is huge so additional funding for projects such as this would be very much welcomed.”

Work is being carried out by local firm Lee Ashworth Excavations and is expected to last at least 12 weeks.

The section of the cycle and pathway across the viaduct will be closed for this time with a clearly marked diversion in place.