PREPARATORY work is underway for one of the biggest volunteer-led civil engineering projects ever undertaken by the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.

The 135-year-old Bridge 27, which spans Bridgehouse Beck, is being replaced.

A £1 million grant was awarded from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund to carry out the work.

As part of the scheme, there will be a partial closure of the five-mile steam heritage line in September.

The Haworth to Oxenhope section will be shut for up to four weeks; the remainder of the route will remain open to weekend passenger services.

The current bridge comprises two separate structures, but both utilise the same abutments and pier.

One structure, which carries the line into Haworth yard, underwent extensive work in the late 1970s and doesn't form part of the latest project.

However the other structure, which carries the main Keighley & Worth Valley Railway line, has seen a deterioration in its condition and needs renewal.

James Barlow, the railway's chief civil engineer, says: "We have had the replacement of Bridge 27 on our radar for more than ten years and we’ve been planning its renewal since around 2015.

"Our regular inspections had picked up the deterioration, that has to be expected in a structure of its age.

"Its replacement this year is the culmination of nearly a decade of effort by our volunteer engineering team, supported by specialist designers and contractors.

"We have been working with our designers Cass Hayward since 2019 on the design and are in the process of entering into contract with multiple suppliers for the physical construction works.

"During the spring we will remove the track and install 12 reinforced concrete piles behind the existing structure, after which we will put the track back to enable the summer services to run.

"At the end of the summer, starting on the evening of September 1, we will demolish the existing bridge and install a new one placed on the piles. Replacing the existing structure with one that requires less maintenance in the future will also enable our volunteers to focus on the maintenance and improvement of other areas of the railway.

"We really appreciate the support shown by our volunteers and the local community during this job, for which we are all eternally grateful."

He warns that the preparatory work will have an impact on car parking in the Haworth Station and Bridgehouse Mill area.