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Published 10th June 2013
The preserved Great Central Railway (GCR) which runs in two sections between Leicester North and Ruddington via Loughborough has signed a historic agreement with Network Rail (NR). This is to literally bridge the gap between the two GCR sections currently divided by the gap over the Midland Main Line at the south end of Loughborough station.
The deal will enable a single line to be carried over the MML thus joining the two sections of the GCR, a long held cherished ambition. The design work is underway and subject to fundraising, the million pound bridge reinstatement could be complete in two years’ time. The project will fill a 500 metre gap between the two preserved sections of railway and join the Great Central Railway PLC (which operates trains between Loughborough and Leicester) and the GCR Nottingham Ltd, (which runs between Loughborough and South Nottingham).
The project will create an 18 mile preserved railway and crucially give the line a main line connection which is already in place south of Loughborough on the GCR (north) section. A business case study was carried out a few years ago and suggested that once in place, the link could bring economic benefits to the area.
“There is huge interest and excitement amongst both railway enthusiasts and the general public in seeing this project succeed,” said Mark Fowler of Great Central Railway Nottingham Ltd. “It is vitally important to us that the local communities join us in this vision too. It will drive economic benefit during construction and in the longer term too. So we look forward to support for the appeal locally, to make that positive difference a reality in our part of the East Midlands”.
“We are delighted to announce this incredible step forward,” said Bill Ford, Managing Director of the Great Central Railway PLC. “Building this bridge unlocks the rest of the re-unification project which will create an attraction with truly international appeal. We couldn’t have better partners than Network Rail to deliver this element of the project. The completed railway will bring benefits to the local service sector and create new opportunities in rail testing, training and apprenticeships.”
The project has been progressed by Great Central Railway Development, a specially created organisation with the sole aim of closing the gap. It has recovered two redundant rail bridges, previously used by Network Rail at Reading and were moved to Loughborough in 2011. They will be used ‘end to end’ to create the single track line over the MML.
Repairs have to be carried out to a canal bridge over the Grand Union Canal, while a new bridge has to be built over Railway Terrace Road in Loughborough and replacing the missing 300 metres of former railway embankment, bringing the total cost to £8m. It is hoped that the installation of the rail bridge will speed up the fund-raising to actually re-open the railway within five years.
An appeal for donations has been announced by The GCR called “Bridge to the Future” which has a target of raising the million pounds needed to get the bridge in place.
The GCR has around 700 volunteers and a small team of permanent staff with almost 100,000 visitors a year. The railway boasts a five mile double track section – the longest in the UK on any preserved line. The line travels alongside Swithland Reservoir and has attractive stations at Rothley and Quorn, worth a visit in their own right!
Loughborough Locomotive Works is also partially open for visits giving a good opportunity to see engines under repair or restoration.
Loughborough main line station is a 15 minute walk from the GCR Loughborough station. It runs preserved steam and diesel locomotives and has a very popular Travelling Post Office service on selected days. There is also a superb museum at the GCR Loughborough station to visit.
The GCR has declined to comment on the April 27 derailment at Quorn – reported on this website.
Written by Phil Marsh