Published: 5th September 2014
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s £0.5million ‘Bridges to Broadway’ share issue appeal was just £32,000 short of its target in late August. The race is on to raise the remaining amount before the share issue closes on October 31.
The issue was launched at Broadway station on September 30, the aim being to raise the cash for repairs to five bridges on the two mile route of the line’s Laverton to Broadway extension. The money for the bridge repairs is being raised by a special share offer organised under the Government’s tax-efficient Enterprise Investment Scheme.
The railway presently operates steam and heritage diesel trains between Cheltenham Racecourse and Laverton, via Winchcombe and Toddington. Reconstruction of Broadway station is advancing rapidly, but to rebuild the line between the present northern railhead at Laverton and the new Broadway station costly repairs needed to be undertaken on five bridges.
With £468,000 banked towards the repair bills for the bridges, all over 100 years old, the railway is redoubling its efforts to raise the remaining £32,000 by October 31 when the share issue has to close.
"We are so close to achieving the objectives of the Share Offer and I'm so appreciative of all those, local people as well as railway supporters, who have invested, whether £100 or £1,000 or more,” observed GWSR Plc volunteer finance director, Christopher Bristow. “All investors in this offer not only gain valuable travel concessions, but 30% tax relief too. So, if you invest £100, the real cost is £70 because you can claim £30 tax relief."
The initial success of the share issue emboldened the GWSR to authorise the start of work on the bridges in June and progress has been rapid thanks to good weather.
“Although completion of this work is not at risk if we do fall short of the total, we will have to make up any shortfall from elsewhere which could delay other vital work on the two mile stretch of line, which is entirely on an embankment,” explained Mr Bristow. “It we don't achieve our target it could delay other vital works and in turn, put back our three-year aim to get trains running to Broadway." The other work referred to includes fencing, embankment repairs, improved drainage, ballasting, track laying and signalling.
The present position concerning the bridges is:
Station Road, Broadway
This bridge, steel spans resting on brick abutments, has been struck by a number of over-height vehicles over the years and steelwork damaged by these impacts has had to be replaced. Shotblasting the steelwork has revealed much worse corrosion than expected, meaning additional plates were required and far more welding than was anticipated. Working of 12-hour days and supplementing the original work team with extra welding capacity has kept the project on programme. The work has required a road closure, but this was probably inevitable at some stage due to the poor condition of the bridge, whether it was to carry trains or not. This is the second-largest bridge on the railway and at about £200,000, the most costly to restore.
Also steel spans on brick abutments, similar corrosion to the bridge at Station Road has been found. Also, the brick abutments and wing walls have sustained severe damage due to movement in the earth embankments. Repair and strengthening work has involved digging the embankment away on both sides, repairing the brickwork and rebuilding the wing walls. The latter are being strengthened by bonding them to a new reinforced concrete structure which will eventually be concealed by the rebuilt embankment.
A brick arch bridge in good condition. Some damaged bricks have been replaced and the structure re-pointed.
A small bridge where much of the required work has involved repairs to all four brick wing walls.
Childswickham Road, Broadway
Not yet touched since it crosses the diversionary route for the closed Station Road/Evesham Road. Work will start when the Station Road bridge is completed and road reopened, enabling a temporary closure of Childswickham Road.
"With projects such as this, there are many challenges and often it's not until work starts that the extent of the damage becomes apparent,” commented Christopher Bristow. "However, I'm pleased to say that so far, the work has been carried out ahead of schedule, to a very high standard and, most importantly, to budget and I'm confident that we will have five fully-refurbished bridges available to us in December."
If you would like to help the railway raise the final £32,000 to see the ‘Bridges to Broadway’ appeal through to a successful conclusion, full details of the share issue (and the ‘Bridges to Broadway Blog' recording progress) can be found at www.gwsr.com . Alternatively, call the railway's development office on 01242 621 905 for a copy of the prospectus.