Published: 6th August 2015
The so-called pause in the Midland Main Line electrification project will delay completion of the dream to create an 18-mile heritage railway in the East Midlands. The linking of the Loughborough - Leicester North Great Central Railway with the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) north of Loughborough through to the latter’s base at the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre at Ruddington remains alive, but will be delayed.
Central to the GCR reunification scheme is construction of a new 500 metre bridge to carry heritage trains over the four tracks of the Midland Line at Loughborough. A window of opportunity to provide a replacement structure to ‘Bridge the Gap’ was presented by Network Rail’s project to electrify the main lines.
The government’s announcement that work to electrify the Midland Main Line has been paused means the bridge will not be installed later this year as anticipated. However, Network Rail and the Great Central re-iterated their joint commitment to complete the work following a recent meeting. The timescale will change, but NR will still assist the heritage line in building the crucial new bridge.
"Naturally, both the GCR and our partners at Great Central Railway Nottingham on the other side of the ‘gap’ are disappointed the construction of the bridge will slip back, commented GCR managing director, Bill Ford. “However, we are very pleased that Network Rail still want to help deliver the structure. They have been very supportive despite the changes they face following the decision to pause electrification work. Work is accelerating on the other elements of our plan to create an eighteen mile heritage line, so with the time pressure of imminent electrification removed, we are looking afresh at the construction sequence.”
“We are understandably disappointed that electrification has been paused, but in every challenge lies the seed of opportunity,” observed NR Route Delivery Director, Richard Walker. “We now have additional time to review the way in which the bridge works at Great Central Railway are delivered. Our commitment to supporting GCR remains unchanged: we have already had huge success by engaging with local schools and inspiring the engineers of tomorrow, and we look forward to continuing that throughout the project.”
Several members of NR staff have freely given their time to the community led scheme but no public money has been invested in the project.
To achieve this element of the total project the GCR and GCR (Nottingham) launched a £1million ‘Bridge to the Future’ appeal in June 2013. This appeal, dedicated to financing the bridge over the main lines, had raised £920,000 as the original summer 2015 target approached.
Some of the opportunities for saving money on the scheme created by carrying out the bridge construction at the same time as electrification have now been lost, meaning more cash may still be required to complete this element of reunification.
“The reunification vision represents a real legacy for future generations,” observed Bill Ford. “Our plans may change slightly, but we are determined to succeed with the support of Network Rail. This is a project which is moving forward and the support we have had across the board is very gratefully received and inspires us to go forward!"
Details about the reunification project and how to donate to the ‘Bridge to the Future’ project can be viewed at www.gcrailway.co.uk/unify.
As an alternative to donating online, contributions can be made with a cheque payable to ‘The David Clark Railway Trust’ sent to the GCR HQ at ‘Bridge Appeal’, Lovatt House, 3 Wharncliffe Road, Loughborough, Leics, LE11 1SL.
While GCR works towards fulfilling its dream of uniting the two preserved sections of Great Central main line, the railway made the childhood dream of driving a steam locomotive come true for its 10,000th Driver Experience customer on August 7.
The railway launched its Drive A Train Experience package in the 1990s and people from around the world have taken up the opportunity to drive a steam or heritage diesel locomotive. Varying packages cater for people just wanting a taste of being at the controls to getting serious mileage under their wheels.