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Great Central Railway pushes ahead with reunification project

The Great Central Railway's exciting reunification scheme is moving ahead. With the imminent completion of a new rail bridge at Loughborough, preparations are now being made for the next part of the project; repairing an existing bridge over the Grand Union Canal.

An appeal to raise £475,000 has been launched to pay for the work.

The reunification project will connect two separate halves of the Great Central to create an eighteen mile heritage line running through the East Midlands. Five hundred metres of long demolished track, bridges and embankments need to be replaced to establish the link. A multimillion pound investment has already seen a new bridge built to carry Great Central steam hauled trains over Network Rail's Midland Main Line.

Michael Gough, Managing Director of the Great Central Railway said, "We have had people from around the world asking us about the new railway bridge. They're also asking which part of reunification we are tackling next! The answer is, we're going to restore the existing historic canal bridge at Loughborough so it is ready to carry trains again. The appeal is in part to pay for the repairs and also to fund the ongoing design work for the rest of the reunification scheme."

The elegant canal bridge is the only surviving part of the originalVictorian link between the two halves of the Great Central, not demolished after the line was originally closed. However, the metal work is corroded and the brick work in a poor state and it requires substantial work before trains can use it again. Using techniques developed for the national rail network the bridge is expected to be repaired without being lifted.To minimise disruption to the boats passing underneath the repairs are set to take place in a quieter time of the year for the canal. If the funds can be raised in time, work will start on the bridge in Autumn 2018.

Meanwhile, the new railway bridge is on track to be completed before Christmas this year. Contractors have continued to install the decking and face the concrete parts of the structure with bricks.

"We have made a significant start on reunification," continued Michael. "Far from being beyond our reach, the rail bridge is the first part of the project to be completed. There is a long way to go before trains can run and a lot of work to do. However, the more people who can support our appeal, the sooner the canal bridge will be done and that's another part of the jigsaw in place. Reunification will bring economic benefit to the area, creating jobs and attracting more visitors. We're committed to making it happen and hope people will share the vision and make a donation."

Donations can be made online at www.gcrailway.co.uk/unify or by cheque (made payable to the David Clarke Railway Trust) sent to 'Canal Bridge Appeal, David Clarke Railway Trust, Lovatt House, 3 Wharncliffe Road, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 1SL.