Official start of works on bridge over Midland main line

Train on Great Central Railway

One of the biggest projects in railway preservation is about to get underway. A new bridge will be built in Loughborough to carry the tracks of the award winning heritage line, the Great Central Railway over the Midland Main Line.

The new bridge is part of a chain of infrastructure which will ultimately allow two halves of the Great Central Railway to reconnect, creating an eighteen mile heritage line between Leicester and Nottingham.

After three years of planning and fundraising, contractors will start on site in mid-February. A traditional Victorian style 'turning of the first sod' ceremony (which took place at the start of the many railway construction projects) will take place on Friday the 12th of February at 1pm. The ceremony will be carried out by the Nicky Morgan who is MP for Loughborough.

"This is a very exciting moment," said Bill Ford, Managing Director of the Great Central Railway. "We have cherished this vision for decades, so to finally make a start on the ground is very important for us. So many people around the world and in the local community have donated money which has given the project life. Today’s start of work is a tribute to their faith. We know they'll be watching as the work progresses!"

Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough will be joined by local school children who have been studying railway and bridge design as part of a STEM curriculum project (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). She said "I am delighted to be asked to formally inaugurate the building work for the reunification of the Great Central Railway. Joining the two halves of the Great Central will place Loughborough at the centre point of an 18 mile heritage line, attracting more visitors and bringing new jobs and investment to Loughborough as well as the wider East Midlands economy."

The project to rebuild the missing link between the two halves of the Great Central Railway has become known as 'bridging the gap'. The ‘gap’ came about when the original Great Central line closed in the 1960s and structures were removed by British Railways.

The new bridge is just over thirty metres in length and will carry a single track of the Great Central, over four tracks of the main line between Derby and London St Pancras. The first phase of works on site will involve clearing vegetation and constructing a site compound. Planning permission for the bridge which will cross the railway below in a 'single span' was obtained in 2014.

“This moment marks the first page of a whole new chapter in the story of both the GCR & GCRN and for everyone who has been involved in reunification project over the years. To finally see something that for years was nothing more than a vision, finally becoming a reality is testament to everyone who has helped in any way, however large or small by donating money, time or expertise to get us to where we are today” Phil Stanway Director GCRN

The project was originally to be managed by Network Rail as part of the electrification of the Midland Main Line. However, following the 'pausing' and 'restarting' of the electrification, the Great Central will now drive the project forward itself, with Network Rail providing support.

More than one million pounds was raised towards the work after a public appeal. Meanwhile a further one million pounds has been granted by the Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership towards other elements of the scheme.
Besides the bridge, reconnecting the two railways involves reinstating an embankment and repairing other bridges which have survived. The GCR is preparing to submit a planning application for these works which will proceed as funding permits.

The completed railway could be open within five years, to tie in with the new Heritage Lottery funded railway museum being developed at the southern terminus at Leicester North.