Great Central Railway reunification on track

The Great Central Railway's landmark project to create an eighteen mile heritage railway remains on course to succeed. Despite the government announcing work to electrify the Midland Main Line has been paused, Network Rail will still assist the heritage line in building a critical new bridge.

Reuniting the two halves of the Great Central in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire requires five hundred metres of Victorian railway to be replaced. A key component is a new bridge to carry the heritage trains over the four tracks of the Midland Line at Loughborough. This structure was originally expected to be installed during work to electrify the Midland Line later this year.

The decision regarding electrification will mean the timescale to install the new bridge will change. However, at a recent meeting Network Rail and the Great Central re-iterated their joint commitment to complete the work. In time this will ultimately allow the rest of the reunification project to be completed.

Bill Ford, the Managing Director of the Great Central Railway said, "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. 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.”

Nine hundred and twenty thousand pounds has been raised towards the building of the bridge after the GCR launched a nationwide appeal in 2013. The money has been donated by railway enthusiasts around the world and by many others in the local community. 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. As a result more money may be required to complete this element of reunification.

Richard Walker, Route Delivery Director, Network Rail, said: “We are understandably disappointed that electrification has been paused, but in every challenge lies the seed of opportunity. 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.”

Public money has not been invested in the project but several members of staff from Network Rail have freely given their time to the community led scheme.

Bill Ford concluded, "So many people across the country, young and old have donated towards the cost of the new bridge. Together with our plans for a new railway museum at Leicester North, the reunification vision represent a real legacy for future generations. 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!"

Last updated September 2015