GCR’s canal bridge project

Loughborough Echo - - FRONT PAGE -

LOUGH­BOR­OUGH’S Great Cen­tral Rail­way is pre­par­ing to ren­o­vate a his­toric bridge over the Grand Union Canal as part of its project to cre­ate an 18 mile her­itage rail­way.

The bridge is a late Vic­to­rian struc­ture which crosses the canal in Lough­bor­ough, just to the north of the Rail­way’s engine sheds, close Hart­ing­ton Street.

In Septem­ber, long held am­bi­tions to build a new bridge over the four track Mid­land Main­line were re­alised by en­thu­si­asts who want to re­con­nect two halves of the Great Cen­tral Rail­way.

This bridge was the first part of a chain of in­fras­truc­ture that needs to be re­built to cre­ate an 18 mile her­itage line run­ning al­most be­tween Le­ices­ter and Not­ting­ham.

Michael Gough, the Rail­way’s general man­ager said: “As the fi­nal touches are ap­plied to the new bridge, the ques­tion now be­ing asked is ‘What next?’

“The most ob­vi­ous sec­tion to tackle next is ren­o­vat­ing the bridge over the Grand Union Canal.

“Un­der­tak­ing this work does not re­quire plan­ning per­mis­sion and ac­cess to the site is rel­a­tively easy from both the rear of the engine shed and from the canal tow­path be­neath.”

A full sur­vey was car­ried out on the bridge in 2014 which al­lowed con­trac­tors to es­tab­lish what work is needed to re­pair it.

It last car­ried trains in 1969 be­fore the orig­i­nal Great Cen­tral Rail­way was shut by Bri­tish Rail­ways.

Michael added: “We have ob­tained three quotes for the work and ex­pect it to cost in the re­gion of £400,000.

“We be­lieve we can raise the funds for the work over the next 12 months.”

To avoid dis­rup­tion to canal boat traffic, which is at its busiest in the sum­mer months, the rail­way is look­ing to carry out the work in au­tumn 2018.

The over­all re­uni­fi­ca­tion project re­mains close to the hearts of the rail­way’s thou­sands of sup­port­ers who have wanted to see the Great Cen­tral Rail­way PLC based in Le­ices­ter­shire and the Great Cen­tral Rail­way (Not­ting­ham) re­con­nected.

Over the past four years, there has been a con­certed ef­fort to fi­nally achieve this am­bi­tion, and a ma­jor fund rais­ing drive was launched in 2013 to take the project for­ward.

Thanks to the gen­eros­ity of sup­port­ers, and a £1m grant from the Le­ices­ter and Le­ices­ter­shire Lo­cal En­ter­prise Part­ner­ship, close to £3m has been raised with £2.5m spent on erect­ing the bridge over the main line.

The re­main­der has been spent on de­signs and plans for the re­main­ing sec­tions.

The project is a com­plex one with many chal­lenges to over­come, not least the need to meet mod­ern en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards.

Fur­ther­more, in re­cent years, build­ing work has en­croached onto the orig­i­nal em­bank­ment; also the newly built bridge span­ning the main line rail­way, and an ac­cess road to a re­cy­cling cen­tre, re­quire ad­di­tional clear­ance.

To over­come these con­straints, a new align­ment has been de­signed to en­sure the line can be suc­cess­fully in­stalled with mod­ern ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques be­ing em­ployed to com­ply with 21st cen­tury reg­u­la­tions.

The Rail­way’s sup­port­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion, Friends of Great Cen­tral Main Line is aim­ing to kick start the Canal Bridge project with an ini­tial grant of £10,000.

Photo by Gra­ham Wig­nall.

Great Cen­tral Rail­way is pre­par­ing to ren­o­vate a his­toric bridge over the Grand Union Canal as part of its project to cre­ate an 18 mile her­itage rail­way. The bridge is a late Vic­to­rian struc­ture which crosses the canal in Lough­bor­ough, just to the north of the Rail­way’s engine sheds, close Hart­ing­ton Street. Pic­tured are en­gi­neers in­spect­ing the canal bridge struc­ture to as­sess the re­pairs re­quired. Photo by Gra­ham Wig­nall.

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