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Bridge to the Future

The Great Central Railway is creating a 18 mile steam operated heritage Intercity Main Line from the outskirts of Leicester to the outskirts of Nottingham!

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This is the biggest, most adventurous and most exciting project in railway preservation

You can be part of this great enterprise by making a donation here

Map of the reunification

The Great Central Railway plc and the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) are preparing to reinstate the connection between their two lines at Loughborough that was severed by British Railways in 1973 and 1980. This involves the installation of new and refurbished bridges and the building of new embankments to close the 500m gap left by British Railways. The first stage is the most critical - the manufacture and installation of a new all steel bridge that will cross the Midland Main Line just to the south of the Network Railway station at Loughborough - the Bridge to the Future. This must be completed before the Midland line is electrified and it replaces the original bridge No.328. The bridge design is complete in collaboration with our engineering consultants FJD Construction. The other bridges to be installed over Railway Terrace, donated by Network Rail after the Reading station remodelling made two bridge decks available, has been mapped out as has the track alignment for the whole scheme.

An artist’s impression of the new bridge from the Loughborough Midland platform. FJD Consulting Refurbishment of the bridge over the Grand Union Canal is expected to be started by the end of 2016 giving better access to the rebuilding of the missing embankments.

This is a multi million pound project with the first stage - the Bridge to the Future - costing over £2M. We have been fortunate to receive a grant from the Leicester and Leicestershire Economic Partnership of £1M as they see its economic benefit to the whole region. We have also raised over £1.1M from the fantastic support from ordinary members of the public and supporters of the railway who have also seen the exciting benefits that will be realised. You can also be part of this exciting project by making a donation at the Donate link below and be proud to say "I have helped make this happen". We need your support now!

Donate to the Charity Standing Orders provide a useful means of spreading the cost and give the railway a predictable income which enables better planning and project management. Gift Aid on donations, made at no costs to yourselves, gives an enormous boost to any donations you make and we urge you to consider this form of giving.

Young Engineers
A very important aspect of the project is to involve young people in the project so that they can get first hand experience of being involved in a major engineering project. Through the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative local school children will be involved in the project and will devise their own solutions to the various problems that have to be tackled in a project of this type. It is hoped that the children will be enthused about engineering and technical matters and will have a better understanding of the world of employment by involvement in the project. This aspect of the project is supported by the Institution of Civil Engineers (who will provide STEM Ambassidors) and the universities of Leicester and Loughborough who will provide technical advice and facilities.

Whole Line Map
Click here to see a map of the line from Leicester to Nottingham. Please note: The map includes reference to a new museum at Leicester North. This is the subject of a Heritage Lottery Fund award with construction anticipated to start in 2017.

History and Background
The history and background to the project may be found in an article published in the Railway Magazine in November, 2013. Click here to go to the article.

Historical project updates(prior to 22nd March 2017)

March 17th 2017
In the relatively near future, on this site, will stand a bridge.

Site of the bridge over the Midland Main Line

Work has been continuing behind the scenes since our last update and we're very close to bringing news following some very significant and positive developments.

February 2017
Work is continuing behind the scenes on the Bridge to the Future project. Further news will be posted here very soon.

28th July, 2016
On Thursday 28th July, Rob McIntosh, Route Managing Director LNE & EM visited the GCR and met with GCR CEO, Andy Munro: Nigel Harris, Editor Rail Magazine and GCR volunteer; Caroline Pollard, GCR Company Secretary and Accountant; Lili Tabiner, and Adam McAllister of FJD Construction (project managers for the scheme).

It may be raining but this Bridging the Gap inspection party are smiling. From the left: Nigel Harris, Editor ‘Rail’ magazine and GCR volunteer; Andy Munro, CEO GCR; Adam McAllister, Project manager FJD Construction; and guest Rob McIntosh Route Managing Director Network Rail, LNE & EM, are north of the Midland Main Line on 28th July, 2016. LILI TABINERRob was shown around the site of the bridge over the Midland Mainline and reiterated Network Rail’s support for the Bridging the Gap project. This was Rob’s first visit to the GCR but he was clearly impressed with the amount of work and dedication that has gone into all the planning and negotiation with various stakeholders over the years – as well as the generosity of our supporters in assembling the funding required to complete this first, but crucial element of the ‘Gap’ project by early 2017.

Rob understood the pressures GCR is under in terms of timescales and also appreciated the positive impact the project will have on regenerating Loughborough East as well as providing opportunities for training new engineers.

Establishing which organisation will own the bridge once it is completed has taken considerable time to agree as the owning organisation must meet a number of requirements specified by Network Rail. These include having sufficient financial resilience to meet any compensation claim caused by damage or disruption to the mainline rail network below. To meet this requirement the owning organisation would need to have a net present value of over £250m. This would effectively exclude GCR, leaving either Network Rail or Charnwood Borough Council as eligible organisations. Charnwood Borough Council, as GCR’s leaseholders had put forward a proposal to their Cabinet to assume responsibility for the bridge, but following very positive meetings with senior management at Network Rail, the decision has been taken that Network Rail will own the bridge. Given Network Rail’s expertise in-house and capacity to manage the asset long term, this is deemed the preferred way forward. Once the bridge is in place, Network Rail will assume responsibility for its long term maintenance and upkeep – and ultimate replacement in years to come. At the time of writing, a legal agreement to underpin this arrangement - which will also specify the terms under which GCR will run trains over the bridge and any conditions which apply, is being finalised.

Simultaneously, the final checks to the Asset Protection documentation (which gives Network Rail the assurance that the construction work will be carried out in a fully compliant manner) are being carried out within Network Rail. Work continues behind the scenes to ensure that all the insurances are in place to protect the Midland Mainline in case of any unforeseen disruptions during construction, but thus far, Network Rail are satisfied that the measures proposed meet their requirements. This will then allow GCR to issue the contract to MPB to start work on site.

Meanwhile, on the rest of the project, an agreement has been reached with Zayo, the company responsible for the Fibre Optic Cable. They will divert the entire section from a point close to the Signal Box northwards so that the cable will not interfere with any of the works going forward. Once this is done, work to restore the bridge over the Grand Union Canal can begin. Quotes for the work are being obtained from 3 specialist bridge repair companies.

Negotiations continue with Severn Trent Water regarding the diversion of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). FJD Consulting have produced a feasibility study outlining 8 possible options, each of which considers the technical challenges, physical constraints and life cycle costs. The CSO is a vital piece of infrastructure for the management of storm flows into Hermitage Brook and therefore cannot simply be removed altogether. There is however little space to construct a new CSO and the overall cost is a significant factor. To this end, a simple corrugated steel culvert with reinforced earth is regarded as the preferred and cheapest option. All that remains is for STW to approve the proposal. In summary, by the time ML 169 goes to print, we anticipate work will have started on the construction of the north abutment and Bridging the Gap will be finally underway.

27th May, 2016
At the completion of the tendering process a preferred bidder has been selected to build the bridge abutments and construct and install the new all steel bridge. After further formalities are completed, particularly with Network Rail, the contract will be awarded with construction due to start by the end of the summer.

STEM - Lili Tabiner - Examining the A60 bridge STEM Lili Tabiner - corrosion study

26th April, 2016
On 26th April, 2016 students from Woodbrook Vale School and Limehurst Academy in Loughborough visited the Great Central Railway as part of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programme. The reunification of the Great Central Railway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for schools to be actively involved in a major heritage railway construction project and to find out how STEM subjects are used in civil engineering. This is the second year that GCR, the Leicestershire Education Business Company (LEBC) and STEM Ambassadors have worked together to produce an eight week programme which takes students through all the various stages of building a railway – from planning and consultation, through the design and modelling stages to the construction and installation. This year the Institution of Civil Engineers is also a partner in the programme. The STEM programme is adapted to take advantage of whatever work is being carried out on site. Last year students undertook ecology surveys and examined soil and rock taken from boreholes on the south embankment. This year, students visited the bridge over the Grand Union Canal to study the effects of corrosion on iron structures and to learn from FJD, the work that will need to be undertaken to restore the bridge to its former glory. Samples of the rusted iron were taken back to the classroom for analysis and a further session on the properties of various metals used in construction projects. The second part of the visit took place on the north embankment where students worked with a geologist to examine the various layers of soil which lay underneath the old embankment recently removed to facilitate work on erecting a new bridge over the Midland Main Line. Samples taken from this site will also be used as part of a classroom session which will look at the specific geology in the immediate area where the bridge will be erected. Students will then work out how deep the concrete piles have to go to reach a solid base to support the new steel bridge. The programme now continues with further sessions and a grand finale to be held on 1st July, 2016 at the University of Loughborough with Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education and Sir John Armitt, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, addressing the students and presenting British Science Association CREST Awards.

3rd March, 2016
Work is underway on the bridge construction sites north and south of the Midland Main Line. Vegetation is being cleared, the sites levelled and fenced and part of the original north embankment being cleared and material sorted for use on the new embankments.

Nicky Morgan, the MP for Loughborough, cuts the first sod on 12th February, 2016 to start the project to build the new GCR bridge over the Midland Main Line at Loughborough. Graham Wignall 12th February, 2016
The big day! The GCR's Reunification Project is underway. Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough cut the first sod the commence the construction of the bridge over the Midland Main Line - the Bridge to the Future. Both Nicky and Bill Ford enthused about the start of the project that will not only enable the heritage railway to create its 19 mile intercity main line but, being the spine of a Heritage Corridor between the cities of Leicester and Nottingham will boost the tourist industry in the area and enhance the economy of the East Midlands by bring far more visitors to the area. Local businesses will benefit from the influx and it is estimated that an additional £30M will be brought into the local economy.

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