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The development of an eighteen mile heritage railway across the East Midlands is on track as contractors prepare to build a key bridge. The 30 metre structure will one day carry Great Central Railway trains over the Midland Main Line and should be in place by late Autumn this year.

Contractors are now preparing the ground for the construction work and the large piling rig has moved into place and started driving the first of eight piles required to support the north abutment. A pile driving machine of this size has been brought in because of the high-water table. Each of the piles will go down 14 metres into the ground. Once it has finished, it will be loaded onto a low loader and then driven via local roads approximately quarter of a mile, to end up 30 metres away on the site of the southern bridge abutment! Again, there are eight piles to drive on this side.

A low brick wall (part of the original southern GCR bridge abutment constructed ahead of the opening of the railway in 1899) was removed to allow the pile driving machine access. The new railway will have a centre line fractionally further to the south than the 1899 alignment.
Piling 1

Piling 3

When the piling rig has left the north side, the abutment itself will start to appear, which will ultimately support the new bridge deck. The work is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Construction of the new bridge and rail link will also give the southern half of the Great Central access to the national network. In turn this will mean excursion trains can access the planned new Heritage Lottery funded rail museum to be built in Leicester.

Phil Stanway – Director GCR(N) said  “Although work has never ceased behind the scenes, the start of the next stage of ground works is pleasing to see and also proof that the bridge IS happening and, although not always evident, IS happening now. There is still a large amount to do but each stage brings us closer to a unified “Greater, Great Central Mainline” and all the benefits it will bring between Ruddington Fields and Leicester North and also to the surrounding area.

With not only the bridge but also the museum at Leicester North gathering pace, these are excited times that we are privileged to be a part of and will support in any way we can. I look forward to the day that I can bring my wife and children all the way from Ruddington to Leicester North by train, spend time looking round the museum and then travel back again. This will be such a testament to all those from both GCR PLC & GCR(N) who have helped along the way in any form, however large or small.

After the closure of the original Great Central line by British Rail in 1969, a section of the route survived in the East Midlands. However, when 2 bridges and an embankment were removed it was physically divided into two. Both separate lines have been preserved by enthusiasts for heritage trains. They have committed to link up but five hundred metres of track between them needs to be rebuilt. The new bridge is the first key piece of infrastructure to be reinstated.


Published: 12 July 2017 19:45

Author: Phil Stanway