- Updated: 18 February, 2016
The two East Midlands' heritage railways (Great Central Railway – Loughborough and Great Central Railway - Nottingham) are working together to re-unite two sections of one of the last great Victorian railways, the former Great Central Railway (GCR), to create an 18 mile railway which will deliver economic benefit, create jobs and be a tourist attraction.
The project, entitled 'Bridge to the Future,' aims to reinstate the missing 500 metre rail link between the two railways by:
- Building a single span bridge across the Midland Mainline, south of the existing Loughborough Midland Mainline station.
- Reinstating an embankment, but with a new alignment and reduced footprint.
- Erecting a bridge across Railway Terrace and Preci Spark car park.
- Refurbishing and making good the Grand Union canal crossing to the north of Loughborough Central station.
- Refurbishing a bridge over the A60 Loughborough to Nottingham road
Works began with a turf cutting ceremony by Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan on Friday 12th February 2016, but when complete, the reinstated link will connect the GCR – Nottingham's heritage transport museum at Ruddington, on the outskirts of Nottingham, to GCR – Loughborough's Leicester North station, on the site of former Birstall GCR station, adjacent to the site of the proposed National Railway Museum outreach centre.
The estimated cost for bridging the gap is £8 million. GCR supporters have donated over £1 million and an allocation from the Local Growth Fund grant of £1m from the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).
The Great Central Railway opened to traffic in 1899 but closed following the Beeching Review in 1976. Two sections between Nottingham and Leicester were acquired by separate heritage railway groups but a section separating the two was removed by British rail shortly after closure.