Canal Bridge Completed

From Loughborough comes news that a major two-day operation at the start of this month has ‘all but’ finished the overhaul of the elegant Victorian railway bridge which spans the Grand Union Canal in the town.

The relevance of this restoration for our village is that it marks another step forward for the eighteen mile heritage line vision between Ruddington and Leicester North by reconnecting the currently separate sections of tracks operated by volunteers from our own Great Central Railway – Nottingham (GCRN) and Loughborough’s Great Central Railway (GCR).

Built in the late 1890s, the old canal bridge has been overhauled and fully restored to carry steam and vintage diesel trains again as part of an ambitious expansion of the Great Central Railway. During the first week of July, two days of work saw the completion of an eighteen month programme of works to refurbish the bridge – which last carried a train in 1972.

This bridge is part of a 500 metre long chain of infrastructure which will join up the two halves of the old Great Central Railway severed by British Rail when the link was removed after the line closed in 1969. As previously reported, already a brand new bridge has been built over the Midland Main Line at Loughborough. Fundraising is now underway for the ‘Factory Flyover’ and ‘Railway Terrace’ Road Bridge to finish the job.

The refurbishment of the canal bridge is in fact the second of seven phases of work in the long term ‘Reunification’ project. The Chairman of the Friends of the Great Central Main Line, Andy Fillingham says: “Once again we have to say a very big thank you to everyone who has supported the appeal to reunify the railways, particularly the crossing the canal campaign. It’s an amazing what have all achieved together and shows how people power is getting the two railways reconnected.”

Work on the canal bridge was expected to be completed early in the year but was delayed first by winter storms and then the COVID-19 pandemic ‘lockdown’. Some minor work remains to be carried out on the Loughborough landmark followed by a final inspection to ensure it is fit for use. The contractors managed to carry out the work with only one closure of the canal – which took place in November and December 2019 – to avoid excessive disruption to pleasure boats.

Andy continues: “We’re now raising money for the next stage of the Great Central Railway Reunification project. Installing two more bridges that are needed is expected to cost three million pounds. Despite the lockdown and uncertain times supporters from across the East Midlands and further afield have been very generous and we have now raised one hundred and seventy thousand pounds and the total is climbing all the time. We’re delighted to have some good news to share about the canal bridge in these difficult days. We can’t continue to build until we have raised the majority of the money but hope that everything that has happened so far will inspire people to find out more, get involved and donate.”

The railway has been hosting online talks about Reunification showcasing the work so far. The next one is due to take place via Zoom on Sunday July 26th at 7pm for which you can book >>HERE<<. You’re asked for a minimum donation of ten pounds to be treated to a fully illustrated seventy five minute presentation – which will be updated with videos of the dramatic canal bridge repairs.

You can watch part of the latest video below to whet your appetite…

Find out more about the project at

{Images courtesy of Great Central Railway}

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