Fundraising begins for the next section of the ambitious ‘Reunification’ project for the Great Central Railway. Two stages of the scheme to create an eighteen-mile heritage line is now complete and one hundred thousand pounds has already been committed for phase three.
Plans to reconnect the two halves of the Great Central creating a heritage railway spanning the East Midlands are taking a major step forward with the announcement of a new fundraising drive.
The Friends of the Great Central Main Line, (the members club which supports the award-winning visitor attraction) has set a target of three million pounds to build two more major pieces of infrastructure.
The Great Central Railway running between Loughborough and Leicester is separated from another section of the line (which runs northwards towards Nottingham) by just 500 metres of missing rails, bridges and embankments. These were lost following the closure of the line in the 1960s. The project to rebuild the line is called ‘Reunification’ and will create an eighteen-mile heritage railway.
Two pieces of the project have now been completed; a brand-new bridge to carry heritage trains over the Midland Main Line at Loughborough and the refurbishment of an existing bridge over the Grand Union canal.
“We’ve already achieved so much to reunify the two halves of the Great Central Railway,” said Andy Fillingham, the Chairman of the Friends of the Great Central Main Line. “Millions of pounds have been raised and spent already on delivering this exciting project. Now we want to build not one, but two further sections which include crossing a factory car park and a road called Railway Terrace.”
The next phase of the fundraising campaign has been dubbed the ‘Factory Flyover’. Two bridge decks which Network Rail had no further use for and were able to generously donate to the Great Central, will be incorporated into the work. Building two pieces of the jigsaw at the same time – rather than separately – is expected to be cheaper overall.
“We have an ambitious target for our new appeal of three million pounds. We’ve already raised that amount of money for previous elements of the project so we know it can be done with everyone’s support,”continued Andy.
One hundred thousand pounds is already ‘in the pot’ towards the three million-pound target. While Friends role is to raise the money and promote the scheme, the donations go to the David Clarke Railway Trust which supports the Great Central. Money raised for reunification goes into a ‘ringfenced’ fund meaning it can only be used for that purpose. They have recently announced the 400th donor has signed up to give money every month. This is on top of donors who make a ‘one off’ gift.
“We know so many people from around the world are interested in seeing reunification succeed,” added Andy. “We’re humbled and delighted by the financial support we’re receiving.
“We truly believe we can succeed and deliver not only a heritage railway for the nation to be proud of but also an economic asset which supports the East Midlands service sector.
“With momentum building we are not daunted by our new fundraising challenge. Work can only proceed when we have the vast majority of funds available so if you want to see this happen, now is the time to get on board and support the Factory Flyover appeal.”
To find out more about the project, see progress updates and to donate on line head to www.gcrailway.co.uk/unify