Central Railway (UK)

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The route of the new line

Central Railway was a British company which proposed to build a new intermodal freight railway line, with a generous loading gauge, connecting the Channel Tunnel with the north of England, using much of the trackbed of the former Great Central Railway. The company argued that such a line could significantly cut road congestion by carrying lorries on flatbed trucks.

The company was formed in the late 1980s, and its proposals were controversial and faced opposition. The plans were rejected by the government in 1996 and again in 2003, largely because of doubts over financing its £8 billion cost, even though it is a private-sector project.[1]

Although the Central Railway scheme did not go ahead, a similar scheme is (October 2013) under discussion as an alternative to the HS2 project.[2]


The line would run from the Liverpool Docks to Sheffield using the disused Woodhead Tunnel and then turn south via the Erewash Valley, joining the former Great Central Main Line (much of whose trackbed is still intact) south of Leicester. At a rebuilt Ashendon Junction it would join the Chiltern Main Line, running alongside it on new tracks, then paralleling the M25 motorway, entering a new tunnel between Leatherhead and Merstham and then running alongside existing railways via Tonbridge to the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.[1] An alternative route would see the line joining High Speed 1 to the tunnel, if the latter railway were to allow non-passenger trains.


The line would carry goods lorries between the continent and the Midlands and north of England. It could also help facilitate railfreight connections between the north of England and the ports of Felixstowe and Southampton. Trains 1.5 km long would carry up to 80 lorry trailers each, in the manner of American piggyback services. It could be operated by diesel locomotives, at least in the first instance, in order to save on electrification costs.[1]

The promoters state that lorries already make a modal interchange to go through the Channel Tunnel. The Central Railway scheme would simply make the interchange between points 400 km or more apart, rather than 40 km at present, saving haulage companies fuel and drastically reducing carbon emissions.

Financial backing[edit]

In early 2006, the company said that 11 banks were backing the project.[1]


The Chief Executive of Central Railway was Alan Stevens who is now (October 2013) a UKIP county councillor in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.[3][4]


  1. ^ a b c d "Central Railway: down, but not out". Modern Railways (London). February 2006. p. 46. 
  2. ^ Arthur Martin (2013-10-28). "Railway line shut by Beeching 'can save us £36bn': Critics put forward alternative route using track closed in the 1960s | Mail Online". London: Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  3. ^ Gilligan, Andrew (2013-10-27). "HS2: now Labour look at an alternative scheme". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  4. ^ "Councillor details - Alan Stevens - Buckinghamshire County Council". Democracy.buckscc.gov.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-30. 

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