The Loughborough Gap is a short, disused section of the former Great Central Main Line in the northeastern corner of Loughborough, England, between the northern and southern sections of the present-day Great Central Railway.
As a relatively late-developed railway in the United Kingdom, the GCR was resultantly forced to take some expensive civil engineering choices to complete their route. Just north of Loughborough Central, the railway had to cross the existing Leicester section of the Grand Union Canal, before then crossing the existing Midland Main Line formation as well as avoiding the Hermitage Brook, before moving northwards to Nottingham.
Choosing to approach the location on a raised embankment, the railway engineers used a steel-decked span bridge to cross the canal, before using a double-deck, double-width steel-decked span bridge to cross the Midland Railway.
After the decision was made to shut the GCR as part of the Beeching Axe, in the late 1960s contractors were appointed to remove the railway tracks and major parts of the civil engineering infrastructure. This included the section north of Loughborough Central to north of the Midland Mainline. Contractors initially removed the railway tracks, before also removing the bridges and supporting buttresses over the Midland mainline, and then the embankment to its south. Unfortunately, the following year the Hermitage Brook flooded, resulting in additional contractors being engaged to reimplement part of the railways former embankment.
After the formation of the Great Central as a heritage railway, bridging the resultant "gap" always became a significant challenge to realise the full operational vision. In the mean time, Morley Street industrial estate had been developed on part of the embankments former formation, whilst Loughborough Borough Council had developed, filled with household wate and then covered a landfill to the south. The GCR itself, having started it re-implementation of the GCR line from Loughborough Central to the south, had developed its main locomotive shed on the old alignment to the north of the station.
The Gap is 500 m (550 yd) long, and approximately 30 m (33 yd) wide for most of its length, running due north approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) north from Loughborough Central. It is bounded: to the west by the northeasternmost part of Loughborough, including the Loughborough Midland station and Morley Street industrial estate; to the east by the covered former household refuse site; and to the north and south by GCR's northern and southern sections respectively.
Current plans for bridging the gap, using a single-track line, include:
- Removing the Loughborough north shed
- The Loughborough Top Shed project would then rebuild the recovered remnants of the former LNWR Workington, Cumbria steam shed on an old landfill site, just to the north-east of the current shed
- Using two donated 17 m (19 yd) spans of the former Great Western Mainline to the west of Reading, removed in April 2011 by Network Rail when revamping the station as part of an £825million project. These will be used to bridge the gap over the Midland Main Line.
- To renovate the residual bridge over the canal
Once complete, the project will create a combined 18 miles (29 km) heritage railway.
After the UK Government's announcement in 2012 that the Midland Mainline would be electrified by 2018, the project timescales to be completed or not were implemented. In 2013, the GCR engaged Network Rail to act as project engineers, project manager and main contractor to complete the project. In June 2013, the GCR and Network Rail signed an agreement to allow bridging of the Midland Mainline, including the underlying operations, maintenance and legal liability agreements for such.
Preliminary works began January 2014 with boreholes being drilled in preparation for the bridge over the Midland Mainline at Loughborough.
- "The Loughborough 'Gap'". Great Central Today. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Old Reading station bridge joins Great Central Railway". BBC News. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Great Central Railway bridges Loughborough gap". rail.co.uk. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Great Central Railway bridge preparation work begins". BBC. 11 January 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Loughborough Gap.|
- Project website (archived version - original now offline)
- Great Central Railway.
- Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre.