GCRD submits growth fund bid to 'bridge the gap'
By: Gareth Bayer
£2.5 million from the Regional Growth Fund would kick start reunification of two separate railways by connecting the GCR and GCR(N) at Loughborough.
A BID FOR a £2.5m from the new Government Regional Growth Fund has been made by the Great Central Railway Development Company. If successful it would enable construction work to start to reunify the two operational sections of the Great Central Railway main line.
As well stimulating growth in regional rail freight and passenger traffic, the reunified 18-mile main line will enable GCR to expand existing tourist, rail freight and rail industry trials/testing business, creating almost 200 new jobs and attracting up to 60,000 new visitors every year. The completed route would also be connected to the national railway
Reinstating 500 metres of missing railway at Loughborough will create an unbroken 18-mile independent main line for the East Midlands. The eight=-mile long Loughborough Central to Leicester North section would be connected to the nine-mile Loughborough Junction-Ruddington section. With a diverse partnership of public and private sector bodies and substantial input from a small army of volunteers the project chimes perfectly with the Government’s ‘big society’ vision.
GCR Development Chairman Nigel Harris said: “The bid will allow us to make a physical start on work and employ key members of the project team. Crucially it will also lever in £12.5million pounds of private investment to complete the project. We’ve spent a long time putting together the bid with local authorities and stakeholders and now we have a concrete proposal which will bring benefits right across the local economy. GCRD is in discussion with a number of private sector companies which have pledged significant financial and other support for GCR reunification”
The development company was formed last September by the two separate GCR railways, specifically to reconnect them.
“This is an exciting, innovative and ingenious RGF bid, intended to kick-start the re-connection of these two existing operational private railways, which will deliver a fantastic economic boost for Loughborough and the East Midlands region,” said Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan. “The reunified railway will be much more than the sum of its parts and it will create jobs and attract major new business into the region.”
In 2009 the GCR reunification plan has been properly validated by a £235,000 feasibility study, carried out by international consultants Atkins, jointly funded by East Midlands Development Agency and the Great Central Railway. It established the project has a benefit to cost ratio of 2.8. Competitive tendering to reduce construction costs could push the ratio even higher.
The £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund was launched by Government in December 2010 to create new jobs, attract business and boost private sector investment in areas where the local economy has declined. In the East Midlands, in addition to public sector cutbacks, the loss of private sector companies such as Astra Zeneca, Loughborough is in urgent need of new investment and reunification plans will deliver major economic and social benefits.
In the short term, the GCR would also:
• Become a magnet for all kinds of rail excursions from all points of the UK compass. Premier railtour operator Steam Dreams envisages not only visits by its day excursions from all over the south east, but also the overnight staging of its multi-day tours, several times a year, requiring 350 hotel rooms each time.
• Provide an eighteen mile railway for use by the national rail industry to test machines, trial rolling stock and teach staff. The facility would be right on the doorstep of Loughborough’s Brush works and railway companies based around Derby.
• A new facility and capacity to enable despatch by rail, of increased stone traffic from the Lafarge Quarry at Mountsorrel in a carbon-friendly manner, avoiding road moves.
• Strengthen the GCR’s existing partnership with the National Railway Museum with further benefits to the local service sector economy.
Further long term potential benefits of GCR reunification include:
• A purpose-built training centre to enhance and expand the provision of rail engineering skills and professional development.
• Safeguarding the existing 1,500 tons a day of gypsum which runs weekdays to British Gypsum, at East Leake, via the already-network connected GCRN.
• With increased GCR capacity, the prospect of British Gypsum despatching finished product (plasterboard) for the first time from East Leake
• An envisaged interchange with the already-approved NET2 light rail extension to Clifton, which will pass just 1,200 metres from the GCR’s current northern limit, north of Ruddington.
“Over the last 40 years, GCR volunteers have created two successful, independent railways from derelict land, almost entirely from their own resources and with no demands on the public purse. It’s perfect ‘Big Society’ at work, “ said GCRD Chairman Nigel Harris. “Now we’re asking for relatively modest assistance to join up those two railways to create something unique and even more successful. A £2.5m RGF award brings in five times the value from the private sector. The fund would trigger the investment to give the East Midlands this unique independent main line railway with benefits starting to be felt ahead of the next General Election.”
Chaired by Lord Heseltine, the RGF panel will announce which of the 450 applications submitted are going forward for further consideration, and which bids will be rejected, within 50 days of the final submission date of January 21st.
Lord Heseltine said: "The level of response to this fund shows how innovative and enterprising people can be when they are not given a strict set of criteria to adhere to. We purposely did not tell them what bids should look like – only highlighted the issues they need to address. My colleagues and I will now assess each bid and decide which proposals we believe will have a role in boosting the private sector and helping those adversely affected by cuts in the public sector."
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