Funded by Network Rail, the vision of the Mend the Gap programme is that “The outstanding landscape that links the Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs will be enhanced and enriched for wildlife, residents and visitors, helping to heal and soften the scars left by electrification of the Great Western main line.”
The programme aims to deliver projects and schemes that will, in combination, help to reduce and compensate for the visual harm done to the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs AONBs by the electrification of the Great Western main line, where it runs through the two AONBs.
The programme area covers the railway corridor along a 20km stretch of line between the outskirts of Reading and Didcot and 3km either side of the line.
£3,000,000 will be spent on Enhancement Projects within the wider corridor of the electrification works along this part of the line. Enhancement projects could include schemes that benefit landscape; nature and biodiversity; access, understanding and recreation; heritage; sustainable tourism and the local economy within the programme area.
Find out more about the types of projects and schemes that could be supported by looking at the recently published Enhancement Project Criteria.
£750,000 is earmarked for Mitigation Projects, such as tree planting and hedgerow restoration to help screen, mask, distract from and soften the impact of the steel gantries and other electrical equipment which have been installed in the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs AONBs along the 20km stretch of line between the outskirts of Reading and Didcot.
Mend the Gap is jointly led by the Chilterns Conservation Board, North Wessex Downs AONB and the Railway Action Group (a group of local community members who were instrumental in highlighting the harm being done to the AONBs and in the campaign to reduce these impacts) and will involve working with landowners, the local community and partner organisations to identify and deliver projects that will collectively enhance the affected areas.
Mend the Gap is not a grant scheme but is seeking to identify and support projects that will contribute towards meeting the programme’s overall vision of softening the scars left by the electrification of the Great Western mainline by enhancing and enriching the outstanding landscape that links the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs for wildlife, residents and visitors.
To find out more about Mend the Gap and the types of projects and schemes that we are interested in supporting please feel free to contact our Programme Manager, Jo Watson.
Jo Watson, Mend the Gap Programme Manager
Network Rail started installing gantries in 2015 as part of a major electrification project on the Great Western mainline. Electrification requires the installation of infrastructure, including masts and gantries to carry the wires above the track. The Chilterns Conservation Board, the North Wessex Downs AONB and local residents in the Railway Action Group called for the gantries to be replaced with a better design of equipment which would be less visually intrusive in these nationally-protected landscapes.
Watch the campaign video made in 2015 to see the gantries and learn more about the campaign that led to the Mend the Gap programme.
Network Rail convened an Overhead Line Electrification Within the AONB Advisory Group, which included the Chilterns AONB and North Wessex Downs AONB. The main purpose was to provide specialist technical advice to help with the review of alternative design options for the gantries. Although Network Rail ultimately determined that replacement or changes to the gantries were not feasible for the Great Western electrification project, the lessons learned have already resulted in better designs being installed through the Cotswolds AONB.
Network Rail has developed new guidelines to ensure that protected landscapes are considered carefully in future rail electrification projects.
For a video, photo gallery and documents library about the local community campaign see Save the Goring Gap