Funded by Network Rail, the Mend the Gap programme will seek to restore natural beauty in this landscape, which has been adversely impacted by electrification of the railway, and address the impact on local communities and the visitor economy.
£750,000 is earmarked for line-side tree planting and vegetation to help screen the steel gantries and other electrical equipment which have been installed in the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs AONB along a 20km stretch of line between the outskirts of Reading and Didcot. A further £3 million will be spent on landscape enhancement projects within the wider corridor of the electrification works along this part of the line.
Mend the Gap is being led by the Chilterns Conservation Board, North Wessex Downs AONB and the Railway Action Group and will involve working with landowners, the local community, and partners to identify and deliver projects that will collectively enhance the affected areas.
We are currently in the process of making arrangements for how the programme funds will be allocated. When the arrangements have been agreed we will announce more.
Our new Programme Manager, Jo Watson, is now in post.
Jo can be contacted at email@example.com
Network Rail started installing the 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 this funded project.
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 was 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