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Disused rail tunnel to become UK test centre 11 Jan 2018

TunnelTalk reporting

After sitting disused and derelict since 1966, the Victorian Catesby railway tunnel in Northamptonshire in the UK is to receive a new lease of life as an aerodynamic vehicle-testing centre. Built in 1897, the 2.7km long tunnel was on the route of the former Great Central Main Line that was closed in 1966.

New plans for rail tunnel after 50 years derelict
New plans for rail tunnel after 50 years derelict

The transformation project will see the remodelling of the perfectly straight tunnel into a smooth asphalt roadway, with lighting, end closures and other substantial upgrades. Designed by the Roger Coy Partnership and carried out by the construction and civil engineering firm Stepnell of the West Midlands, the transformed tunnel and the adjoining 4.5 acre science park of offices, workshops and research laboratories will be used for testing automotive and race car development.

The Catesby Aero Research Facility project is commissioned for Brackley-based Aero Research Partners (ARP) and is being funded by a £4.2 million award from the UK Government Local Growth Fund through the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership.

“The original tunnel is in remarkable condition given the low levels of maintenance since its decommissioning in the 1960s,” said Richard Wakeford, Director of Stepnell. Early works will be construction of the access roads to the site and to the disused rail tunnel.

“We now have planning permission and much of the required budget secured, with investors ready to join the project early in 2018 to advance the construction work towards an expected opening date of the centre by late 2019,” said Dr Rob Lewis OBE, Managing Director of ARP. “The facility will give the UK an aerodynamic research centre for hire and we intend to explore also academic collaborations and to engage with schools and inspire children into the world of science, technology, engineering and maths.” The research facility is expected to employ about 50 staff.

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