Victorian Great Central Railway tunnel to be turned into automotive testing facility

From left:  Ian Bramble, Luke Abbott (Roger Coy Partnership), Rob Lewis (ARP), Roger Coy (Roger Coy Partnership) and Richard Wakeford (of Stepnell, who are supporting ARP with the project). NNL-170108-132737001
From left: Ian Bramble, Luke Abbott (Roger Coy Partnership), Rob Lewis (ARP), Roger Coy (Roger Coy Partnership) and Richard Wakeford (of Stepnell, who are supporting ARP with the project). NNL-170108-132737001

A Victorian railway tunnel is to be converted into a testing facility for the automotive industry after the project received £4.2million in government funding.

Brackley firm Aero Research Partners (ARP) is behind the project which would see the Catesby Tunnel become part of a science park.

The 2.7km long tunnel is perfectly straight and was part of the Great Central Railway’s London extension which closed in 1966.

The money, which has come from South East Midlands Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), is to be spent on installing a smooth asphalt roadway, lighting and end closures amongst other substantial upgrades.

The 4.5 acre science park will include offices, workshop units, and a research facility and would create around 50 new jobs. Planning permission was granted in February.

Dr Rob Lewis, managing director of TotalSim, which is part of ARP, said: “It is an important step as we look to start work on the tunnel in October with a view to it becoming operational in 2019.

“The goal is to keep the tunnel open for the automotive industry in Britain, Europe and the rest of the world, rather than it being used exclusively by a single manufacturer.

“Without this testing facility, the structure would have been lost, along with a unique opportunity.

“We are very grateful to the Highways England Historical Railways Estate for believing in our project and supporting us for the last six years.”