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The Lichfield Canal has to tunnel under the busy Cross-city railway line from Lichfield to Birmingham through a well-elevated embankment, a difficult obstacle in terms of railway management, especially where there are foundations for overhead line electrification equipment as there are in this case. In 2007, despite those in the “it can’t be done” camp, when the Lichfield Southern Bypass was to reach Birmingham Road the Trust raised £490,000 without grants to install a canal culvert under the new roadway, stopping just short of the railway embankment. Plans by County Highways to extend the Southern Bypass are well advanced where there is a vital Agreement in Principle with Network Rail to drive the road through and install a new railway bridge during a brief possession of the line, probably in late 2019. That means work must begin many months before that.
Design specifications mean that the road and canal culvert have to stand apart by a short distance with the culvert still below road level, which obviously could have a dynamic influence on the bridge abutments. The work is such that it would be immensely more difficult and substantially more expensive to construct the culvert after the road is completed, and particularly so if proposals for two 400+ house developments either side of the railway go ahead. Will 25 years of successful restoration be “stopped in its tracks” and placed beyond reach?
Above, Birmingham Road roundabout and beyond it the railway embankment through which the new bypass road and canal will be tunnelled.
A culvert for the canal has already been installed under the roundabout at the time of its construction in 2007.
Below, February 2007 and the culvert is nearing completion. The line of the canal can be seen heading towards the middle catenary support. The catenary is the main reason the road and canal tunnels have to be separated.
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Left - An artist’s impression by Peter Buck and Andrew Wood looking towards the southern bypass with the new canal tunnel on the left and the new road bridge on the right.
A culvert has already been installed under the roundabout on the opposite side of the railway embankment to connect with the new tunnel.
Below left - A Google Earth view of approximately the same location.
Click the pictures for a larger view
Bird’s eye view of the site
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Sketch by Peter Buck January 2016
Whilst routine works still go ahead with modest funding streams, professional estimates put the cost of this railway tunnel around £1 million. In reality, this must be in hand by early 2019 so that contract commitments by the County Council can be made with certainty. It can be done, it must be done, but institutional funding is not the answer. Success depends on the heart of the nation in responding to the Lichfield Canal “Tunnel Vision” Appeal.
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David and Sheila Suchet visited the site of the proposed tunnel under the railway in June 2016.
The Trust reserves the right to apply funding at its discretion. The money may be used for other road crossings if the railway tunnel is seriously delayed.