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New Visitor Entrance Ramp formally opened

On Friday 26 April the new access ramp at Didcot Railway Centre was officially opened by Lord Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail and our President) and Joe Graham (Business Assurance and Strategy Director Great Western Railway). The new entrance to the Railway Centre is through an extension to the subway at Didcot Parkway station, and replaces a narrow staircase. 

Clive Hetherington (Chief Executive of Didcot Railway Centre) holding the ceremonial padlock with Lord Hendy turning the key. Behind them are Joe Graham (Business Assurance and Strategy Director of Great Western Railway) and Richard Preston (Chairman of the Great Western Society which runs Didcot Railway Centre) 

Construction of the ramp started in September 2023, initially with contractors digging a very large hole, inserting piles to support the structure then pouring reinforced concrete for the walls and floor of the ramp. There are still some details to complete the project, but it will be open to visitors from the weekend of 4, 5 and 6 May for the Railway Centre’s 'Steam into the 40s' event.

Representatives of the contractors and our Project Manager were also in attendance and both Peter and Joe commented on the quality of the work and our forward thinking in making the centre accessible to families and people with limited mobility. Peter suggested that we should put the project forward for an award.

The ramp has cost about £800,000 to construct, funded by legacies and donations from members of the Great Western Society. It will open the Railway Centre’s potential with easy access to people who would have been put off in the past by the unavoidable narrow stairs.

Lord Hendy asserted that: “You can’t have a modern museum without proper access.” and Clive Hetherington added: “It’s been a long time planning but finally we have got it done.

The opening party climbing the new wide staircase which is an alternative to the ramp which can be seen in the background

After the opening ceremony, and having taken suitable refreshment, the participants enjoyed a trip in our GWR diesel raicar. Lord Hendy took the opportunity to take the controls of the railcar, built in 1940 as a result of collaboration between the Great Western Railway and AEC of Southall. The railcar is powered by two AEC bus engines, and is of particular interest to Lord Hendy as he owns two of the legendary AEC Routemaster buses which provided London’s transport from the 1950s.

Finally the opportunity was taken to walk around the site and discuss a number of areas in which Didcot Railway Centre, Great Western Railway and Network Rail could work together. In all the guests were at Didcot Railway Centre for some five hours.

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