The new Ocean Jubilee rail bridge was officially opened in May 2022. This replaced the bridge over the Stroudwater Navigation Canal in Stonehouse. It is part of a project to allow Stroud to be re-connected to the national canal network.
This bridge is on the main Bristol-Gloucester line near Stonehouse. It crosses the canal south of Standish Junction, where the “Golden Vallley” line diverges via Stroud to Swindon.
The original 1844 Ocean Bridge carried the railway over the canal with a span that allowed for canal boats to pass underneath. By 1968 the bridge was in need of repair and the canal had fallen into disuse. So the bridge was removed and replaced with a narrow canal culvert with a pedestrian foot tunnel alongside.
The new bridge was installed in December 2021. Rail replacement services ran between Gloucester and Bristol from in order to allow the bridge to be replaced.
This section of the canal was drained of water using portable dams, and oblong concrete sections were cast in a compound on-site, then lifted into place by crane to form the canal opening under the railway.
Re-instatement of the canal channel and towpath continued until May 2022 when the bridge was officially opened as Ocean Jubilee Bridge in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Connection to national canal network
Cotswold Canals Connected is a partnership of organisations who are leading the canal restoration project.
Phase 1A, which is now complete, restored the 6 mile section from Brimscombe Port through Stroud to Stonehouse Ocean, this being the name for the wide section of canal adjacent to the railway line. This stretch of restored canal is currently landlocked.
Phase 1B, including Ocean Jubilee Bridge, will restore a further 4.5 mile section between Stonehouse Ocean and Saul Junction providing a connection to the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal and thence to the national waterway network.
The replacement of Ocean Bridge removes an important obstacle, but there are further challenges such as the “missing mile” of canal west of Eastington, and the new channel, locks and bridges required to allow the canal to pass under the M5 and the A38.
Severn to Thames
The ultimate goal is to make navigable the entire route along the Stroudwater and Thames & Severn canals to Inglesham Lock near Lechlade. This would re-establish a waterborne transport link between the River Severn and the River Thames.
The project seeks to maximise the benefits for conservation, biodiversity and local quality of life, and bring wider social, economic and environmental regeneration in areas neighbouring the canals. So far it has been funded by the National Lottery and other charitable organisations.
Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership have several leaflets (available online) describing walks around the area.
The site of the former Stonehouse (Bristol Road) station lies just to the north of Ocean Bridge. In late 2021, the campaign to reopen this station as Stroudwater station received funding in Round 3 of the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund process
This funding of £50,000 supports the development of a business case. This in turn may be submitted to the Department for Transport for more substantial funding.
The area has a rail catchment population of 55,000 according to a 2002 study, yet has no direct rail connection with the regional capital, Bristol, 40km to the south.
FoSBR has included this proposal in its Plan for Rail. This seeks to deliver the backbone of a sustainable transport network for the region.