Network Rail to continue work on Ordsall Chord

Network Rail has confirmed it will progress work on the Ordsall Chord link despite a further legal challenge from the former Institution of Civil Engineers president and a former consultant on the project, Mark Whitby. The intracity railway which will link Manchester’s Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria stations was originally proposed in the late 1970s but shelved due to funding issues. Network Rail revisited the proposal in 2010 with government committing funding to the £85 million project at the 2011 budget and construction starting last April.

Mr Whitby is continuing to fight Network Rail’s chosen route for the Ordsall Chord, stating that his option would cost £20m more but would have a huge benefit in preserving Manchester’s heritage. The current route will cut through listed heritage buildings, including a railway viaduct that was designed by George Stephenson and the former Liverpool Road Station site which first opened in 1830, which marks the birth of passenger railway. Mr Whitby’s route would have cut through the middle of the mixed-use Middlewood Locks development. The High Court rejected three separate legal challenges to the project in October last year but the Court of Appeal has now granted him the right to legally challenge this decision.

Defending the selected route, Network Rail’s programme director, Nick Spall, commented that “The benefits of the Ordsall Chord are recognised across the north of England and this significant investment has the support of civic leaders representing more than one million people across the Greater Manchester area. We want to deliver this vital and long overdue improvement to the railway to benefit the millions of taxpaying passengers who want, and deserve it.” Network Rail has strong backing from Manchester City Council Leader, Sir Richard Leese, who has said he supports the Secretary of State’s original judgement and believes this is the best option for the city.

Of course, a link already exists between Piccadilly and Victoria via the 1992 Metrolink connection, but this doesn’t alleviate the current problem caused by too many trains terminating at Victoria and clogging up platform space. An alternative to the Ordsall Chord, which has been previously considered was the Picc-Vic tunnel that was given serious consideration but rejected on costs in 1977. It seems unlikely that Mr Whitby’s appeal will be successful but that’s not to say it couldn’t cause delays to the delivery of the Chord which is due for completion at the end of 2017.

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“the current problem caused by too many trains terminating at Victoria and clogging up platform space.”

Don’t think that’s what you meant to type!

By Steven

Whitby’s legal challenges were all dismissed and he was forbidden to appeal. It is this leave to appeal that is being appealed, not the case itself.

By Correction

Chord does not cut through Stephenson’s bridge. It just misses it. The demolition of its adjacent girder bridge will provide an excellent view of Stephenson’s bridge from south side of Irwell. Currently it is almost impossible to see Stephenson’s bridge as it is closely surrounded by other bridges

By David Shirres