‘The bridge now arriving at Ordsall Chord…’

A significant step towards completion of the £320m Ordsall Chord project to link Manchester’s Victoria and Piccadilly train stations for the first time took place today when the 600-tonne 89-metre-long weathered steel bridge designed by BDP was lifted into place.

After stress testing has been finished, the bridge span is due to be welded onto the stub ends on Saturday by specialist subcontractor Code Serve, based in North Wales, working with steel fabricator Severfield, of Bolton.

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The ‘network arch’ is the first of its kind to be built in the UK, it combines diagonal splayed wires and an asymmetrical steel arch, rather than the more usual symmetrical arch with vertical suspension wires. The splayed wires allow the arch to be flatter, said transport architect Peter Jenkins of BDP who has been working on the bridge for six years. The width of the arch beams narrows from 2m by 1.2m at the widest end next to Trinity Way down to 750 mm by 600mm at the end where it joins George Stephenson’s 1830 grade one-listed bridge, the first railway bridge in the world. Jenkins said this gives the bridge a more delicate join with Stephenson’s and adds to the ribbon-like flow of the design.

The bridge was welded together lying flat on the river bank, making the form more precise and less stressed than traditional bridge erection where 10 welds would have taken place in the final position rather than the four used, which also save six weeks on project delivery.

In the coming weeks, traffic on Trinity Way will be diverted under the arches towards Middlewood Locks and Ordsall Lane, and the road closed to allow for the horizontal bridge to be lifted into position next to the new arched bridge. There will be a 13-day blockade at Easter to install the bridge span.

The dip, or swoosh as the project team have dubbed it, that links the arch with the horizontal bridges is due to be installed in June.

Ordsall Chord CGI


Commissioning of the Ordsall Chord is due to begin in September and be completed in time for the changeover of train timetables on 10 December 2017. Transpennine Express will begin by adding an hourly service from Newcastle-York-Leeds-Huddersfield through Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport.

Northern Rail, operator of the slower ‘stopper’ service, will add an hourly train from Leeds through Hebden Bridge-Todmorden-Rochdale to Manchester Airport via Victoria.

Timetable changes in May and December 2018 will add further services, subject to plans not yet published by the train operating companies.

One of the biggest impacts will be reduced congestion at Manchester Piccadilly where currently many trains have to terminate before reversing back out across the busy ‘throat’ of the station where tracks criss-cross and services are vulnerable to knock-on delays if there is an incident due to delayed or failed trains. Network Rail predicts a 25% reduction in congestion at Piccadilly.

Northern Rail estimates the capacity of its services will increase 40% after Ordsall Chord opens.

The project is part of the Great North Rail Project, a much wider scheme of investment key to improving services for the North.

This includes electrification of the line from Manchester to Preston via Bolton, between Blackpool and Preston, and from Manchester to Stalybridge, as well as new signalling outside Piccadilly.

By reducing congestion at Piccadilly, Northern will be able to run more trains from places like Macclesfield, Greenbank and New Mills. None of these services will use the chord, but benefit from it.

New direct services to the airport will come from Newcastle, Warrington and Bradford – areas that might not be seeing much work locally, but will benefit from construction of the chord.

The Ordsall Chord line is 300m of track and a series of new bridges and viaducts in the site of the first passenger station in the world, at Liverpool Road. BDP has designed these structures in conjunction with engineers from WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff, Aecom and Mott MacDonald.

The main contractors are Skanska and Bam Nuttall for Network Rail. The track work has been carried out by Amey Sersa. Signalling is by Siemens.

Peter Jenkins, the Ordsall Chord’s lead architect, said: “It is hugely satisfying to reach the dramatic moment of the bridge arches being lifted into place over the river. I’m very proud to have been part of the team who have designed, developed and constructed this massively significant project for Manchester and the north of England.”

Programme manager Allan Parker from Network Rail said: “This latest piece of work signifies we are getting ever closer to the Ordsall Chord being completed. Once finished, passengers from across the North will have more direct services to Manchester Airport and a reduction in congestion due to some services from the east being rerouted through to Victoria station first. This will mean an increase in services as more trains will be able to run to Piccadilly.

“As you can imagine, the sheer size of the arches and the accuracy needed to position them meant there was a lot of planning that took place previously. I have been working on this project from the very beginning and I am extremely proud of every milestone we have achieved.  However, the sight of the arches elevated over the River Irwell was very special and will live long in my memory.”

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