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25.03.15

Ordsall Chord permission granted

Planning permission has now been granted for the much-delayed Ordsall Chord linking Manchester’s Piccadilly and Victoria stations for the first time, RTM has learned.

The transport secretary has issued a Transport and Works Act (TWA) Order, with minor modifications which “do not materially alter the effect of the order”.  

The inspector's report was submitted to the DfT and published today, along with transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin's decision letter.

The letter says: “The Secretary of State notes that the current layout of routes across Manchester, with poor connections across the city, has very significant adverse consequences by acting as a bottleneck to movement and a severe constraint on capacity, particularly at Piccadilly, which results in delays and congestion. He agrees with the Inspector that there is a pressing need (which was undisputed at the inquiry) for a new route connecting the Piccadilly and Victoria rail corridorstoexpand rail routing options, to ease congestion at Piccadilly and to allow Manchester Victoria to assume an enhanced role.”

It continues: "[McLoughlin] agrees that because of the scale of the benefits that would be realised across Greater Manchester and the North of England by the scheme, the harm to heritage assets in the vicinity would in this instance be outweighed by those public benefits. The Secretary of State is for these reasons satisfied that clear and convincing justification for the scheme has been provided..."

The original aim was to begin construction on the project in late 2014 or early 2015, but the planning process has significantly delayed the timescale.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said last summer that the December 2016 completion date could still be hit, but only if the appropriate permissions were in place by the end of last year. Now that the TWA order has been approved nearly four months later than that deadline, Network Rail has not confirmed a new timescale. 

Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail, said: "The investment going into the railway in the north will bring huge benefits. The Northern Hub project will see more trains, faster and better journeys for millions of people and the Ordsall Chord is a vital part of the overall scheme.

“Network Rail welcomes the decision by the Secretary of State. We will now look at the timescales needed to deliver the project and work with our stakeholders and the community so passengers and the economy can benefit from the investment as quickly as possible.”

The Ordsall Chord is a new section of track north-west of Castlefield Junction, linking that line with the Deal Street Junction line, thus connecting Manchester’s three main stations for the first time. It is a vital element and enabler of the wider Northern Hub plans.

657 Ordsall-Chord-map Large

This would allow more trains to travel through central Manchester by unclogging the bottleneck at the throat of Piccadilly, creating capacity for two new fast services an hour between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool, six an hour Leeds-Manchester (up from four), overall journey time improvements between the three cities, a new direct service to Manchester Airport, and also improved journey times to other locations in the north.

The project has faced several delays due to objections from English Heritage and the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

MOSI were against the scheme due to the proposed route bisecting the route of the original Manchester – Liverpool railway. These objections were overcome through “some targeted industry investment, creating a much better facility for that museum”, according to Rob Warnes, planning and programmes director at Northern Rail.

The inspector's report says: "It is relevant that both MOSI and the Friends of MOSI have withdrawn their objection. There is no issue that the Order would have some disbenefits for MOSI, but the Museum has clearly taken a view on the wider public interest and the mitigation that couldbe achieved for them."

However English Heritage remained opposed and set out its case at length at a public inquiry in April-May 2014.

The transport secretary took note of these objections in his decision letter but stated “harm to heritage assets in the vicinity would in this instance be outweighed by those public benefits”.

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