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Certainty over Ordsall Chord is ‘critical’

Every single day that a decision on the £85m Ordsall Chord scheme is delayed is a day that rail passengers are not benefitting from improved services, Network Rail’s boss has told RTM. 

Speaking after the official re-opening of Manchester Victoria today, Mark Carne told us that he would like a quick decision over Ordsall Chord, which is currently subject to a Judicial Review. 

At the end of September, Mrs Justice Beverley Lang deferred a legal challenge to the much-delayed scheme at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. 

Carne told us: “Connecting up the two stations is absolutely essential for passengers so they can have their journeys connected in better ways. I’m really hopeful that this will be resolved in the very near future. 

“It [Ordsall Chord] may still be some period off. But it is literally a day for a day and that means there are thousands of people who are, therefore, not harnessing the benefits of the improvements we are going to make to the network.” 

The Ordsall Chord is a new section of track intended to link Manchester’s three main rail stations for the first time. It will be built north-west of Castlefield Junction, linking that line with the Deal Street Junction line. 

ordsall chord

However, the line would also intersect the world’s first ever intercity railway line, built by George Stephenson in 1830, and see a number of other grade II-listed buildings and bridges demolished. 

Mark Whitby, the former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, brought the legal challenge to the Ordsall Chord order, granted in March. 

Whitby’s case was that his alternative scheme, known as Option 15 (below), can deliver the same performance improvements for passengers as the Chord without the same impact on the heritage of the structures in the area. However, he accepts that Option 15 is more expensive than Network Rail’s proposal. 

ordsallChord 270x376

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

Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail, told us the project is vitally important and has received much support from politicians and the local authorities. 

“We are awaiting the outcome from the judge, but when it is constructed that will be another vast improvement to the service in Manchester,” he said. “It is a great scheme to help people in Manchester. We are enthusiastic about it and hope to construct it as soon as possible.” 

Although he couldn’t talk about the scheme, as it is under Judicial Review, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told us: “It is incredibly important and being able to link up the two stations is a very imaginative move for the city itself.” 

Alex Hynes, MD at Northern Rail, added that Ordsall Chord is “critical” to provide exciting new services. 

“It is not without its challenges and disruption, but it is worth it in the end,” he said, adding: “We value certainty over schedule. The worst thing in the world is a project which continually drifts ‘to the right’. What we want is certainty. 

“In the High Court a decision was made not to make a decision, so the earlier we can get that decision, it has to be good. This is because it allows us to plan the railway with certainty, which is what we need when there is lots of work going on.”


Jerry Alderson   06/10/2015 at 13:07

Mark Carne is a complete hypocrite. To bleat on about how badly passengers are suffering because of delays when so many delays to passenger improvements over the last decade have been because of Network Rail's behaviour. The only time NR stands up for the passenger is when it can blame someone else. Whether Mark Whitby is a hero I do not know, but my view is that NR went into blinkeered mode and looked seriously at only one solution having made up its mind at the outset.

Jb   06/10/2015 at 13:21

I expect that we would all like to see the Ordsall Chord built to facilitate Manchester station connections - but respecting our heritage. Although not absolutely clear from the illustrations given, Mr Whitby's 'Option 15' does seem to be the most sensitive choice. The other alternative seemingly striding through or above, all the well known historic landmarks in the area without due consideration. While accepting the desireability to make this connection, I feel bound to say that it must surely not be beyond the wit of man to retain the facility to provide a rail connection to the 1830 Liverpool Road station and the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry for infrequent use when required to transfer rolling stock,etc.

David Spencer   06/10/2015 at 13:39

Let the world be quite clear. The need for a judicial review was brought about by the choice of route for the chord when a technically, socially and physically alternative route was available and avoided destroying Manchesters valuable heritage. Networkrail should be ashamed of itself. If NR had listened to the many who objected to their better judgement they might not be in this legal delay period. I strongly suspect that NR can only think of the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Andrew Gwilt   06/10/2015 at 15:10

The new Chord Link if it is to be approved by the DfT and TfGM could start construction from late this year or early next year and will link the 2 major Manchester railway stations-Piccadilly and Victoria which the new Chord Link could be completed by 2017or into 2018/19 which is the vital route that links with the 2 railway stations with new train services and to create new jobs in Central Manchester and the surrounding areas in & around Greater Manchester.

Grahamh   06/10/2015 at 15:25

I objected to the proposed route for the reasons your other correspondents have stated. I have not been convinced by any of the arguments put forward by Network Rail, for their route. I am not even convinced by the cost argument given that a costly viaduct and bridge would be replaced mainly by an embankment over largely unused land. This smacks of the old BR 'our way and no other' approach.

Larry   06/10/2015 at 15:59

We really need to stop clinging to the past this generation need jobs I would like to know the last time the connection into the museum was used As for the alternative route I think ego is getting in the way

Neil Palmer   06/10/2015 at 17:18

Jb makes a valid point. IF the currently proposed route is built why can a flat crossing not be provided to maintain rail connectivity to the museum? Surely the additional cost of this would be an extremely small amount compared to the cost of the project? And yes I know it will cost a little more to maintain compared to straight track, but if Network Rail still hasn't got around to replacing the flat crossing at Newark they can hardly drag that up as a reason. There would certainly be low usage of the crossing for the museum access, but nevertheless important to retain.

Simon Reynish (Chairman CILT NW Region)   07/10/2015 at 10:18

Is this not the ideal opportunity to start again as the current project is causing too many problems? Let us bring Northern Hub/Ordsall Chord, HS2 and HS3 together to build a North-South East-West subterranean through station for Manchester that is a real game changer. Transport for the North's creditability will really be enhanced if they achieve that.

Mike   07/10/2015 at 10:22

The saddest part is that none of this would be happening if the tunnel between the 2 stations had been built in the 70s as had been planned, but the project was discontinued after a considerable amount of work had been done to save some money.

Neil Palmer   07/10/2015 at 19:18

Mike, SO they could "dig up" (sorry) existing Picc-Vic tunnel plans from the 70's, and using new tunnelling methods/TBM's probably build it cheaper than they could have then (accounting for inflation of course). Great idea !

Joe   08/10/2015 at 10:53

I don't think this chord is even needed. The stations are linked by the Metrolink already. And I doubt new services will be made, this is just so Norwich to Liverpool and Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes trains don't cross all the tracks at Piccadilly and instead go the long way round via Victoria. History is of the upmost importance, once it's lost it can't be replaced, a new scheme can always be planned however. I just don't understand why Network Rail didn't plan for a simple flat crossing on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway rather than cut the track. If the government really cared about their Northern Powerhouse claims, they should just fund option 15 and get on with it.

John Gilbert   14/10/2015 at 01:38

I am sure that technical hands will be raised in horror at the idea, probably because it doesn't fit in with their plans, but the idea of a simple flat crossing for the museum lines over the Ordsall Chord is the obvious one. So let's get on with the work and end all these delays. Trains over the chord will, in any case, be travelling at a slower speed because of the curve so will not be inconvenienced,

Henry Vine   19/10/2015 at 13:20

What is wrong with Network Rail? Why are they so short-sighted that they will allow the loss of confirmed cultural heritage for the sake of their initial plan. Why is there no flexibility here even for this historical site? Surely they are supposed to be providing a service for people so that people will be happier and be able to function more comfortably in society. When did they become so removed from their purpose that they decided to do what they like despite the views of the people? If there is no protection, care, respect and consideration for sites of this importance, then nowhere is safe. There is an alternative route, so raise the money and keep everybody happy. I feel that in this day and age this kind of careless destruction could cause people to boycot the line. Who wants to participate in the destruction of cultural heritage? Surely it is not hugely dissimilar to the antics of heritage destruction in Syria is it?

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