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Judge defers Ordsall Chord legal challenge

The legal challenge to the much-delayed £85m Ordsall Chord scheme was deferred at the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday (24 September). 

However, after making her decision, lawyers urged Mrs Justice Beverley Lang to give her decision as soon as possible. They also stated that if a judge stops the process to link Manchester’s Piccadilly and newly refurbished Victoria stations for the first time, the project may never happen. 

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. 

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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 placed north-west of Castlefield Junction, linking that line with the Deal Street Junction line. 

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. 

At the hearing yesterday, Mr Whitby’s counsel Paul Brown QC argued that the decision-making process behind the route “was flawed” and the benefits of  preventing harm to listed buildings were not given “due consideration”. 

But Network Rail’s counsel argued that even if the recommended route had not been selected there was “no guarantee” Option 15 would have succeeded. They said it would likely have been objected to by Manchester City Council and Salford City Council. 

A Network Rail spokesperson said the company remains committed to delivering the benefits of the Northern Hub, adding that “the Ordsall Chord will play a key part in enabling faster, more frequent trains and more direct services to Manchester Airport”. 

Whitby is not commenting publicly until after the hearing.


Joe   25/09/2015 at 10:40

I think this whole plan is unworkable. All the trains to Piccadilly going via Victoria would be slower than at present and cause extreme congestion on platforms 13 & 14 at Piccadilly and add a large walking distance. There's a Metrolink service between the stations anyway. I think this is just political. History of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway needs to be preserved for the future.

Cdbrux   25/09/2015 at 13:09

Which is why there is also a plan to add two through platforms (15 & 16) to make it workable!

Neil Palmer   25/09/2015 at 17:21

Cdbrux, Right - Joe obviously isn't familiar with the plans. Interesting that government launches multiple inquiries as to why Network Rail is over budget on projects when the answer is right under their noses - the problem is government itself, and the interminably long planning processes and appeals that can be triggered by one trouble maker (like the Mark Whitby, and the bat man over Wolvercote Tunnel near Oxford). In the amount of time it takes to get something approved to build in the UK China has dreamed up, planned & constructed another 1,000km high speed rail line. This insanity and waste of taxpayers money on the "planning industry" has to be curtailed.

David Spencer   26/09/2015 at 09:34

Mark Whitby is a respected Civil Engineer and a clear thinking and reasonable man. His Option 15 is the correct way forward and will provide a chord that satisfies Networkrail's gradients, capacity and operational requirements. Eventhough Option 15 will cost a little more can everyone imagine what Networkrail has spent to date on the application for a railway order including very expensive barristers, immense manuals and public consultations. It is true that Government unwittingly put brakes on on all projects and the costs as a result escalate. I sincerely Mark Whitby succeeds in his challenge. I to wish the whole process to end but Option 15 is the way to build the chord and not that of Networkrail.

Mike   26/09/2015 at 11:48

Surely the solution is a tunnel between Piccadilly and Victoria. The Pic-Vic line was proposed and dumped in the 1970s. There is always any amount of tunnelling in London, but what do we get up here - a long loop? HS2 will be mainly underground from Manchester Airport to Piccadilly. But it will just another branch line with Piccadilly as its terminus. We need to protect unique railway heritage like the Stephenson Bridge, whatever the cost.

Conor Hand   11/10/2015 at 22:41

I cannot believe this! My beloved home city desperately needs these improvements and all the judge can do is defer the challenge!!! If I were the judge, I would dimply say "Your challenge is to be rejected. The project is going ahead! End of story."

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