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Ordsall Chord timescales will be 'reassessed' after planning delays

Network Rail has confirmed to RTM that the timescales for the Ordsall Chord may need to be "reassessed" because of the long delays in obtaining permissions for the new stretch of track, which is a vital part of the wider Northern Hub upgrades.

It was responding to concerns raised by shadow rail minister Lilian Greenwood MP, who told RTM that the hold-up in securing a Transport & Works Act (TWA) Order is "deeply concerning" and means “passengers deserve to know if this important project is still on track”.

The original aim was to start work in late 2014 or early 2015, but the planning process has significantly delayed construction.

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.

lilian resize 635599393817142000With nearly two months having passed since that deadline, Greenwood told RTM: “The delay in awarding a Transport & Works Act (TWA) Order is deeply concerning, especially on the back of the failure to complete the electrification of the lines from Liverpool to Manchester and Wigan on time. The Department for Transport has told me that it still does not have a cost estimate for the Northern Hub, and there are fears in the industry that the TWA slippage will lead to further cost increases.

“Network Rail must now spell out the consequences of this latest delay. In June Mark Carne was clear that the December 2016 target was dependent on getting the relevant planning permission issued by the end of 2014, and passengers deserve to know if this important project is still on track.”

A Network Rail spokesman responded: "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. The Ordsall Chord is an important part of the overall scheme and Network Rail is currently awaiting a decision to be made on a TWA application. Once a decision has been made we will reassess the timescales for the project."

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.

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.

A public inquiry was held in April-May 2014, because of the project’s substantial impacts on notable buildings. The proposed route bisects the route of the original Manchester – Liverpool railway, something the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and others objected strongly to. 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, but English Heritage remained implacably opposed and set out its case at length at the inquiry.

This included the “substantial physical harm” to the 1830 Viaduct and Girder Bridge, the Grade 1 Stephenson’s Bridge, and the Castlefield Viaduct, and “an overwhelmingly dominant adverse effect on the setting” of the old Liverpool Road station, plus further impacts to many more protected buildings and structures (see map at bottom of story).

'Troubling irony'

Scott Lyness, lawyer for English Heritage, said in closing at the Inquiry: “There is a troubling irony in such a severe magnitude of harm to our railway heritage being caused by a railway line, as promoted by a guardian of our railways infrastructure.

“Whilst Network Rail have to a large extent acknowledged that harm, English Heritage remains deeply concerned to ensure that the damaging effects of this scheme are fully understood by the Secretaries of State.”

He urged transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to “demonstrate the same sense of and respect of our heritage as was shown when…decrying the decision to demolish the Euston Arch. The great fear of English Heritage is that if the proposed Ordsall Chord is allowed as a result of this order, it will be too late to address the deep regret that its exceptionally adverse effects are likely to cause.”

 12 1

(Above: One of the images from the public inquiry documents)

In an answer to an earlier Parliamentary question from Greenwood on the expected date for the Order to be granted, rail minister Claire Perry MP said on 2 February: “Network Rail’s application for a Transport and Works Act Order in connection with the Ordsall Chord project is in the process of being considered by the Department, in accordance with Transport and Works Act procedures. A decision will be announced in due course.”

Separate plans at Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations

Network Rail has submitted a separate TWA Order application to the DfT for the necessary powers to improve the railway at Manchester Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations as part of the wider Northern Hub project, which is a £600m programme of targeted upgrades to the railway in the north of England. Scheduled to complete by 2018, it will allow up hundreds more trains to run each day and provide space for millions more passengers a year. It will deliver over £4bn worth of wider economic benefits to the region and potentially 20,000 to 30,000 new jobs.

Objections or representations must be received by 6 March.

The plans for Piccadilly include:

  • New elevated platforms 15 and 16 with canopies
  • Widening the Castlefield viaduct on the southern side
  • Work within the station to connect the new platforms to the existing station building
  • Retaining the Grade II listed Star and Garter public house
  • Reconfiguring the existing electrical substation near to London Road.


The plans for Oxford Road include:

  • Widening the existing railway in a north westerly direction over Whitworth Street West
  • Reconfiguring platforms and signalling to accommodate longer trains
  • Providing an opportunity to run longer eight car trains
  • Retaining the Grade II listed cast iron bridge over Gloucester Street
  • Building a new footbridge to provide improved across platforms 1-4
  • Providing a new covered walkway along Whitworth Street West for pedestrians.


Network Rail hopes the application will be determined by this winter, allowing construction work to start early next year, with trains running on the new infrastructure by December 2018. It still hopes the Ordsall Chord will be operational by December 2016. A DfT spokesperson told RTM: “The Transport and Works Act Order application for the Ordsall Chord project is being considered by the Department, in accordance with Transport and Works Act procedures. The Inspector’s report was received in January and is being actively worked on. A decision will be announced as soon as possible.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]



Neil Palmer   20/02/2015 at 01:04

Typical government stupidity. One the one hand they criticize the costs of Network Rail projects and demand they be reduced, whilst on the other hand the government itself is the cause of spiraling costs on many of those projects due to the endless studies and interminable delays in the never-ending planning process. China can build a new high speed line in less time than the UK takes to get planing approval. Someone needs to get a grip and get this under control before the only economic growth seen in the UK will be in employment of bureaucrats processing planning approvals.

Steve   20/02/2015 at 15:13

“Scott Lyness, lawyer for English Heritage, said in closing at the Inquiry: “There is a troubling irony in such a severe magnitude of harm to our railway heritage being caused by a railway line, as promoted by a guardian of our railways infrastructure” Surely the irony is that new and necessary development being stifled by history. I can only imagine what the engineers of the original railway would have thought if they discovered that their now obsolete work was getting in the way of modern rail development. They understood the concept of progress and they were never slow to sweep aside barriers to their ambitions.

Jak Jaye   20/02/2015 at 15:59

First the Kings Cross fiasco,then the Horbury Cutting farce(cut down trees=landslide) now this,time for Mr Carne to be shown the door,yes modernizing the railway is important but so is the history and judging by the 'then and now' pictures looks like a great job of industrial vandalism gas already been done

Neil Palmer   20/02/2015 at 18:08

There were previous complaints of losing rail access to the museum. Looking at the top picture in the article you wonder why they didn't include a flat crossing like at Newark to maintain access? English Heritage need to get a grip on reality. If they block new rail construction where are their future "heritage" structures going to come from?

David Keene   17/07/2015 at 22:26

This project is essential for Manchester and the North. Why is there such procrastination when it is an obvious choice to make rail travel more accessible?

Anne Fernie   26/10/2015 at 16:57

So the objections of the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) were 'overcome through “some targeted industry investment' to the tune of 2 million by Railtrack - there was a time that would have been known as corruption but hey. Maybe the Victorian titans of industry would have 'swept all before them' but they too commited some heinous cultural crimes and surely we should have learned from that. Finally there WERE alternative mooted that would have left the structures intact, only marginally more expensive but no. Hang your heads in shame Manchester City council.

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