|Locale||United Kingdom (Greater Manchester
North West England)
|Opened||December 2017 (proposed)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The Ordsall Chord (also known as the Ordsall Lane Chord, Ordsall Curve or Castlefield Curve) is a short railway line under construction in the Ordsall area of Greater Manchester. It will link Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria and it is expected to increase capacity in the region and reduce journey times into and through Manchester.
The chord was first proposed in the late 1970s. Parliamentary powers for its construction were received in 1979, but the project was cancelled. Network Rail revived the proposal in 2010 as part of its Manchester Northern Hub proposal. Funding for its construction was announced in the 2011 United Kingdom budget. It is scheduled to be completed by December 2017, and will cost around £85 million to construct.
By the late 20th century, the rail network in Manchester had become insufficient to support demand. One problem was the lack of a link between the main stations at Piccadilly and Victoria, causing many trains to terminate at Victoria, which takes up excessive platform space. One proposed solution, the Picc-Vic tunnel between the two stations, was proposed in the 1970s but rejected on cost grounds in 1977.
The Ordsall Chord would provide a direct link between Piccadilly and Victoria, allowing trains arriving at Manchester Victoria from the east the possibility to continue on to Piccadilly.
On completion, it is anticipated that the chord would allow four trains per hour to travel between Manchester Airport/Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in each direction, with a further eight trains per hour possible from Manchester Victoria towards the west via Chat Moss, and six trains per hour from Manchester Piccadilly towards either Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston. Further trains would travel from Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington.
In its current incarnation, the chord is part of the larger Northern Hub project, proposed by Network Rail in the Manchester Hub Study of 2010. The complete scheme would cost around £530 million to implement, of which £85 million would be spent on the Ordsall Chord, and would allow around 700 extra trains per day to operate into Manchester. Most through trains on the TransPennine Express routes to Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool Lime Street would be re-routed to run via Victoria rather than Piccadilly; however, some TransPennine Express services to Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle will continue to operate via Piccadilly and these will stop at Ashburys and/or Gorton and Guide Bridge. The current fast North TransPennine services will all operate via Victoria reducing journey times. Under the full scheme, which also includes new through platforms at Piccadilly and various track improvements outside Manchester to allow fast expresses to overtake slower stopping trains, journey times to Leeds would be reduced by 14 minutes on average and to Liverpool by 17. Railfreight access to yards in the Trafford Park area would also be improved.
The Ordsall Chord would preserve connectivity between the relocated East-West services and the city's existing main rail interchange at Manchester Piccadilly. It would also improve rail access to Manchester Airport, which at present cannot be reached easily from Victoria. Without the chord, such operations would require for trains to be run on and then reversed back at Salford Crescent.
Concern has been raised as to the impact the plans will have on the historic Grade 1 listed 1830 railway bridge over the River Irwell, part of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway's original approach to Manchester Liverpool Road railway station (now the site of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester), which would appear to lie directly in the path of construction.
Detailed designs were presented by Network Rail in November 2012, followed in May by their full intended planning application, for expected submission at the end of August 2013. The plan proposes to avoid the Stephenson Bridge itself, crossing the river with a bowstring bridge; but will sever the museum's main-line rail connection a little nearer to the museum, immediately to the east of the bridge, also ending the museum's out-and-back live steam trips using a replica of one of Stephenson's 1830 Planet-class locomotives. According to Network Rail, "The removal of this connection is not something that Network Rail takes lightly, and we have explored many alternative solutions before reaching the conclusion that the connection would need to be removed to make way for the chord." The museum has opposed the alignment, claiming that it would have "a damaging effect on MOSI visitors, volunteers and income."
A new curve at Ordsall linking Piccadilly to Victoria was first proposed in the late 1970s; it was then known as the Castlefield Curve after the nearby district of the same name. A bill relating to the chord's construction proposal was debated in the House of Commons in June 1979, receiving support from some members, although it was also opposed on the grounds that a direct tunnel would provide a better alternative. By the end of the year, British Rail had received parliamentary powers to construct the line. It was expected to cost around £10 million; however, following opposition from local politicians and a shortage of funding, the project was never started. By 1985 it had been officially abandoned.
The proposal was included in a draft Network Rail report in 2005 as a solution to increased overcrowding in the region, at an expected cost of £44 million. In February 2010, the project was revived by Network Rail as part of the Manchester Hub Study, with the intention of receiving government funding by around 2014. On 23 March 2011 George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced £85 million funding for the scheme as part of the 2011 budget. The announcement came as a surprise as funding was not expected for several years, and was welcomed by the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority.
Network Rail submitted their Transport and Works Act application to construct the Ordsall Chord in September 2013. The statutory instrument authorising the construction of the Chord was made on 31 March 2015, and preparatory works began in October 2015. In January 2016, Network Rail began work on the foundations and have a planned completion date of late 2017.
Mark Whitby, a civil engineer and former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, appealed against the decision to approve the construction of the Chord in the High Court. On 14 October 2015, the High Court rejected the appeal and also denied Whitby the right to appeal this decision. However Whitby appealed this refusal and on 11 January 2016, the Court of Appeal granted Leave to Appeal saying "The grounds of appeal raise important points and have real prospects of success". Whitby wants an alternative for the Chord to be built that does not sever the main-line rail connection to the Museum of Science and Industry nor destroy heritage structures. The case was heard on the week commencing 21 March 2016 and the resultant decision of the Court of Appeal was that Mr. Whitby's appeal was rejected
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