Engineers on Manchester’s Ordsall Chord set to receive prestigious award

The Royal Academy of Engineering has revealed the Ordsall Chord, a new railway line connecting Manchester’s Piccadilly, Victoria and Oxford Road stations for the first time, will receive the Major Project Award for 2018.

Engineers at the heart of the project are to be rewarded in recognition of the collaboration, skill and engineering flair necessary to deliver such a complex, multidisciplinary feat of railway engineering. 

Finished in December, the bridge has allowed Manchester’s three main railway stations to be connected for the first time, despite being only 300 metres in length. Not only does it act as a centrepiece of the Great North Rail Project, it is the world’s first asymmetric rail bridge and means passengers across the north of England can benefit from direct services to Manchester Airport from as far afield as Newcastle.

With collaboration at the heart of the Chord’s engineering success, the team members receiving the award represent the multidisciplinary partnership undertaken between Network Rail, Skanska BAM, Siemens, Amey, Severfield, the designers, AECOM Mott MacDonald, WSP and Balfour Beatty to build the Chord.

The construction process has not been without controversy after those behind the build had to overcome a legal challenge. Concerns were raised surrounding the demolition of a number of listed structures that would supposedly cause serious harm to the Liverpool Road station complex.

Andrew Davison acting on behalf of English Heritage, described the Liverpool Road station complex as the “the Stonehenge of railway history”, and said the Network Rail proposal was one of the most damaging he had seen in his 27-year career in conservation. However, a judge eventually dismissed the challenge and refused permission to appeal in October 2015.

The engineers used an innovative digital design model to overcome the challenges associated with such a bespoke and multi-disciplinary project. In a reversal of traditional procedures, the unique design of the network arch required early involvement from the project’s steelwork suppliers, with the suppliers directly contributing to the creation of the digital design. 

This pioneering approach meant that part of the Chord was designed and constructed entirely from the digital model without the need for design drawings, making the design phase significantly cheaper and shorter.

The Major Project Award team consists of:

  • Iain Chalker, electrification project engineer, Amey /Network Rail; 
  • Francisco Cortes Ortega, principal engineer/principal track engineer, WSP; 
  • John Dougan, programme engineering manager/alliance engineering manager, Network Rail; 
  • Brian Duguid, technical director/engineering manager (Civils Design), AECOM Mott MacDonald JV;
  • Mike Pedley, engineering manager/engineering manager (Civils Construction), Skanska BAMJV.

The award will be presented by Nusrat Ghani, oarliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Transport, at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on 27 June. Commenting on the award, Ghani said: “Congratulations to the team on receiving the Academy’s Major Project Award, a real recognition of the impact the Chord will have on many people’s lives. This is exactly the kind of achievement we are celebrating in government during 2018, the Year of Engineering.”

Professor Raffaella Ocone, chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Award committee, added: “The Ordsall Chord is a remarkable feat of engineering and a great example of the impact digital technologies can have on infrastructure engineering. Engineering is a collaborative endeavour and by working in partnership, and focusing on the skills needed to deliver such a complex project, the engineers involved in the project were able to set aside self-interest and work towards a clear, shared objective.”

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email