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Ordsall Chord inquiry rules in favour of Network Rail scheme

Ordsall Chord, Northern Hub

Secretary of State gives go ahead for vital rail link but orders detailed analysis and design measures to protect historic setting of Liverpool Road Station complex.

Long awaited go-ahead for the controversial but critical Ordsall Chord structure in Manchester on Network Rail’s Northern Hub programme of improvements to the rail network in the North of England was granted this week.

Following a month long public inquiry between April and May 2014, the Secretary of State for Transport this week confirmed the inquiry inspector’s view that, “in spite of the substantial harm to heritage assets that would result” the overall benefits of the scheme meant that it should go ahead.

“The balance lies in favour of approving the scheme as proposed by Network Rail, in spite of the substantial harm to heritage assets that would result,” DfT decison letter

However, following the representations made by English Heritage and former ICE president Mark Whitby at the inquiry last year, the government ordered that Network Rail carry out significant analysis and design “to ensure the conservation of the historic environment” of the Liverpool Road Station area.

“No stage of the development is to commence until a detailed analysis and design of specific elements of proposals which affect a listed building or its setting within that stage have been submitted to and approved by each local planning authority with responsibility for any area within the Stage,” said the decision letter from the Department for Transport (DfT).

The letter added: “The deck of the viaduct forming part of the Ordsall Chord must not be constructed over the 1830 Viaduct until details of the treatment to Stephenson’s Bridge following removal of the Girder Bridge have been submitted to and approved by each local planning authority with responsibility for Stephenson’s Bridge.

The Grade I and Grade II* listed Liverpool Road station complex was described by Andrew Davison of English Heritage at last year’s inquiry, as the “the Stonehenge of railway history”. 

“Make no mistake about it, this is not just a place that “has potential to hold more than national significance in relation to railway history”; this is the place where the modern world began,” Davison told the inquiry.

“The Secretary of State ..has noted the criticism that English Heritage was not involved sufficiently early to ensure that heritage impacts were given full weight in the evaluation of options,” DfT decision letter

“I have never come across a proposed development so exceptionally damaging to the historic environment as the Ordsall Chord,’ he said in his rebuttal to Network Rail’s proposals. 

Manchester Liverpool Road was the eastern passenger terminus of  George Stephenson's Liverpool and Manchester Railway which opened in 1830 as the world's first to be built with passenger transport as its main activities. It is therefore often considered as the world's first true inter city railway.

However, the Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector that there is a pressing need for a new route connecting the Piccadilly and Victoria rail corridors to expand rail routing options, to ease congestion at Piccadilly and to allow Manchester Victoria to assume an enhanced role.

“The balance lies in favour of approving the scheme as proposed by Network Rail, in spite of the substantial harm to heritage assets that would result,” said the letter. 

“The Secretary of State ..has noted the criticism that English Heritage was not involved sufficiently early to ensure that heritage impacts were given full weight in the evaluation of options,” it adds. “However, given the rigorous review of all previous steps which took place once English Heritage was involved, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that there is no reason to believe that earlier consideration of heritage issues would have influenced the outcome of the process so as to produce a different scheme from that submitted by NR with improved heritage impact.

“Make no mistake about it, this is not just a place that “has potential to hold more than national significance in relation to railway history”; this is the place where the modern world began,” Andrew Davison, English Heritage at the 2014 public inquiry.

The Ordsall Chord is a key part of Network Rail’s Northern Hub upgrade and the proposal features a new viaduct to connect Manchester Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria stations. This rail link will remove a bottleneck to the south of Piccadilly station and free up space on the network to better connect towns and cities across the North.

Network Rail points out that the scheme would deliver significant benefits including: 

  • Two new fast trains per hour between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool
  • Six fast trains instead of four an hour between Leeds and Manchester
  • Faster journeys between Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool
  • A new direct service through Manchester city centre to Manchester Airport
  • Faster journey times to Hull, Newcastle and the North East

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Comments

The Ordsall curve could have been built using a slightly different route, discounted by Network Rail, which did not sever the former Liverpool Road station from the national rail network and destroy the historic bridge. This decision wasn't a choice between heritage and connectivity as the article portrays, rather it was a choice between heritage and cost.
As the previous comment states Network Rail only look as far as they wish, their only care is the cost desspite their rhetoric, they are unaccountable due to their size, powerful legal teams & poorly written legislation.