Ordsall Chord

"Ordsall Lane Chord" redirects here. For the former railway station whose site was nearby, see Ordsall Lane railway station.
Ordsall Chord

Construction of the Ordsall Chord in 2016
Status Under construction
Locale United Kingdom (Greater Manchester
North West England)
Stations 0
Opened December 2017 (proposed)
Owner Network Rail
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

Ordsall Chord

To Leeds
Manchester Victoria Manchester Metrolink
Salford Central
To Bolton

Salford Crescent
To Liverpool

Ordsall Chord
To Warrington
Deansgate Manchester Metrolink
Manchester Oxford Road
Manchester Piccadilly Manchester Metrolink
To Stockport and Mcr Airport

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.[1] One proposed solution, the Picc-Vic tunnel between the two stations, was proposed in the 1970s but rejected on cost grounds in 1977.[2][3]


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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[1]

Ordsall Chord layout, Manchester

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.[6] 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.[7][8]

Detailed designs were presented by Network Rail in November 2012,[9] followed in May by their full intended planning application, for expected submission at the end of August 2013.[10] 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."[11] The museum has opposed the alignment, claiming that it would have "a damaging effect on MOSI visitors, volunteers and income."[12][13][14]


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.[15] 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.[16] By the end of the year, British Rail had received parliamentary powers to construct the line.[17] It was expected to cost around £10 million; however, following opposition from local politicians and a shortage of funding, the project was never started.[18] By 1985 it had been officially abandoned.[19]

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.[18] 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.[1] On 23 March 2011 George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced £85 million funding for the scheme as part of the 2011 budget.[20] The announcement came as a surprise as funding was not expected for several years, and was welcomed by the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority.[21]


Network Rail submitted their Transport and Works Act application to construct the Ordsall Chord in September 2013.[22] The statutory instrument authorising the construction of the Chord was made on 31 March 2015,[23] 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.[24] In November 2016, Network Rail announced that they expect to have services running to Manchester Airport from December 2017 as well as electric trains running between Manchester and Preston via Bolton with new connections into Manchester from the Calder Valley. 2018 will see the introduction of an hourly direct service from Newcastle to Manchester airport, which will also mean an extra hourly service between Leeds and Newcastle, and six trains an hour between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale.[25]

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".[26] Whitby wanted an alternative for the Chord to be built that would not sever the main-line rail connection to the Museum of Science and Industry nor destroy heritage structures.[27] 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.[28]


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ordsall Chord.
  1. 1 2 3 Wright, Robert (17 February 2010). "Extra track suggested to ease Manchester's rail bottlenecks". Financial Times.
  2. Salter, Alan (12 February 2008). "Rail tunnel vision revived". Manchester Evening News.
  3. Donald T. Cross; M. Roger Bristow (1983). English Structure Planning. Routledge. p. 45. ISBN 0-85086-094-6.
  4. Ordsall Chord Project Scoping Report, Network Rail, February 2012. Section 2.2.8, page 6
  5. "George Osborne confirms £85m Piccadilly – Victoria rail link in Budget". Manchester Evening News. 23 March 2011.
  6. "£200 million boost for rail in Budget proposals". Railnews.co.uk. 23 March 2011.
  7. Merrick, Jay (11 May 2014). "'Oldest railway station in the world' threatened by Network Rail plans". The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  8. Ordsall Chord Initial Environmental Information, page 6, Ordsall Chord project page, Network Rail. Accessed 17 July 2012
    Ordsall Chord Project Scoping Report, Network Rail, February 2012. Sections 4.1 to 4.8 (pages 20 to 22) and 2.2.3 (page 6). Via Ordsall Chord project page, Infrastructure Unit, The Planning Directorate. Accessed 17 July 2012
    Ordsall Chord Scoping Opinion, Infrastructure Planning Commission, March 2012. See e.g. comment at section 3.31, page 16, and comments by English Heritage on sheets 45–47 of the pdf.
  9. Ordsall Chord plans revealed, Global Rail News, 21 November 2012
    Irwell bridge plan to link Piccadilly and Victoria rail stations, Manchester Evening News, 15 November 2012
  10. Designing the Ordsall Chord, Network Rail Ordsall Chord website. Accessed 22 June 2013
    Ordsall Chord, Network Rail main website. Accessed 22 June 2013
    Ordsall Chord project page, Infrastructure Unit, The Planning Inspectorate. Accessed 17 July 2012
  11. The Importance of Heritage, Network Rail Ordsall Chord website. Accessed 22 June 2013
  12. MOSI bitter about Ordsall Chord, Manchester Confidential, 14 December 2012
  13. 'Ordsall chord' to sever historic MOSI line, The Business Desk, 14 December 2012
  14. Ministers asked to intervene over £85m rail link bridge that could cut access to former Liverpool Road station, Manchester Evening News, 20 December 2012
  15. Appleton, Dave (20 February 2010). "Multi-million pound bid to improve Rochdale station". Manchester Evening News.
  16. "BRITISH RAILWAYS (No. 2) BILL (By Order)". theyworkforyou.com. 26 June 1979.
  17. "Summary of Events: 1974 to 1985". gmts.co.uk. Greater Manchester's Museum of Transport. 2010.
  18. 1 2 Broadbent, Steve (24 February 2010). "How do you solve a problem like Manchester?". Rail (638).
  19. "British Railways Bill (By Order)". Hansard. 19 March 1985.
  20. Rentoul, John (24 March 2011). "The speech: What Osborne said – and what he really meant". The Independent.
  21. "Budget boost for Northern Hub rail plans". gmpte.com. Greater Manchester PTE. 23 March 2011.
  22. "Network Rail seeks Ordsall Chord approval". Global Rail News. 17 September 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  23. "The Network Rail (Ordsall Chord) Order 2015". Legislation.gov.uk. 31 March 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  24. "Projects in 2016 set to boost railway capacity and performance in northern England". Network Rail.
  25. "NR promises Manchester airport services via Ordsall Chord by end of 2017". Rail Technology Magazine. 10 November 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  26. "Whitby issues new challenge to Ordsall Chord". Rail Magazine. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  27. "Ordsall Chord linking Manchester Piccadilly with Victoria delayed over plans to demolish historic buildings". Manchester Evening News. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  28. Cox, Charlotte (23 March 2016). "One man battle to derail Ordsall Chord finally comes to an end as Judge dismisses appeal". Manchester Evening News.

Coordinates: 53°28′42″N 2°15′37″W / 53.47842°N 2.26033°W / 53.47842; -2.26033

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