Work on Ordsall Chord railway earns a CEEQUAL rating of Excellent

Work on Ordsall Chord railway earns a CEEQUAL rating of Excellent

Network Rail's work on a new track, the Ordsall Chord, earned a CEEQUAL rating of 91.9% for the whole project and a sustainability strategy rating of 95.4%.


The Ordsall Chord project, which forms the key element of the Northern Hub programme, provides the opportunity to transform the routing of rail services across the central Manchester region, freeing up opportunities for expansion of capacity, routes/train paths for both passenger and freight services. Praised for sustainable practices throughout the project, it earned a CEEQUAL, now known as BREEAM Infrastructure, rating of Excellent.




Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain.


The project consisted of the construction and operation of a new 340m two-track line which crosses the River Irwell and the Manchester Inner Ring Road (IRR-Trinity Way). The Ordsall Chord development is elevated throughout and is located on a combination of new and existing bridges and viaducts. The project also included upgrading works to existing railway lines required to accommodate the Ordsall Chord (e.g. at Salford Station and slewing on viaducts). The site traverses the local authority administrative boundaries of Manchester City Council and Salford City Council as the boundary follows the River Irwell.

In general, the proposed Ordsall Chord alignment can be characterised into two distinctive sections. The northern section, from the point where the alignment joins the Middlewood (L&MR) Viaduct to Deal Street Junction, generally utilises existing multi-span viaducts to accommodate new and/or slewed tracks. The southern section, between the existing Castlefield (MSJ&AR) Viaduct and existing Middlewood (L&MR) Viaduct generally comprises widening to existing viaducts at each end, with a section of new structures between, crossing the River Irwell and Trinity Way.


There are a number of environmental constraints within the application site which have informed the design of the Ordsall Chord. These include residential dwellings, the nearest of which are at Woollam Place. The River Irwell and Manchester IRR – Trinity Way represent significant constraints to the development.

There were two conservation areas within the application site; Castlefield conservation area and cathedral conservation area. Additionally the Flat Iron conservation area and the Greengate conservation area are located adjacent to the application site within the northern section of the site within Salford.

The Castlefield conservation area is one of the largest conservation areas in Manchester and was designated due to the high density of heritage assets in this particular area, including the canal, warehouse and railway architecture and the former Liverpool Road Station buildings that now form part of the MoSI complex.

The cathedral conservation area is dominated by the Manchester cathedral and Victoria Station is located on Deansgate. It’s located adjacent to the Flat Iron conservation area in Salford.

There were also ten listed structures within the application site. They consisted of the following:

  • Stephenson’s Bridge – Grade I Listed

  • 1830’s Viaduct – Grade II Listed

  • Water Street Bridge – Grade II Listed

  • Zig Zag Viaduct and Water Street Bridge – Grade II Listed

  • Girder Bridge – Grade II Listed (the metal widening added to Stephenson’s Bridge)

  • Castlefield (MSJ&AR) Viaduct 1845 Brick Bridge – Grade II Listed

  • Castlefield (MSJ&AR) Viaduct & Cast Iron Bridge – Grade II Listed

  • Central Railway Viaduct – Grade II Listed

  • Southern Railway Viaduct and Colonnade – Grade II* Listed

  • Northern Railway Viaduct – Grade II Listed


The Ordsall Chord has transformed Manchester Victoria station from being a largely terminus operation to a station capable of connecting to all corridors. It was transformed from a 17 train per hour largely terminus operation, to a facility capable of accepting 42 trains each hour connecting to all corridors.

Key achievements of the project are summarised as follows:

  • Provide a catalyst for the north’s development

  • Leave a positive legacy

  • Provide value for money

  • Delighted client, customers and stakeholders

  • Develop organisational capability

  • Develop our people

  • Be the client and supplier of choice

  • Seek better ways of working

The Ordsall Chord improvements had a huge impact on Salford and Manchester, both in terms of the development of the area in immediate proximity to the site, but also in the vastly improved connectivity of the rail network which will in turn, bring more businesses, people and investment to the wider area.

Community engagement

Two separate volunteer days were undertaken with the Friends of the Roman Gardens. These involved a variety of members of the project team enabling them to engage with the local community. The first activity was helping to plant over 1600 bulbs that the Northern Hub Alliance had purchased for the garden. A group from both parties met up in December 2016 and planted the bulbs across the garden in the flower beds.

Over 11 different species of flower were planted, including 2 types of crocuses, 3 species of snowdrops, 3 different hyacinths, anemones, daffodils, irises and allium chosen for both their aesthetic benefits as well as their ecological value. The Spring of 2017 saw the Garden transformed into a riot of colour and it was partially due to the hard work put in by the team that led to the garden winning an Outstanding Award from the RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood programme.

Temporary re-housing

The Ordsall Chord was built in a highly demanding environment with major infrastructure put in place immediately adjacent, within 4m of residential development.  Despite exhaustive efforts to mitigate the nuisance effects of the scheme as explained in this submission, the project recognised that it was inevitable there would be still be affected residents.  On that basis, a discretionary payment was made to certain residents that complied with guidance in BS5228, during the most intense Christmas works.

Temporary re-housing is an important aspect of the Network Rail strategy for mitigating the effects of construction and operational noise. Temporary re-housing was provided over the Christmas 2016 blockade to eligible residents where the predicted total noise level exceeded the levels set out in the ES, or a figure 10dB above the pre-existing ambient airborne noise level for the corresponding times of day, whichever is the higher. Where this occurred, the noise levels were considered to be high enough to affect the enjoyment of residential dwellings to such an extent by the construction noise that the continued occupation was not reasonably practicable pursuant to Network Rail exercising its discretion under Section 28 of the Land Compensation Act 1974.

An initial list of properties significantly affected by construction noise was identified in the environmental statement. This provided an indication of the properties that may qualify for temporary re-housing. The noise and vibration Specialist was then responsible for undertaking a further set of construction noise calculations to assess exactly which properties were eligible.

A letter was sent out to all the occupants of eligible properties informing them of their rights for temporary rehousing between the dates of the 17th December and 26th December 2016. This meant that Network Rail offered them a package designed to allow them to vacate their property and go into alternative accommodation for up to 10 nights. Over 200 residents accepted the offer of re-housing over the period and no complaints were received over the Christmas and New Year period.

Historic environment

Within the overall Northern Hub programme, no other intervention has a similar importance to the Ordsall Chord in terms of its aesthetic and heritage aspirations as the historic location is one of the most sensitive sites in terms of the global evolution of the railway. The legacy of the rail infrastructure, and the urban realm around, is an integral part of the design allowing the Chord to act as a regeneration catalyst. This project has ensured the values of this site and the existing structures have informed and enriched the design process

In terms of above-ground built heritage, the historical and architectural importance of the wider site area is reflected in the number of standing structures that are afforded statutory protection, including three Grade I listed buildings. There are also a number of non-designated heritage assets which contribute to the heritage value of the conservation area and surrounding townscape.

The above-ground heritage assets that will be affected by the scheme were all constructed during the massive expansion of Manchester and Salford that occurred from the late eighteenth century through to the early twentieth century. The main cluster of listed buildings that will be affected by the Ordsall Chord are associated with the Liverpool Road Station and the development of railways in Manchester.

The construction of the Liverpool to Manchester railway was of great significance to the development of Manchester and passenger railways. Liverpool Road Station itself is of national significance as the first passenger railway station in the world. The grouping of structures which form the passenger station include the Grade I listed station buildings, the Grade I listed 1830 Warehouse, adjacent Grade II listed viaducts and bridges and the Grade I listed Stephenson’s Bridge.

The historic values of this area were seen as something to be capitalised upon by the project from the outset. Stephenson’s Bridge and its adjoining heritage structures are being celebrated for their character and importance rather than neglected and disused. Stephenson’s Bridge, the network arch and a new public footbridge will form the setting of a pair of piazzas on either side of the river; from this centrepiece a series of interconnected spaces will lead, connecting key regeneration sites in the neighbouring area.

To enhance the public realm Stephenson’s Bridge is to be exposed to view in such a way that has not been possible for over a century. Further to this it is to be restored in a manner to befit its greater prominence.

The project entails the creation of over 7,000m2 of new public realm spaces and the upgrade to 2,000m2 of streetscape to become Yorkstone paved, pedestrian focussed routes. There is more to the heritage works than just Stephenson’s Bridge; a series of Grade-II listed structures have been repaired, restored and protected for future generations. Viaduct arches of different sizes and ages will be available for commercial occupation following the completion of the works. Where different elements sit alongside one another the design of the new structures aims to both compliment and contrast with the older historic fabric.

Sustainable development

Sustainable development objectives played a key role in the conception, planning and design of the project which were then translated successfully during the construction phase through setting KPI’s that have driven a beyond compliance mind set. The project team challenged the existing standards where innovation offers the potential for the chord to be built more sustainably.

In conjunction the project aims to target a net biodiversity gain, a minimum 10% reduction in embedded carbon during construction through good practice to drive efficiency in material selection as well as a minimum 96% diversion of waste from landfill.

The construction of the bridge and associated temporary works were the largest element of the project for the engineering team. While it presented great challenges and risk it was also the alliance’s biggest opportunity to have a positive impact, improve on its critical path programme, save costs and mitigate environmental risks. The overall scope of the works required the demolition of an existing bridge structure and the erection of the new network arch bridge structure crossing its footprint on a new alignment.

The conceptual tender design that the alliance inherited was conventional and conservative; with separate sets of structures for the demolition and erection works resulting in multiple steel piles across the width of the river and an unsustainable steelwork superstructure for the erection that was close in weight to that of the new bridge bottom chord tie. The solution was sustainable as it reduced the amount of piling required, reused the structures across both cases and helped reduce waste material and requirements for redundant installation structures.

The Ordsall Chord crosses through at high level, with a graceful and unique form which has been designed to be in sympathy with its neighbours. The asymmetrical network arch is the first of its kind. To integrate with pedestrian and cycle routes, Prince’s Bridge, which no longer serves its intended highway function, will be replaced with a new structure. The new pedestrian and cycle bridge addresses the needs of all pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users with improved connections to existing movement patterns.

Significant savings were made by employing an innovation and improvement manager, who has been responsible for leading and capturing innovative practices on the project. The project can evidence genuine innovation and creativity through the innovation and improvement tracker; a spreadsheet that collates the tangible benefits of the project. This has led to advantages to the project such as:

  • Re-use of on-site crushed materials across the project – opportunity to reduce primary material and use on-site recycled material within the project.

  • Recycling of stone from Prince’s Bridge – removal of hazardous waterproof material offered an opportunity to re-use some of the stone used when first constructed.

  • Reduction in pile numbers in Prince’s Footbridge –piles were removed leading to carbon and concrete savings.

  • Zig Zag Grade II listed arches retained and approximately 3,000 bricks reused from the structure.

  • Over 1,000 tonnes of carbon has been saved through reuse of ballast and rail on site

The Ordsall Chord is a key enabler for rail improvements across the network. It creates sustainable opportunities to improve the transport network, including other interventions in Manchester and as far away as Leeds and Sheffield. It is an essential component of the strategy to improve public transport connectivity to sustain and grow the economy of Greater Manchester as well as being part of the solution to the city meeting its Climate Change obligations to reduce its COemissions by 41% by 2020.

Summary Network Rail

Network Rail
AECOM/Mott McDonald
Skanska/Amey/Sersa/Siemens/ BAM JV
Samantha Smith, Skanska
5, November 2017 | Manchester, UK
CEEQUAL rating:
Excellent (91.9%) – Whole Team Award
Sustainability strategy rating:
Excellent (95.4%)

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