The Anonymous Widower

The Saga Of The Ordsall Chord Goes Into Extra Time

If there is one railway project that sums up one of the worst problems often faced by rail planners in this country it is the endless saga of the Ordsall Chord. Wikipedia describes the chord and the reason for building it in this paragraph.

The Ordsall Chord is a proposed short railway line 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.

Sadly, the endless fights, that this worthy aim, which would be to the good of millions of rail travellers, could have been avoided if history was different.

The Picc-Vic Tunnel was one of three major tunnels under Northern cities to improve rail services. The other two in Liverpool and Newcastle were built, but Manchester’s solution was cancelled by that very bad friend of trains in the North; Harold Wilson.

And then, the Ordsall Chord was proposed as an alternative to the tunnel. Wikipedia says this.

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 2016, and will cost around £85 million to construct.

So the proposal has been around a long time and since 2011, there has been the money to build it.

In A Single Objector Holds Up The Ordsall Chord, I expressed my despair at the delay and said this.

I will not judge this case one way or the other, but one of the reasons for bad economic progress in the North is  poor and outdated rail infrastructure. So surely, it would have been better to have got this argument out of the way a couple of years ago.

I do wonder in this country, how many projects don’t ever get started because organisations like Network Rail feel it is better not to have a fight and leave the inadequate status quo alone.

So now according to this article in Rail Magazine, which is entitled Whitby issues new challenge to Ordsall Chord, the original objector is taking his challenge to a higher court. This is said in the article.

That High Court ruling also refused Whitby the right to appeal. However, Whitby has appealed this refusal, and on January 11 the Court of Appeal granted Leave to Appeal. Thus the former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers is set to launch his third attempt to derail the Ordsall Chord project, on a date to be set later this year. “The grounds of appeal raise important points and have real prospects of success,” the Court of Appeal said.

Comments from Council leaders in the area are less than pleased.

In another article in Manchester Confidential, there is this user comment.

If Mark Whitby is so right why did he lose the Judicial Review? The judge who heard the hearing Mrs Justice Lang who is no pushover in these matters. Ruled that the Public Enquiry was legally flawless and agreed with the planning inspector that the common good over ruled the objections to the Chord.

I don’t think its about historic buildings more Mr. Whitby’s dented big ego because his route was rejected. 

Hopefully if he loses he should be made to pick up the bill for all the public money he’s wasted.

I think a lot of people feel that way about Mark Whitby.

What worries me is that if the Court of Appeal turns down the appeal, will the case go to the Supreme Court and then an appropriate European one.

The only winners in this sad saga are the lawyers.

But there are millions all over the North, who just want to get about their business, who are very big losers.

And that doesn’t count, all taxpayers from Lands End to John O’Groats, who are eventually footing the bill, for one man’s stubbornness.



January 24, 2016 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,


  1. Can Whitby asked for surety for costs?

    Comment by Mark Clayton | January 24, 2016 | Reply

  2. I hope Network Rail’s lawyers are looking into this!

    Perhaps an irate Mancunian on the Bolton train, will file an appropriate complaint about his late arriving train!

    Comment by AnonW | January 24, 2016 | Reply

  3. The stated objective of the Institution of Civil Engineers is:

    “The general advancement of mechanical science, and more particularly for promoting the acquisition of that species of knowledge which constitutes the profession of a civil engineer; being the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man”

    Ironic then that one of its former Presidents should be attempting to stop Civil Engineers doing just that!

    Comment by David Shirres | February 5, 2016 | Reply

  4. Here in London, they’ve just threaded Crossrail through the City and they’ve done it without opposition, despite the grumbles of some of the residents, mainly by a charm offensive. I think that Network Rail have probably been too matter of fact and not creative enough in their thinking. Surely spending a million or so on some clever idea to smooth the project through, rather than on lawyers would have been better.

    Comment by AnonW | February 5, 2016 | Reply

    • At the inquiry it was accepted by all sides that there the only other route possible would have cut through the Middlewoood Lock development site in Salford. This is a key part of Salford’s development strategy which the Council regards as essential for the regeneration of the area. This would not be possible if a new railway were to cut through it. Hence the inspector concluded that this was not a reasonable option.
      One thing Network Rail could have done would have been to involve English Heritage at a much earlier stage to explain their problems and limited options at the very start. It was perhaps because they did not do this that views became entrenched,

      Comment by dshirres | February 6, 2016 | Reply

      • I do think you could be right. On the other hand, they’ve had several serious problems in Oxford dealing with allotment snobs, who they brought in early.

        I wonder if in the future that it might get better, as you’ve now got an organisation and a Mayor that sits above the Councils. A GLC planner in the 1970s, told me that they get more Government money, as the Government only has to talk to one organisation.

        Does this mean decisions get taken quicker?

        Could it also be the reason why the Picc-Vic tunnel and earlier schemes were not built, as Manchester, Salford, Stretford, Bolton and Stockport, all had different views? The other big tunnels in the North of that era, the lines under Liverpool and Newcastle, only meant dealing with one or two Councils.So Manchester was filed under Too Much Management Time Required!

        Comment by AnonW | February 6, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.