Manchester’s three main railway stations were today connected for the first time by the Ordsall Chord bridge - the historic centrepiece of the Great North Rail Project.
Ordsall, the world’s first asymmetric rail bridge, will benefit customers across the north of England, including with speedy direct services to Manchester Airport from as far afield as Newcastle.
The location of iconic new bridge is hallowed railway turf - birthplace of modern intercity railways, where in 1830 George Stephenson’s unveiled the Liverpool-Manchester railway.
Rail Minister Paul Maynard installed the final rail clip onto this vital piece of rail infrastructure, ceremoniously marking completion of the Network Rail scheme.
Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: “The new Ordsall Chord is a major milestone for the Great North Rail Project and forms a key part of this government’s £13 billion investment in transport in the north.
“The construction of this new iconic bridge has supported 2,000 jobs, including new apprentices and graduates and will provide new and direct links to Manchester Airport from across the region.
“By 2020, the Great North Rail Project will deliver faster and more comfortable journeys, with new trains, extra carriages and more than 2,000 extra services a week.”
The Ordsall Chord is part of the multi-billion-pound Great North Rail Project, a team effort by the rail industry to transform train travel for people across the north.
It will help create new links to Manchester Airport from across the north. By connecting Manchester’s three main stations - Piccadilly, Victoria and Oxford Road - it will reduce congestion at Piccadilly station by a quarter, allowing faster and more frequent trains to run. The first passenger train will run across Ordsall Chord in December.
Martin Frobisher, route managing director of Network Rail, said: “The completion of Ordsall Chord is a seminal moment in the Great North Rail Project, which will transform train travel for millions of customers across the north. The old is giving birth to the new. Team Orange is mirroring the vision of George Stephenson for the benefit of the communities we serve for generations to come.”
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Salford mayor Paul Dennett joined Mr Maynard walking across part of the new bridge with Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne and London North Western route managing director Martin Frobisher.
They were joined by colleagues from train companies Northern and Transpennine Express. Representatives from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), Transport for the North (TfN) and Rail North also attended alongside rail enthusiast and pop music producer Pete Waterman.
Following the tour, Mr Maynard gave a speech at an event at the Museum of Science and Industry, celebrating the completion of the chord.
What’s been said about the Ordsall Chord…
Liam Sumpter, regional director at Northern, said: “The opening of the Ordsall Chord is a landmark moment for rail travel in the north of England.
“The iconic bridge is tangible evidence of the Northern Powerhouse in action and, come December, we will be delighted to have the first passenger train run across the chord. Thanks to the work of the Great North Rail Project we will be able to run services from Calder Valley direct through to Manchester Oxford Road.”
Liam added: “But this is just the start. We will soon have 281 new, purpose-built, Northern carriages running across our network. We will introduce 2000 extra services a week and all will call at better stations with modernised facilities.
“The Ordsall Chord will help pave the way for many of these improvements and heralds what promises an exciting future for rail travel in the region.”
Leo Goodwin, Managing Director for TransPennine Express said: “The completion of the Ordsall Chord is great news for rail customers.
“Over the next two years, we will be delivering a £500million investment in brand new trains which will run on this new rail link connecting Manchester’s main railway stations for the first time.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “Greater Manchester has long called for the Ordsall Chord to unlock capacity on the rail network across the North and it is great that we can finally celebrate its completion.
“This is an impressive engineering project and I would like to thank everyone who has worked on it and contributed to the on-going regeneration of our city-region. The iconic network arch bridge will create a new landmark on the Manchester skyline. It harks back to the glory days of rail investment and stands just yards from the site of the world’s first-ever railway station. Just as Manchester pioneered rail travel in the 19th century, I hope we can lead the development of the next generation of infrastructure in the 21st.
“A modern, well-connected rail network is vital to unlocking the full economic potential of our city-region and the whole of the North of England. I look forward to working with the Government and Network Rail to deliver the further capacity improvements that will realise the full value of the Ordsall Chord.”
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “Orsdall Chord opening is a significant event that will provide faster, more efficient train services for people in the region. The works were desperately needed and will support jobs, growth and investment for generations to come.”
The Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, said: “By connecting Manchester’s Victoria, Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations, the Ordsall Chord can hugely improve rail services in the North West, allowing millions more passengers to travel on more frequent, faster train services across the region. The completion of this scheme is excellent news for Manchester’s economy and indeed for the whole of the north of England.”
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of Transport for Greater Manchester Committee said: "The Ordsall Chord is a vital part of the Northern Hub programme of works that will unlock the major bottlenecks in central Manchester. Together these will deliver the capacity and connectivity improvements that are urgently needed to enable rail services across the North of England to better meet growing demands for travel."
Councillor Liam Robinson, Chair of Rail North said: “This is a major milestone that will improve rail connections for passengers as part of the Great North Rail Project. We look forward to building on this success through further infrastructure and franchise enhancements that will allow people to travel more easily by rail. It is investment like this and in other major programmes, such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, that will ensure the North gets the rail network that it needs and deserves.”