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Castlefield Residents Suggest Big Changes to 'Chord'

Confidential publishes letter to Network Rail

Written by . Published on December 21st 2012.

Castlefield Residents Suggest Big Changes to 'Chord'

THIS is an open letter from Castlefield residents concerning Ordsall Chord. Any other residents of any of the city areas that want their voices heard please be in touch and we'll see if we can help.

Matt Hadlington
Communications Manager
Network Rail

21 December 2012

Dear Mr Hadlington

Ordsall Chord Consultation

The following comments on the proposed Ordsall Chord are from the 35 Castlefield residents, business representatives, property owners and a Ward Councillor named at the end of this submission.

Strong support

We wholeheartedly support the construction of the Ordsall Chord - we’ve been waiting for it for more than 30 years. We welcome the benefits it will bring by reducing congestion in the southern approach to Piccadilly Station and so shortening journey times and increasing service frequency in the North West and beyond.

The right option

We fully support your chosen option of ‘a new section of track at the same height as current railway lines’ as against the short flyover, long flyover and tunnel options.

Bring on the Bowstring

We have a very strong preference for the Bowstring design for the bridge across the Irwell.  This will lift the spirit and celebrate the railway with much more grace and zing than the more minimalist linear Half Through design and will be a more fitting addition to the existing and historic Castlefield bridgescape and townscape. 

Massive Yes to Corten

 We love the use of weathering steel (Corten) in both designs, providing, as you say, ‘visual reference to the historic massive brick and masonry of viaducts’ nearby. While we agree that in principle a sleeker aesthetic of a clean, white finish can also suit the Bowstring design, we consider that Corten would be far more appropriate in this particular historic setting. As Corten was specifically developed to give a stable rust-like appearance when exposed to weather and so eliminate the need for painting, its use should also reduce maintenance costs.

Water Street cast iron bridge

We ask you to consider incorporating the cream and brown sides of the existing cast iron Water Street Bridge into your new bridge across Water Street if possible. This design echoes the design of many other railway bridges in Castlefield and so contributes to the character of the Conservation Area. If this isn’t possible, we ask you to dismantle the sides with great care so they can be used elsewhere in Castlefield or the city.

The MOSI railway line

We cannot agree to the way the proposed line cuts across and truncates the railway line currently used for steam trips by MOSI. While we welcome the fact you are exploring ways of creating an alternative line within the MOSI site to enable the thousands of visitors to MOSI each year still to enjoy steam trips of roughly the same length as at present, this does not entirely meet our concern.

Our key point is this: at present Liverpool Road station, the first passenger train station in the world, is connected to the national and indeed European railway network it generated, whereas if the Chord is built in its proposed form it will be disconnected from it. At present, you could catch a train from Liverpool Road station to Edinburgh, Brighton, Paris or Barcelona whereas the Chord in its proposed form will mean you won’t be able to catch a train to anywhere. The link that has been there for 182 years will be severed.

We understand from you that trains have made use of this connection only about three times in the last ten years and that this usage is considered insufficient to justify retaining the link. While we understand this thinking we consider it to be short-termist. Like the historic viaducts and bridges nearby, the new viaduct and bridges can be expected to last hundreds of years. Within that time it is not unrealistic to envisage that the wish to use a direct link to the national and European network might increase. We ask you to modify your design so that:

  • the MOSI line crosses over the new line and joins the Deansgate to Salford Crescent and Eccles line as it does at present (even though, for practical and timetabling reasons, the crossover would obviously not be used by ordinary MOSI steam trips), or
  • the MOSI line joins the new line with a set of points, or
  • as an absolute minimum, you install the infrastructure for such a crossing or points in the way, for example, that designers of the Metrolink network have built infrastructure at Pomona to facilitate a future line to the Trafford Centre and Port Salford should funding become available.

Proximity to Liverpool Road properties

The new viaduct does pass very close indeed to properties at the western end of Liverpool Road.  We ask you to move the junction of the Chord with the existing  viaduct further west so as to minimise noise nuisance and disturbance to these properties both during and after construction.

Deansgate Station and footbridge

We ask you to carry out major refurbishment of Deansgate station and the footbridge across to the Deansgate-Castlefield tram stop.

At the moment this bridge is an eyesore. Last year, following intervention on behalf of the Castlefield Forum by our former MP, Tony Lloyd, the supporting structure was repainted and the plastic panels washed. But even the workers carrying out this work agreed with Forum representatives that this was inadequate. Broken plastic panels were not replaced and are still covered with pieces of tatty wood while the panels themselves are so discoloured and ingrained with dirt that they need replacing. In our view only replacement by strengthened glass (as in the bridge over Cross Street from the Arndale Centre to Marks and Spencer) would make this an elegant and fitting gateway to the city centre.

The covering to the stairs from the bridge down to Whitworth Street West is also extremely unsightly and the way the tin or plastic modern station sign is placed directly under the stone work of the original Knott Mill Station sign hardly seems appropriate for a Grade 2 listed building. 

Repainting Castlefield railway bridges

As part of a programme of works associated with the Chord, we ask you to ensure that the bridges in Castlefield over the Rochdale Canal (near the Knott Bar) and over Deansgate (between Atlas Bar and Deansgate station) are repainted in red, cream and black to match those recently repainted over Castle Street and the Bridgewater Viaduct.

We were going to include a similar request to repaint the bridge spanning the Canal Basin from Potato Wharf to Catalan Square but last week we learnt the excellent news that Network Rail recently contracted Birse to carry out weather-proofing and painting of this bridge and that work is likely to start early in the New Year.

At the moment the repainted bridges make a fine and sparkling contribution to the Castlefield townscape but their impact is lessened by the proximity of fading discoloured bridges. So we also ask you to introduce a new painting programme so that in future bridges close to each other are repainted one after the other roughly at the same time.

Looking down on Castlefield from Beetham TowerLooking down on Castlefield from Beetham Tower

Castlefield signage

Over the last 3 years, with cash grants from the City Council and in partnership with Manchester Confidential, Countryscape, MOSI, Castlefield Estates and the Greater Manchester Archaeological Advisory Service, the Forum has been designing and delivering new Information Boards to replace damaged and out of date signage and so enhance the interpretation of Castlefield for residents and visitors. All existing Boards are to be replaced and, in addition, some completely new signs introduced. 

Once the Chord is complete the Forum would wish to install a new Board on the Water Street side of the Irwell giving information not only about the 30 year history of the Chord, its rationale and construction but also about other transport structures nearby (e.g. Stephenson’s Bridge, the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal). They would also like to provide Information Boards on both platforms of  Deansgate station although these could be in your standard perspex covered boards rather than free-standing. We ask you to agree to this proposal for Deansgate station and invite you to contribute text and funding to both initiatives.

Trains to stop at Deansgate station

Earlier in the Consultation the Forum considered asking for a new station on the Chord serving the Middlewood Locks area and the Water Street and ITV/Quay Street Regeneration areas all of which are due to be redeveloped over the next 10 years or so with a substantial number of new apartments, offices and retail and leisure outlets. However, looking at your chosen alignment and the short length of the Chord, we can see that construction of a new station might be difficult. As an alternative we ask you to ensure greater usage of Deansgate station once the Chord is built.

At present nearly if not all trains on the viaduct to and from Piccadilly stop at Oxford Road but only a small proportion stop at Deansgate. We do not understand the rationale for this. Unlike Oxford Road, Deansgate station provides a direct link to the Metrolink tram system for all stops to Altrincham, Eccles, MediaCityUk, Chorlton, Bury, Oldham, Shaw and, in the future, East Didsbury, Rochdale, Ashton, Wythenshawe and possibly the Trafford Centre and Port Salford. The station also serves the Manchester Central conference centre, the Hilton Hotel (Beetham Tower) and the large and growing population of Castlefield. We understand an additional stop adds only about 2 minutes to journey times.

We ask you to maximise public transport accessibility to all parts of the city by ensuring that all trains using the Chord stop at Victoria and Salford Central stations and that all trains using the existing viaduct between Piccadilly and Castlefield Junction stop at Deansgate, Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations.

For the same reason we also ask you to consider building a station near the site of the former Ordsall Lane station (closed in 1957 and subsequently demolished), so as to serve both the Middlewood Locks area and the growing residential area along Ordsall Lane south of Regent Road.  

Renaming Deansgate station

We ask you to rename Deansgate station Deansgate-Castlefield. This would reflect more accurately the area served by the station and be consistent with the recent renaming (from GMex to Deansgate-Castlefield) of the Metrolink tram station to which it is linked by the footbridge over Whitworth Street West. The two stations are virtually one and we consider they should be treated as such.  Renaming would make interchange between the two lines easier for visitors.

Community pay back

The construction of the Chord, although welcome, will certainly be very disruptive for parts of Castlefield and we are wondering if there could be some form of community pay back from Network Rail? We know some archaeological interests will be uncovered during construction and that there are findings of some earlier excavations in the Castlefield area which have not yet been published.

We are wondering if you could help fund a popular publication on Roman Manchester? The Forum also has plans to convert the disused viaduct beside the Metrolink line into a linear green park (The Hanging Gardens of Castlefield) similar to the High Line in New York and to convert the former Visitor Centre in Liverpool Road to a community facility. Support for these two projects would be greatly appreciated. 

As we have made some very specific proposals and requests in this submission we would appreciate a detailed response or, better still, a meeting with you to discuss the points we make. 

We are copying this submission to our MP, Councillors for the City Centre, Hulme and Ordsall Wards, TfGM, the Chief Executives and Leaders of Manchester and Salford City Councils and the MCC City Centre Regeneration Team. 

Yours sincerely, 

David Allred

Jon & Rachel Best

Declan Cahill

Marilyn Carroll

Ian Christie

Stephen Freeman

David Gearey

Giselle Gearey

Chris Gray & Toni Infante

Paul Greenall

Giles Grover

Steve Hall

Graham Hobbs

Ian Hornby

Debbie Hubbard

Roz Hughes

Ian James

Peter Jones

Stephen Lake & Amanda Jones-Lake

Daniel Leeson

Steven & Serpil Lindsay

Ali McGowan

Carol Middleton

Karl Milburn

David Noble

Cllr Kevin Peel

Carol Standfield

Claire Venables & Matthew Sutton

Ann & Colin Webb

Ordsall ChordOrdsall Chord

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Stephen DouglasDecember 21st 2012.

I technically live on the wrong side of Deansgate to be considered a Castlefield resident but these are all excellent points.

AnonymousDecember 21st 2012.

Agreed, the link to MOSI has enormous historic and symbolic value, regardless of the frequency with which it is used.

AnonymousDecember 21st 2012.

Since when does Cllr Peel live in Castlefield?????

1 Response: Reply To This...
Stephen DouglasDecember 21st 2012.

To be fair, it does say "from the 35 Castlefield residents, business representatives, property owners and a Ward Councillor named at the end of this submission."

It's not unreasonable for a local councillor to be involved in something like this even if he doesn't live in the exact area.

AnonymousDecember 23rd 2012.

Historic and symbolic value? Should all trains on the L&M be hauled by Planet class locos with open carriages? The existence of a connection to Network Rail (which isn't even on the same layout/alignment as in 1830) aids in no way to assisting with the understanding and explanation of the significance of the site. And as attractive as the possibility of Manchester Liverpool Road - Barcelona Sants high speed International service is, there is operationally no chance of the connection being regularly used now (let alone post Ordsall chord). It would be an expensive and unnecessary boondoggle to assuage the demands of a few enthusiasts and the ego of MOSI. If it is the psychological and aesthetic element of having a connection that is important, I'm sure that Network Rail can weld a few lengths of 15ft fishbelly rails across the chord so visitors to Liverpool Road can look off into the distance and imagine the Duke of Wellington arriving for a berating all those years ago....

Wilmslow MikeDecember 23rd 2012.

Passengers haven't been able to catch a train from Liverpool Road to anywhere (let alone Paris and Barcelona (!)) since 4th May 1844 when L&M trains were diverted to the Manchester & Leeds Railway's new establishment at Victoria. I can't see any Train Operating Company wanting to start services anytime soon, as they have that rather larger, nice Piccadilly just up the track. It is a pity the link to MOSI will be severed, but the site has been so altered over the years, and the scheme as it stands does remove the later 'accretions' to Stephenson's Viaduct. A landmark 'bowstring' bridge would be in the best railway tradition rather than the boring alternative 'motorway' style. It also has the advantage of not having a central pier in the Irwell, which would make access to the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal more tricky, if and when that reopens. I have serious concerns about the scheme from a railway operating point of view, however, for two new conflicting flat junctions will be introduced at Castlefield and Salford Central in already heavily trafficked area. I understand the disused platforms at Salford Central will not be reinstated, which could have helped to alleviate the problem.
Picc - Vic anyone...?

Number SixDecember 23rd 2012.

Ordsall Curve is an unnecessary step too far.

Instead we should get the planners to look at the Blind Lane curve in Ardwick, that exists now, albeit without tracks since the 1950s, and can still link Piccadilly and Victoria - via the Stadia, and connect Rochdale, Burnley, Halifax and Bradford into the northern side of Piccadilly; build four new platforms, where portacabin city is now, from which all parts of the country would then be directly accessible - some via Victoria too.

Add those platforms alongside the north elevation of the Piccadilly train shed - re-open and connect Mayfield to Oxford Road and you have a 23 platform Piccadilly connected to all points, north, east, west and south, and cross platform connections for all destinations at one station!

The Ordsall Curve brethren try all sorts of pseudo technical arguments to shoot this down - but none of them either hold water, or connect the stadia, Rochdale, Burnley or Halifax into the fast services from Piccadilly, rather they step back a quarter of a century and separate Manchester's long distance services across the City Centre again - inconveniencing the passengers for probably another half century - just what we don't want!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 25th 2012.

"Pseudo technical arguments" - pray tell what sort of decision making process you would prefer planners to use to appraise projects? I ching, a bottle of port and a 1950's OS map?

How would your solution aid with the removal of services crossing the Piccadilly throat? And how would the restoration of Blind Lane cut transpennine city to city journey times?

Ed GlinertDecember 23rd 2012.

There's no need to do build any new track in Castlefield. Rather the decayed East Manchester line through Holt Town, which connects Ardwick and Miles Platting should be revived. Ideal for SportCity and would provide all the improvements cited with the Ordsall Chord proposals.
Ed Glinert

Councillor Joan DaviesDecember 24th 2012.

Unfortunately there has been a major flaw in the consultation process. The currently proposed route is now the only one under consideration, but it did not appear in the first phase of the consultation process. Unsurprisingly at that time nobody objected to the route; it simply didn’t exist to object to. Yet now it does exist, at least as a plan, it isn’t really up for consultation. The only way to object to this route, one that goes far far too close to existing homes and severs MOSI’s historic, unique links, is to object to the whole proposal: an objection too far for serious-minded local residents.

Local residents are not impressed.

Additionally they’re unimpressed by the poor record of communication and consideration over the last twelve months of the electrification process. Residents accept that modernisation will mean noisy working at inconvenient hours but they’re entitled to timely communication and a polite and effective response to complaints.

The scheme as a whole is welcome, but the details and the process have gaping holes.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 24th 2012.

Councillor, this needs to happen, it needs to happen now, and unfortunately for MOSI it will happen as it already is planned.

Heritage is important but not at the expensive of growth for the whole north.

AnonymousDecember 27th 2012.

Whilst I agree with your sentiment, this is a city centre and it will always adapt - as the best cities across the world constantly do. Currently, Manchester has to ensure that it doesn't get left behind and this needs to go ahead.

It is not nice to say, but if you live in the city and have issues with the development of it then it is time to go.

AnonymousSeptember 26th 2013.

...this is the type of NIMBY attitudes which will hold back the growth of the city, just like the Cotswolds residents who are up in arms about HS2. Don't like living in a busy city? Go live in Bramhall.

Peter CastreeJanuary 5th 2013.

As all the existing and proposed railway lines are at the same height, I wouldn't have thought it beyond the wit of man to provide a simple single-line crossover to allow occasional access to and from the museum for the movement of rolling stock. The current extended museum train rides would have to disappear but the museum could still run trains along the remaining internal line as they used to do before.

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