Britain’s first asymmetrical network arch railway bridge was dramatically installed on Tuesday (21 February) – a major landmark in a Network Rail scheme that, once complete, will bring transformative benefits for train customers across the North of England.
Witnessing the two vast Ordsall Chord arches being lifted into place over the River Irwell in central Manchester by Britain’s largest crawler-cranes was David Brown, chief executive of Transport for the North.
“I’m sure Network Rail are going to use this as one of their really good examples of how when they’re given the support, the time and the money, they really can deliver these pieces of infrastructure. Now we need them to go on and do the rest across the north.”
Today’s historic moment took place fittingly at the birthplace of modern intercity railways, where in 1830 ‘father of railways’ George Stephenson unveiled his Manchester-Liverpool line, the world’s first rail connection of two major cities.
From December this year when trains start running across it, the Ordsall Chord will enable faster, more frequent services to run through Manchester to and from all the major economic centres in the north. It will, for the first time, connect Manchester’s main railway stations – Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria. This will reduce railway congestion across the city, a railway hub, by 25% and will reduce journey times for customers as far afield as Newcastle.
Peter Jenkins, of BDP, the architects, worked with engineers from WSP, Aecom and Mott MacDonald to design the 89-metre single-span ‘network arch’ bridge, the second-longest in the world. Weighing 600 tonnes, it is designed with a low curve in a tennis racket-style lattice. Unlike any other in Britain its design is asymmetrical.
Liam Sumpter, Regional Director for Northern, said:
“I am looking forward to seeing the new Northern services carrying our customers across it.”
Paul Staples, Fleet Director for TransPennine Express, added:
“This milestone moment brings us one step closer to the completion of this great engineering feat.”