Leading engineer Mark Whitby is challenging Network Rail’s proposed Ordsall Chord scheme in Manchester in the High Court
The former president of the Institute of Civil Engineers has hired lawyers to have his case heard against the BDP-designed scheme under a judicial review saying that proposal would cause ‘substantial harm’ to the industrial heritage of Manchester and the world’s first passenger railway.
Whitby claims there were errors in the decision-making process and work on the project, which was due to start this Autumn, is being put on hold while the case is heard.
The new route includes a 340m rail chord joining the Bolton line with the Chat Moss line, a new bridge would span the river Irwell and the Trinity Way dual carriageway.
The work would include demolition of seveal railway bridges and an existing road bridge would have a particular impact on the Grade-I listed former Liverpool Road Station and a railway warehouse and bridge ove the river Irwell attributed to George Stephenson.
As a former president of the ICE Whitby has spoken out against the new route on a number of occasions, describing it as a ‘strike in bowling’ for the number of listed structures it would affect and the equivalent of taking a sledgehammer to Stephenson’s Rocket. He was initially commissioned by Network Rail to look into options for the chord but resigned when the rail infrastructure body decided against his alternative version of the scheme.
Speaking about the scheme Whitby said: ‘Network Rail is achieving the equivalent of a ‘strike’ in bowling; you couldn’t find more listed structures together in one place and so effectively trash them.
‘It is the equivalent to taking a sledge hammer to The Rocket in the Science Museum.’
English Heritage also raised concerns over the destruction to railway heritage comparing the new route’s effects to the demolition of the Euston Arch.
In his conclusion the inspector noted the significant damage the new route would cause to railway heritage but said that the sites could still be ‘enjoyed’ individually. The inspector said: ‘I find the comparison with the demolition of the Euston Arch made by English Heritage and others not to be particularly helpful to the decision.
‘That involved the demolition of an iconic structure, totally erasing its significance and radically changing the context. In this case, the primary assets would remain intact, and could continue to be appreciated at an individual level, even though the relationship between them would be heavily disrupted.’
The scheme, which has been on the cards since the late 1970s also passes close to the western end of the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). MOSI is a complex of four listed buildings on Liverpool Road, among them the world’s oldest station by the father of railways, George Stephenson.
Also in the MOSI complex is a grade II-listed warehouse which was converted by Ian Simpson in the 1980s and which underwent a subsequent £9.5m revamp two years ago by Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams Architects.
One of the major attractions at MOSI is a stream train ride that uses a section of the original 1830 L&MR track; under the current Network Rail plans this would no longer be possible.
The Judicial Review is expected to start in September.