‘Oldest railway station in the world’ threatened by Network Rail plans

The Liverpool Road railway station in Manchester, dating from 1830, is the oldest surviving mainline station in the world.

Along with the surrounding Victorian track structures – including a Grade I listed brick viaduct designed by George Stephenson – it has been described by English Heritage as the railway equivalent of Stonehenge.

But Network Rail is prepared to cause what it admits will be “substantial harm” to parts of this historic setting – the terminus of the acclaimed Liverpool and Manchester Railway – by building a 3,600-foot viaduct called the Ordsall Chord just above it.

The £132m viaduct is the pivot-point in a wider £600m rail modernisation scheme called the Northern Hub, delivering a straight-through service between Manchester’s Victoria, Oxford Road, and Piccadilly stations, and substantially improving services across the north of England.

The trade-off between substantial harm to historic structures and public benefit is at the heart of a Department of Transport inquiry into the Ordsall Chord which is due to end next week.

The Northern Hub will ultimately handle 700 more trains a year, carrying 44 million extra passengers, generating up to 30,000 new jobs and bringing £46bn of “wider economic benefits” to the region. Part of that gain will come from the development of the Middlewood Locks site, immediately northwest of the Ordsall Chord, by Scarborough Developments.

Sir Neil Cossons, a past chairman of English Heritage, says Network Rail’s handling of the design and consultation of the Ordsall Chord is “fundamentally flawed”. He told the inquiry it might not be fully competent as “the responsible owner of an historic estate of such critical importance”. 

Cue David and Goliath. The Ordsall Chord was on the verge of being waved through by both Network Rail and Salford City Council until Mark Whitby, an eminent British engineer whose projects have included Tate Modern, agitated for a public inquiry.

Mr Whitby took part in Network Rail’s design review panel for the Ordsall Chord in 2012, and he feared the proposed track alignment would obliterate views of Stephenson’s viaduct and the heritage value of historic rail infrastructure around it.

English Heritage was not consulted by Network Rail until after the alignment of the new viaduct had been selected. English Heritage’s expert witness, Andrew Davison, told the inquiry that the proposed viaduct cut straight across Stephenson’s bridge, requiring the removal or modification of listed structures associated with Liverpool Road station, which closed in 1975. This, he said, would rupture their meaning as a uniquely historic collection of parts. 

Network Rail agreed to examine other viaduct alignments, and Mr Whitby developed an alternative scheme, Option 15, as an example. This would create a new, north-running viaduct and realign the Ordsall Chord so that it started on the western side of Stephenson’s bridge, allowing the original railway line through Liverpool Road station to connect to the new structure.

The alternative scheme leaves Stephenson’s bridge undisturbed and in full view; and a substantial chunk of the Middlewood Locks development would remain east-facing and openly connected with Manchester, rather than cut off from the city by Network Rail’s proposed alignment of the viaduct alongside the Trinity Way inner ring road.

Scarborough Developments, which owns Middlewood Locks, says Option 15 is not commercially viable because it would put two viaducts across the land, complicating the connection between building plots. The current alignment of the Ordsall Chord leaves Scarborough with a virtually clear site on which to maximise building density, and profitability.

The inquiry is much more than a local firefight about history versus 21st century progress. The Department for Transport’s decision on the scheme will be of national significance, because it will set a critical precedent on how railway modernisation can treat important historic fabric. 

At a time of rapid infrastructure renewals, Sir Neil fears that Network Rail – despite triumphs such as the restoration and modernisation of the Grade I listed King’s Cross station – is not fully equipped to understand heritage sites.

He said: “Without the capacity internally to reconcile the voices of the past, and the responsibilities that attend them, with the necessities of today and tomorrow, Network Rail’s proposals cannot in my view be regarded as forming a credible basis for the future.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss