Published at 03:22 on Sunday 10th December 2017
Tags: Network Rail, Manchester, Ordsall Chord, Great North Rail Project

Looking over the unique structure of the new Ordsall Chord bridge towards Manchester Victoria, clearly showing the rusting 'natural' colour of the metalwork, as a TransPennine Class 185 forms an eastbound service from Liverpool Lime Street. Tony Miles

The highly promoted Ordsall Chord in Manchester, part of the 'Great North Rail Project', comes into service today following the annual December timetbale change.

Officially opened on 9th November when the

Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, installed the final rail clip marking completion of the scheme.

The new chord will, for the first time, provide a direct rail link between Piccadilly and Victoria stations, and allow some services that currently arrive in Manchester from (for example) the south, and reverse in the terminal platforms at Piccadilly before departing to the east, to run through Piccadilly, via the new Chord, then head east through Victoria. The new route provices an another cross-City link, and also reducing congestion, freeing up platforms and platform space at Piccadilly. The current flaw in the plan is the lack of paths between the approaches to Piccadilly, Oxford Road and the new Chord, as the route is currently double-track throughout and already at capacity. Network Rail has plans to build an additional two through platforms at Piccadilly station, but Mark Carne has previously said that the cost-benefit ratio of the project will be looked at again, raising concerns that the project may not proceed, even if the DfT gives it the green light. The company is currently awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State for Transport on its Transport and Works Act application for the work which would allow the construction of platforms, a decision which has been awaited for several months.

But with the Ordsall Chord complete, and the electrification of the Manchester to Bolton and Preston route well advanced, the pieces of the jigsaw that will allow additional services to operate, and make use of an electrified network are slowly coming into place, despite the obvious gaps.

Northern say that by connecting Manchester’s three main stations, it will reduce congestion at Piccadilly station by a quarter, allowing a more frequent service. However, introduction of through services from Yorkshire to Manchester Airport, previously promised by Network Rail in November last year, will not be introduced until the timetable recast takes place in May 2018. That work in itself will bring about one of the biggest changes to local and regional timetabled services across the North of England for many years, and aims to lay the groundwork for new services, journey time improvements, and the introduction of new trains, ahead of the next big timetable upgrade in 2019.

In the short-term, on weekdays and Saturdays, the new link will be used by six Northern services each way, between Manchester Oxford Road and Leeds, all of which previously started or terminated at Manchester Victoria, along with one late evening Manchester Airport to Leeds TransPennine service. The Sunday service, ironically, is better, with 13 Northern workings in each direction over the Chord, forming an hourly timetable from mid-morning until late evening.

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