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Computer image of the completed Ordsall Chord bridge connection. The arch structure being craned onto the new section of the Ordsall Chord Computer generated image of how the Ordsall Chord will look like once all of the elements and bridges have been completed

Great North Rail Projects - Ordsall Chord

As part of Network Rail’s Great North Rail Project, more than £1bn will be spent on railway improvements between 2014 and 2022 in the North of England to stimulate economic growth. One of these ‘Great North Rail Projects’ is Manchester’s Ordsall Chord.

ClientSkanska BAM JV / Network Rail
ExpertiseCivil engineering designer (as part of a joint venture with AECOM)


Manchester has three main city centre stations which, until recently, were not connected with each other directly by rail lines. With railway lines at capacity during peak times, connecting the stations via the Ordsall chord will reduce rail congestion and open up new routes for rail passengers.

Creating these connections sounds simple on paper – installing 500m of track near Ordsall Lane to the south west of the city. But in reality, building the Ordsall Chord required realigning existing track, building new bridges and viaducts, removing redundant structures and restoring others – all while working near a live railway, roads and a river, heritage structures, local businesses and the public.


Connecting the two bridges, that form the Ordsall Chord, is a transition piece which links the 2.2m deep girder of the network arch bridge and 2.8m deep girders of the Trinity Way Bridge. Hexagonal in cross-section and with a complex geometry, this element was analysed and modelled in 3D to aid design, fabrication and erection.

Building information modelling (BIM) has been used to understand the interaction of new and old structures on this project, incorporating all major structures as well as foundations and buried services. This aided co-ordination of all disciplines on this project from an early stage.

All the structures were designed completely in 3D. For the River Irwell Footbridge which runs below the Ordsall Chord’s network arch bridge, the design was delivered as a 3D computer model without conventional design drawings. This saved 15% off the design cost, and 20% on the programme.


The Ordsall chord will ease rail traffic congestion, reduce journey times and enhance rail capacity across the north of England. The efficiency of the network arch bridge meets the architect's aspirations for an elegant structure, as well as all necessary performance characteristics for the railway. As part of the works, a new public realm has been created that reveals the area’s rich industrial heritage, parts of which will be seen in their full glory for the first time in over 150 years.

Benefits of the Ordsall Chord

  • New direct links to Manchester Airport from across the north of England.
  • Congestion currently seen at Manchester Piccadilly reduced by a quarter with some services being rerouted through Manchester Victoria.
  • More capacity on the railway for more frequent trains.
  • Improved connectivity and residential developments.
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