Manchester’s three main railway stations have been connected for the first time by the Ordsall Chord bridge – the world’s first asymmetric rail bridge and the centrepiece of the Great North Rail Project.
The first passenger trains are expected to use the bridge next month on services connecting Manchester Piccadilly with Victoria and Oxford Road.
The Ordsall Chord also helps provide direct services to Manchester Airport from as far afield as Newcastle.
The Ordsall Chord in the Ordsall area of Greater Manchester
The iconic new bridge is located at the birthplace of modern intercity railways, where in 1830 George Stephenson unveiled the Liverpool–Manchester railway.
After installing the final rail clip onto the Ordsall Chord, rail minister Paul Maynard said: 'The new Ordsall Chord is a major milestone for the Great North Rail Project and forms a key part of this government’s £13bn investment in transport in the north.
'The construction of this new iconic bridge has supported 2,000 jobs, including new apprentices and graduates and will provide new and direct links to Manchester Airport from across the region.
'By 2020, the Great North Rail Project will deliver faster and more comfortable journeys, with new trains, extra carriages and more than 2,000 extra services a week.'
Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester mayor, said: 'The iconic network arch bridge will create a new landmark on the Manchester skyline. It harks back to the glory days of rail investment and stands just yards from the site of the world’s first-ever railway station. Just as Manchester pioneered rail travel in the 19th century, I hope we can lead the development of the next generation of infrastructure in the 21st.
'A modern, well-connected rail network is vital to unlocking the full economic potential of our city-region and the whole of the North of England. I look forward to working with the Government and Network Rail to deliver the further capacity improvements that will realise the full value of the Ordsall Chord.'
Project milestones at a glance
- Work started in October 2015 involving 300 metres of new track being laid over the world’s first asymmetrical rail bridge
- Princes bridge has been taken down and replaced by the new footbridge crossing the River Irwell. It will open to the public at a later stage.
- There were three major and complex sections of work at Easter 2016, Christmas and New Year and Easter 2017. This involved removing old bridges and replacing them with new structures, realigning track and installing new signalling.
- Stephenson’s bridge was painstakingly cleaned underneath by hand. The process took two weeks and restoration work is ongoing.
- The Trinity Way bridge was lifted into place.
- Two huge cranes – one the largest in Britain – lifted two conjoining 600 tonne arches onto the Network Arch bridge.
- The Irwell cascades were lifted into place, adding a unique look to the bridge.