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CN Briefing: Ordsall Chord; Network Rail; Bam; Skanska; Manchester

Most people of my generation, growing up in and around Manchester, will remember a school trip or two to the city’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Back then, we would’ve been more interested in the interactive exhibits and the giant machinery they have on display, rather than the architecture of the surrounding area.

It’s this area of the city that is now playing host to one of the most ambitious – not to mention controversial – infrastructure projects in Manchester’s history.

The Ordsall Chord – a viaduct which will provide a direct link between the city’s two major stations for the first time – has had its fair share of challenges, not least because of where it is being built.

The project, part of Network Rail’s £4bn Northern Hub upgrade, crosses the River Irwell alongside Stephenson’s Bridge, which carried the world’s first passenger trains into the old Liverpool Road Station in 1830, and intersects several heritage assets along the way.

It was subject to a judicial review, brought by former ICE president Mark Whitby, who argued that the plans would “substantially harm” heritage assets.

Although the review was dismissed in March this year, main contractors Skanska and Bam, working in an alliance model alongside firms including Amey and Siemens, have had to be meticulous in their methods to get the project right.

The site is surrounded by Grade I and Grade II-listed heritage assets, while the viaduct itself will be the UK’s first network arch structure – meaning that the finished product will be a blend of the old and the new.

The construction challenges behind the project have been vast.

But aside from the fact that it will allow an extra 700 trains per day to travel through the city once complete, it’s the development potential this infrastructure investment can offer that really shines through.

All around the site, where works will be going on until December next year, are a plethora of tower cranes, with the likes of Muse and Scarborough already building major projects, while other developers including McGoff Group and Renaker are either starting on site or preparing sites for further projects.

All of these lie within a stone’s throw of where the Chord will sit, making it not just a huge project in terms of the engineering challenge and skills needed to tackle it, but for the wider city.

Read how Skanska and Bam are building the Ordsall Chord and preserving Manchester’s industrial heritage on Construction News tomorrow.

Also in the news

Construction returned to growth for the first time since the EU referendum, according to the Markit / CIPS Construction PMI for September.

But data from Arcadis suggests there are still uncertain times ahead – and the consultant shares some exclusive recommendations on how to manage costs in a difficult economic climate.

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