Wednesday 14 October 2015

Battle to Save Historic Rail Line

Update Since our original posting the Plans have received High Court backing despite the claims that the scheme will damage a key part of railway history. 

The Ordsall Chord will link Piccadilly and Victoria but has 30 "heritage assets" on the route.
Critics focused on the former Liverpool Road station - a terminus on the world's first passenger railway which opened in 1830 - which will be cut off.
A judicial review of the government's backing of the scheme was unsuccessful.
Ministers had decided the public benefits associated with the Ordsall Chord outweighed any harm to the site.
And the judge said she could find "no flaw" in the government planning inspector's conclusions.

As a high court hearing looms, a leading historian joins the outcry over a plan to demolish parts of the world’s first intercity railway in Manchester
It is the crucible of the modern age, the hallowed birthplace of the industrial era in Britain and around the world. Yet the survival of much of a historic railway site, hailed by heritage experts as “the Stonehenge of railway history” – a miraculous survivor from the dawn of steam-driven transport – hangs on the outcome of an extraordinary high court hearing.

The increasingly bitter fight over the Ordsall Chord, a curving, 340-metre, £85m rail link between Victoria and Piccadilly stations in Manchester, focuses on the fate of the extensive, and exceptionally intact, remains of the world’s first intercity railway – the near-complete viaducts, track, arches, bridges, warehouses and end-of-line terminus of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
Time capsules in brick and iron, overlooked by the inner-Manchester sprawl, the surviving structures were designed and built in the late 1820s and 1830s. They are listed grade I and grade II* – the highest levels of statutory protection – yet under a redevelopment scheme, chosen by Network Rail and vigorously supported by Manchester city council, large portions of the site will be destroyed, or remodelled beyond recognition, as the new Ordsall Chord line is driven through. Thirteen listed structures and buildings would be harmed.
Network Rail decided against an alternative scheme, proposed by one of its own consultant civil engineers, which would have provided the new rail link without damaging the historic site. Under the scheme chosen, the mainline track serving Liverpool Road station, the world’s oldest passenger terminus, will be permanently severed – cutting it off, for the first time since its opening 185 years ago, to rail travellers outside Manchester.

Network Rail is pressing ahead with the scheme, despite strong opposition from English Heritage and campaigners. Now one of Britain’s most eminent historians, Sir Neil Cossons, has joined the fray with an attack on the “arrogance” of Network Rail and the council, which he sees as symptomatic of profit-margin philistinism. “In Network Rail you’ve got a major engineering enterprise, a multibillion pound national organisation, with no board-level expertise in design and heritage,” he told the Observer. “Its troubles are ones of taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut.”
On the afternoon of 15 September 1830, the very first intercity passenger train arrived at Liverpool Road station having set out on the 35-mile journey from Liverpool at 11am. VIPs packed into the 300ft-long train – open to the elements, and coasting along at between 10 and 24mph – included the prime minister the Duke of Wellington, MPs, ambassadors and dignitaries.
The arrival of the train is symbolic of the start of the age of science and its commercial exploitation that made Britain the world’s pre-eminent power. The station is now home to the Museum of Science and Industry. It has become a mecca for steam enthusiasts, with historic trains from across Britain running to and from the station.

The museum had strongly opposed the scheme in view of the damage it would cause to the historic structures near the station. However, following negotiations with Network Rail last year, the museum withdrew its opposition and has been offered a £3m contribution that it intends to use to enhance and expand visitor attractions.
Mark Whitby, the engineer whose scheme was rejected by Network Rail, resigned his consultancy in protestat the scale of heritage damage, and is taking legal action aimed at securing a judicial review of the decision. He argues that it failed to take into proper account the effect on statutorily protected structures. The case is due to be heard in the high court on 25 September.
The legal action has drawn a furious response from Manchester council leader Sir Richard Leese. “The person who started this legal action is, for whatever reason, holding up a very important development for Greater Manchester.”
But Whitby has powerful allies. Cossons is the former director of the science museum and was chairman of English Heritage until 2007. “Had Network Rail had its wits about it,” he said, “it would have recognised the extraordinary historic importance of the Liverpool to Manchester railway complex, and would have designed the Ordsall Chord in order to respect it.
“But because Network Rail either didn’t know or didn’t care, and I suspect it to be a combination of the two, it just went for the cheapest and easiest option. Network Rail is not a sensitive or astute manager of its estate. When you think of the fabulous things done at King’s Cross in the past, Network Rail should be capable of handling grade I listed buildings with great sensitivity. It needs to understand that is has heritage worth looking after.
“Nobody is saying there shouldn’t be a rail link between the two main Manchester stations. The argument is over its design and its location … Network Rail has been extraordinarily arrogant in the way it has approached it, and that arrogance is continuing.
“There is acute irony. The science museum in Manchester ought to be the guardian of the buildings it occupies … But it was, for want of a better term, bought off. It will have been a very, very difficult decision [for it].”
But Cossons believes the council is at the heart of the problem. “When I was at the science museum I was involved in putting together a list of industrial sites in Britain to be considered as world heritage sites. Among them was the heart of Manchester, including the mills at Ancoats and the railway sites of the Liverpool to Manchester railway … [but] the city council did not even murmur at the idea that it had a potential world heritage site in the heart of the city. All those sites on the list have now been inscribed by Unesco – except Manchester.
“You can see this thread of a lack of understanding that this is the world’s first industrial city, and that they have something of immense international value. The city council took no interest in it at all.
“It’s really quite weird, the birthplace of modern industrial capitalism as we know it, the magnet for Engels and Marx, who saw the proletarianisation of workers by nasty capitalists. You have every aspect of this phenomenal late 18th early 19th century industrial revolution in Manchester, and still surviving there is the world’s earliest surviving passenger station.
“The Manchester site is one of those key elements in the birth of the railway. The events that took place at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester railway are still there, you can smell and feel them, in that group of buildings.”

Giving evidence at an inquiry into the Ordsall Chord in April 2014, Andrew Davison, English Heritage’s principal inspector of ancient monuments, said he had “never come across a proposed development so exceptionally damaging to the historic environment as the Ordsall Chord”. Referring to the site as the “Stonehenge of railway history”, he said that “this is not just a place that has potential to hold more than national significance in relation to railway history, this is the place where the modern world began”.
But the council is unmoved. “The Ordsall Chord is a vital part of the northern hub, which will bring significant improvements to rail services across the north-west, providing extra capacity to support thousands of additional freight journeys and enabling millions more passengers to travel across the region each day,” Leese told the Observer. “It will help drive growth across the wider region and indeed the whole of northern England.

“This critical piece of work to modernise our transport infrastructure has to be weighed against the need to preserve our city’s important heritage assets, and – while such a major engineering project will inevitably have some impact – a great deal of work has taken place to ensure this impact is kept to an absolute minimum.”
“Manchester was the city where the rail revolution began in the 19th century,” said Leese, “and the Ordsall Chord will enable us to create a railway fit for our 21st century population.”