What’s the Ordsall Curve?

Railway arches in the Ordsall areaIf you listened in to the Budget this afternoon, you’d have heard George Osborne giving the green light for two regional rail schemes: redoubling the single line between Swindon and Kemble (rather outside our area of coverage) and an £85 million project to build a new railway line in Ordsall that will allow trains to link Piccadilly and Victoria stations via the outskirts of the cities. So what is this scheme all about?

The map above shows the current railways around Manchester in blue. The proposed Ordsall Curve is the red line that connects the existing lines from Salford Crescent to Deansgate and Salford Central, completing the missing side of the triangle (note that our map only shows a rough outline of where the curve will be located). It would form the first phase of the proposed £530 million Northern Hub scheme that will add capacity to the rail system across the region, allowing lots more trains to operate to Manchester.

The new chord would allow transpennine rail services from Leeds to be diverted to Victoria station, and then operate via Oxford Road and Piccadilly and onwards to Manchester Airport. This would also result in less conflicting movements on the approaches to Piccadilly station, as currently transpennine services to the airport have to cross from one side of the tracks to the other. By keeping them on the western side of the tracks (for the junction to the airport at Longsight) this would allow more commuter trains to operate into Piccadilly station from the south.

All good so far: train journeys to Leeds and Liverpool should be speeded up by several minutes, at least if you’re travelling from city centre to city centre. There will be new direct services between Victoria and the airport. And with electrification of routes to Liverpool and Blackpool currently in the pipeline, it makes sense to consider how the Ordsall Curve will impact upon this project. So what (if any) problems might be lurking?

The biggest obstacle we can see is how busy the existing double-track line between Deansgate and Piccadilly platforms 13 and 14 are already. We understand that the full half-billion pound Hub scheme provides for two additional through platforms at Piccadilly, though we’re not certain whether the scheme announced today will include these. Without them, there will be a limit to how many additional trains can be squeezed in between the existing services. There’s also a question mark over what will become of the current express trains between Piccadilly and Liverpool via Warrington Central and “Liverpool South Parkway for John Lennon International Airport” if the current service is diverted via Victoria. We await further details on this project with bated breath.

[Image credit: “Brick Railway Arches (Beetham Tower in the distance)” by Tom Blackwell on Flickr]

About James McCollom

Web geek, singer and public transport professional
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46 Responses to What’s the Ordsall Curve?

  1. Watcherzero says:

    This is indeed only the first part and to gain the full advantage it requires the further proposed west facing bays at Victoria and through platforms at Pic.

    The chord itself may prove a controversial political hot potato once the general public becomes aware of some major issues with it, potentially damaging the Roman ruins, potentially meaning MOSI rail line will be lost and another honking Viaduct.

    • Paul Sidorczuk says:

      West facing bays at Victoria. That takes me back to the good old days when Manchester Exchange station had some of these. I remember going to Holyhead from there in the 1960’s. All there is at present is a nondescript car park. Is it not within the realms of forward planning to bring the Llandudno to Manchester service back into the former west facing bay platforms here? Also the through paths could be used for extra services to Victoria that will be brought here by the new Ordsall Chord.

  2. D9000 says:

    As far as capacity on the Oxford Road line goes, won’t it just be a straight swap: Leeds – Liverpools out, Leeds – Airports in?

    Express services via Warrington Central would of course still remain with the Sheffield – Liverpools … might need longer formations, though!

    • James McCollom says:

      There’s only the hourly Liverpool – Scarborough transpennine service that currently operates via Oxford Road. Even if this is diverted via Victoria, one would expect a replacement of some form on the Warrington Central line. Then add in the two transpennine services from Leeds and beyond to the airport that will use the new curve and that’s two extra paths per hour, and to make it worthwhile we reckon the hourly Piccadilly – Hull sevice would continue to the airport too. Three additional trains in each direction every hour required just to cover the existing service – that’s before any increase in frequency.

      • Paul Sidorczuk says:

        If the Piccadilly to Hull service starts from the airport and goes via the new Ordsall Chord, will the existing Airport to Cleethorpes service (serving Sheffield and Doncaster) be also scheduled to go via the new Ordsall Chord? You say that there will be two extra paths per hour, so will these paths be taken by the Hull and Cleethorpes services?

  3. D9000 says:

    The Piccadilly Hull will remain as is, as reversing out again to the Airport will only re-create the whole crossing Piccadilly throat problem the curve is intended to alleviate. Until and unless Piccadilly 15 & 16 are built, I can see the solution being the removal of existing local services from Oxford Road, either terminating at Piccadilly (for trains coming in from Stockport, especially the Cornbrook turnbacks) or diverted to Victoria (Airport trains from the Bolton direction). Once interchange to the Airport is available at Salford Central/Victoria there is perhaps less imperative to run through Airport services from the North/West.

    • James McCollom says:

      But surely the Piccadilly – Hull service would be diverted to serve Victoria, Ordsall Curve and Oxford Road and then wouldn’t need to cross the Piccadilly approaches as it would come from the through platforms? And whilst GMITA seems pleased about getting Victoria – Airport services, we wonder whether the rest of the North West will be as happy if their useful and direct airport trains have to get the kibosh.

      [Incidentally, there are very few terminating electric trains from the south at Deansgate these days, down to a couple of peak-hour services only?]

      • Paul Sidorczuk says:

        There is one service that currently runs from Manchester Airport that has to cross the throat of the approaches to Manchester Piccadilly then has to reverse outwards to continue its journey that no one has mentioned so far.

        This is the First Transpennine Express service from Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes that serves the Sheffield and Doncaster areas.

        Since everyone is of the opinion that all cross-Pennine services should go via the Ordsall Chord via Manchester Victoria, is it proposed that on leaving Manchester Victoria, this train will take the junction at Miles Platting then take the junction at Ashton Moss North junction then proceed via Crowthorn junction and Denton junction, carrying on via Denton and Reddish South stations to Heaton Norris junction then into Stockport station where it will resume its normal route.

        Is it proposed to start this service from Manchester Piccadilly to obviate all the unneccessary journey mileage and times to Stockport. This will cut out the only direct service to Manchester Airport from both Sheffield and Doncaster. I invite any comments from anyone who has knowledge of how the Ordsall Chord will affect this particular service.

  4. D9000 says:

    The full benefit of the Ordsall Curve will be only be delivered if the rest of the Northern Hub (option 2) proposals are also delivered; that means two extra platforms at Piccadilly and new west facing bays at Victoria. The timetable plan shown on the Network Rail documents show only two Trans Pennine North trains per hour running to the Airport (via Victoria), so it looks like the Hull service stays where it is. So, if no extra platforms are built, only one extra train per hour has to be squeezed through Oxford Road – having studied the options, I reckon the solution might be that the North Wales trains go to Victoria, freeing up one path per hour through Oxford Road. This would preserve the Airport trains from Bolton/Wigan.

    (The plan calls for 4 trains an hour for Victoria – Airport, one each from Bradford, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and one starting from Victoria, but that needs those extra platforms at both Picc and Vic).

    I’d be really worried if I was a user of Warrington Central, though, as the same document not only sends the Scarborough – Liverpool via Chat Moss but also sends the Sheffield – Liverpool via Victoria and Chat Moss (via Marple and the Ashburys – Miles Platting line). Granted, that’s another path per hour saved through Oxford Road, but it leaves Warrington Central looking a bit thin! Possibly the Sheffield trains might be replaced by a Liverpool – Airport semi-fast, but even so, unless those extra platforms are built over Fairfield Street, Warrington C is going to be a train an hour down on current services.

    • James McCollom says:

      As an exiled Warringtonian, I am rather concerned. There’ll be extra replacement trains put on I’m sure – there’ll have to be otherwise there’ll be uproar from the many commuters on this line who don’t benefit from GMPTE and Merseytravel season tickets – but no more interregional links. There was an argument to be had about retaining through-services between the headquarters of NWDA, Yorkshire Forward and emda, but these are being abolished by the Government!

      • Paul Sidorczuk says:

        Just another thought about increasing the platform capacity at Manchester Victoria. Who own the land (currently used as a car park) where the former Manchester Exchange station used to be? There is still a bridge connection over the River Irwell to there, from opposite Manchester Cathedral. As I remember, there were two terminal west-facing platforms at Manchester Exchange and there were three main through lines, one of which connected to Manchester Victoria platform 11. The footbridge connecting the outer two platforms is still in situ. To relieve train path congestion and to help with the extra platform capacity that would be required by trains using the new Ordsall Chord, without taking up any of the existing platforms 3 to 6 at Manchester Victoria, the reversion to useage of Manchester Exchange station of its former track and platform layout seems to have a lot going for it.

  5. D9000 says:

    Hey, so long as people can still get to Wires away games …

  6. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    Do I understand correctly? Manchester Airport has been increased to three platform faces, but will this be enough to handle all the proposed new services, eg. Hull. The line from Slade Lane junction is very heavily used at present with both First TPE and Northern Rail services and there is also the Freightliner services that use the line. There is also a Picadilly to the Airport shuttle service calling at Mauldeth Road, Burnage, East Didsbury, Gatley and Heald Green, which is heavily used. Is it proposed that this service be extended to Manchester Victoria?

    • James McCollom says:

      Timetables haven’t been finalised at this point, Paul, but the basic concept is that Transpennine services between Leeds and the airport will use the through platforms at Piccadilly and operate via Oxford Road and Victoria before rejoining the existing route at Stalybridge. They won’t need to reverse, or operate via the sharp curve at Guide Bridge, so overall journey time shouldn’t be affected adversely.

      Use of the four tracks between Longsight and Ardwick can then be optimised, with the two tracks on the west used for airport services and the two tracks on the east used for Stockport services and no conflicting moves required. Not necessarily any extra services with the first phase, mainly diverted ones.

      • Paul Sidorczuk says:

        Thank you, James, for your answer. Noting that the new Metrolink line to Droylsden then Ashton is now underway in construction, will the new proposed rail route from the Airport to Stalybridge via Manchester Victoria be the current divergent route at Miles Platting and will there be any track upgrading required to cope with the journey paths. How many trains per hour will be using this line? Is it proposed to make any service changes to existing services using this route such as the all-stations stopping services from Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield and other routes that run through on this line, such as trains from Liverpool and Wigan.

      • James McCollom says:

        You might be interested in reading the Northern RUS document which details long-term plans on what Network Rail would like to do if they had the money.

        We’ll blog any further news on services as and when we find out more 🙂

    • Watcherzero says:

      There is a proposed platform 4 at Man Airport (in addition to the Metrolink platform) to cope with all the services however it will be at the end of the existing platforms (only place they could fit it in) so you will have to walk the length of the existing platform then take a footbridge to reach it.

      • Paul Sidorczuk says:

        When they were building the new platform at Manchester Airport, which has only one platform face, why did they not make it have two platform faces. The amount of land requirements to do this was not an issue. It was always interesting to read of the developments when new rail stations for both Manchester Airport and Stanstead Airport were being planned. The north/south divide was very much to the fore as matters progressed. I note that whilst Manchester Airport goes from strength to strength, being nominated as being the Manchester region new enterprise zone, Stanstead Airport finds itself being one of two airports that the BAA ha been instructed to sell off.

      • Watcherzero says:

        It was originally planned there would be two heavy rail platforms and two Metrolink platforms in a two island formation. However government backed up on Metrolink and the Airport station was a hit so they needed extra capacity and decided to take some of the space Metrolink was going to use, a few months later Metrolink was back on so its left with the sole platform space left. Meanwhile the station has continued to be a huge hit and they need a 4th heavy rail platform so as theres no room in the original two island space they have to build it further away.

  7. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    Thank you, James, for putting the link in your reply (Northern RUS document). It made interesting reading, but it appeared to have been published 12 months ago. It appears that anything under “Calder Valley Line” was doomed to failure. This shows the fact that Huddersfield ( University, Galpharm Stadium et al) is recognised as having some very influential friends when rail planning issues arise.

    Am I the only one old enough to remember how this line carried such main links from Liverpool to Newcastle, via Manchester Victoria , Rochdale, Hebden Bridge and York. I distinctly remember being on platform 11 watching a large steam locomotive pulling at least 12 coaches including a restaurant car. Has this route been totally cast into the wastebin of future railway planning. At present, there are still 6 through paths open through Manchester Victoria against the two paths from Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Oxford Road that are on a viaduct.

    I see that proposals for the Manchester Airport to destinations via Leeds state that the through line via Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria will eliminate the need to use the tight curves when taking the junction at Guide Bridge on the line to Stalybridge. I agree that the current route has obvious speed restictions as well as being one of the most poor aesthetic viewing quality which does absolutly nothing to give prospective inward financial institution funding to reinvigorate this area in the way of inward financial investment. It is presently like an expanded version of the Beamish industrial heritage site.

  8. David Garnett says:

    Should HS2 ever get to Manchester, is it known what the approach route would be and will the Ordsal curve have any influence on it. As international trains going through the Channel Tunnel have to be greater than 375metres long where is the likely location to site these platforms?

    • James McCollom says:

      There’s been some speculation about a station at Manchester Airport, but no further details on the route north of Tamworth. Equally, there’s no guarantee of international services. We will do a piece about HS2 once we know a bit more about how it will affect Manchester.

  9. John Gilbert says:

    But at least the Ordsall Curve is a start – one has to begin somewhere. Of course the need is also to widen those two tracks to Piccadilly and then provide two more through platforms there. But the money is not there to do all these things at once. (We need transpennine electrification as well!!!)
    Are the two through tracks at Piccadilly signalled bi-directionally?

    • James McCollom says:

      The two through platforms at Piccadilly are signalled so that trains can pass through them in both directions, yes. It’s only done when really necessary however, as it tends to muck up the timetable!

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  11. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    Can anyone clarify a point for me with regard to the current Leeds and Selby services via the Calder Valley lines that currently operate from the two terminal platforms 1 and 2 at Manchester Victoria. Will these be operated to Manchester Airport under the Ordsall Curve new proposals or will they stay as the status quo?

    On a totally different matter, platforms 1 and 2 have received a high quality platform upgrade recently. Are these new platforms to be used as terminal Metrolink platforms for the new Oldham and Rochdale metrolink services?

    • David Garnett says:

      “On a totally different matter, platforms 1 and 2 have received a high quality platform upgrade recently. Are these new platforms to be used as terminal Metrolink platforms for the new Oldham and Rochdale metrolink services?”

      Surely the metrolink would need to run into the city centre and possibly onto the Ashton or Cornbrook routes. There appears to be a large holding area between Deansgate and Cornbrook.

    • James McCollom says:

      We’re still waiting for more details on proposed timetables Paul – my instinct is that Calder Valley services won’t operate to the airport, but you’ll be able to connect onto airport trains at Victoria. Oldham Metrolink will run through the city centre, possibly running through onto the Chorlton line, so the two terminal platforms will remain for trains.

  12. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    I apologize for referring to the Ordsall Chord as the Ordsall Curve in my last entry. I expected many fellow contributors to berate me for that!!!!

    Thank you, James, for your comments about the Calder Valley line trains. I suppose that Leeds/Bradford airport would not be too happy about passengers on that line taking their business to Manchester Airport.

    The reason why I mentioned the Oldham Metrolink line terminating at Manchester Victoria is that it shown as that on the Metrolink section on the TfGM website under their link to the Oldham/Rochdale Metrolink line and their schematic line map shows Manchester Victoria as the terminus. There is no “dotted line” extentions towards the city centre shown. If the line does extend, what will the line capacity be from Irk Valley (Bury and Oldham line convergencies) to the city centre?

  13. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    It may be wishful thinking on my part but since there must be a certain capital budgetary allocation in the new plans, has anyone considered building an Oxford Road connection from the presently defunct Mayfield station?

    Mayfield station has the high level platform levels already and it so near to the existing platforms 13 and 14 as to be made a larger part of the current infrastructure of Manchester Piccadilly. It is on the correct side of the station complex to accept and receive train paths on what is accepted to be the Manchester Airport part of the paths rationalizaton of the approaches to Manchester Piccadilly. Using the current Mayfield Station infrastructure, a new through line would give four platforms (15,16,17,18) rather than the two platforms (15,16) in the current proposals at Manchester Piccadilly.

    I know there would be cost implications for a new bridge crossing Fairfield Street but surely there are also existing capital project costs in building the two new high level platforms 15 and 16 in the plans at Manchester Piccadilly.

    • David Garnett says:

      This idea had occurred to me when pondering how HS2 would fit int the scheme of things. My idea was that HS2 could approach from the south running parrael with the M6 between the intersection with the M56 and Thelwall viaduct and link to the present Warrington Manchester Line west of Grazebrook where high speed running would cease. International trains could run into Mayfield via Oxford road. Domestic High speed trains, which would go onto Glasgow, would approach vis Stockport. This would require the re-instatment of track from Glazebrook east junction to meet up with the line through Timperley used by the Chester trains. Passport control facillities would be housed at the ground level in Mayfield.

    • David Garnett says:

      I’ve come across this discusion on Rail Forums
      Several people seem to have thought about using Mayfield and have used Google maps to display their ideas.

      • Paul Sidorczuk says:

        David, thanks for the link to Rail Forums. Whilst it is good to see that fertile imagination has not left the mind of “wannabe” rail promotors ( lots of the former Mr. Hudson of York seem to abound), in real life to say that ” X number of houses would need to be demolished” without realising the problems that would cause not only to the poor unfortunates who will lose their homes but also to the detriment of the area where new railway works will impinge upon the existing standard of life. I am not a “nimby” but have enough care to realise just how painful some of these suggestions are.

        Surely, the existing structure of the present transport infrastructure has the capability to be restored back to the levels before “rationalization” became the ” in word” in what used to be known as “The Department of Transport” in many of the areas in the metropolitan regions of England.

  14. Paul Sidorczuk says:

    Thank you David for both your recent entries about Mayfield Station. Officially, at what level has the use of this station has been considered as part of strategic transport infrastructure since 1987?

    I would welcome any further comments on this matter from “anyone in the know” who feel that they are not really “whistlebliowing”, but I doubt if anyone brave enough from that quarter will respond, knowing how certain nameless government agencies monitor e-mail traffic these days!!!

  15. John Gilbert says:

    I think you mean “with bated breath” rather than “with baited breath!!”

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  17. AnonW says:

    Let’s hope the powers that be get it right!

    I’ve recently visited every one of the 92 football league clubs in alphabetical order. It’s a nightmare every time you take a transpennine express into or out of Piccadilly. Of all the big interchanges I visited it is a very poor fourth to Birmingham, Leeds and Preston. it also has some of the worst information displays at any large station. If like I was, you were taking a bus after arriving, there is no information and none of the staff seem to know either.

    • James McCollom says:

      Normally Piccadilly rates near the top of UK stations in customer surveys, so your views are surprising. Agree with you on the lack of useful bus connection information though – TfGM take note!

  18. Daniel says:

    Why don’t they build a Chord linking the Cheadle line in Stockport with the Styal line near Gatley. All trains from Leeds could be redirected via the Stalybridge to Stockport line and misout the City Centre all together. This would free up capacity in Manchester for more trains from the North towards Victoria.

    Travellers from Sheffield would be given a quicker route to the airport because they could change at Stockport instead of going to Manchester then returning south via the Styal line. The old railway line linking Buxton and Cheadle lines over bridgehall could provide a direct route there as well.

    Travellers from Liverpool/Warrington could also go via an identical Cheadle/Gatley Chord coming from the West if the Glazebrook to Timperley railwayline was reestablished near Altrincham as well.

    My point is that if the Airport is such an important station why do we have to go via the city centre all the time and increase the journey miles and times.

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  21. Tim says:

    In case anyone’s interested I’ve overlaid the network rail plan onto a Google map.

  22. Dan says:

    Massive waste of money, walk from Piccadilly to Victoria or get the tram! lazy society!

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