The engineers behind The Ordsall Chord, a new railway line connecting Manchester’s Piccadilly, Victoria and Oxford Road stations for the first time, are to receive the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Major Project Award for 2018 in recognition of the collaboration, skill and engineering flair necessary to deliver such a complex, multidisciplinary feat of railway engineering. The award will be at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on 27 June.

An integral part of the Great North Rail Project, the Ordsall Chord incorporates the first asymmetric network arch bridge in the world. Completed in December 2017, the Chord uses only 540 metres of entirely new track to connect Manchester’s existing railway lines via a brand-new viaduct spanning the River Irwell.

By creating a link between Manchester city centre’s main railway stations, as well as enabling new, direct services to Manchester Airport from the North, the Chord will allow more trains to run on the network and reduce journey times into and through Manchester.

With collaboration at the heart of the Chord’s engineering success, the team members receiving the award represent the multidisciplinary partnership undertaken between Network Rail, Skanska BAM, Siemens, Amey, Severfield, the designers, AECOM Mott MacDonald, WSP and Balfour Beatty, and architect and urban designer BDP to build the Chord.

The Major Project Award team consists of Iain Chalker, Electrification Project Engineer, Amey /Network Rail; Francisco Cortes Ortega, Principal Engineer/ Principal Track Engineer, WSP; John Dougan, Programme Engineering Manager/ Alliance Engineering Manager, Network Rail; Brian Duguid, Technical Director/ Engineering Manager (Civils Design), AECOM Mott MacDonald JV; and Mike Pedley, Engineering Manager/ Engineering Manager (Civils Construction), Skanska BAMJV.

Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said: “The Ordsall Chord will bring many benefits to Manchester and the north of England, helping to connect people better to jobs and opportunities across the region, just as George Stephenson’s railway did nearly 200 years ago. It’s vital that the UK has a transport infrastructure that meets the needs of passengers, local communities, businesses and the economy as a whole.

“Congratulations to the team on receiving the Academy’s Major Project Award, a real recognition of the impact the Chord will have on many people’s lives. This is exactly the kind of achievement we are celebrating in government during 2018, the Year of Engineering.”

The engineers used an innovative digital design model to overcome the challenges associated with such a bespoke and multi-disciplinary project. In a reversal of traditional procedures, the unique design of the network arch required early involvement from the project’s steelwork suppliers, with the suppliers directly contributing to the creation of the digital design. This pioneering approach meant that part of the Chord was designed and constructed entirely from the digital model without the need for design drawings, making the design phase significantly cheaper and shorter.

Professor Raffaella Ocone FREng FRSE, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Award Committee, said: “The Ordsall Chord is a remarkable feat of engineering and a great example of the impact digital technologies can have on infrastructure engineering. Engineering is a collaborative endeavour and by working in partnership, and focusing on the skills needed to deliver such a complex project, the engineers involved in the project were able to set aside self-interest and work towards a clear, shared objective.”

The team also overcame a number of engineering challenges associated with the sensitive restoration of historic architecture alongside the construction of new structures. The Chord stands side by side with historic structures from George Stephenson’s Liverpool and Manchester railway, the world’s first inter-city railway line built in 1830. At either end of the Chord the 19th Century railway viaducts were widened to accommodate the new railway line and the team used state-of-the-art techniques to carefully monitor the structural behaviour of the existing viaducts so the new construction could be designed to behave compatibly.

To connect the Chord to the current railway network 6.5km of tracks were realigned and the electrification and signalling systems connected into the Manchester Regional Operations Centre. This complex process was split into seven separate stages in order to minimise the impact on other parts of the construction process.

John Dougan, Alliance Engineering Manager for the Ordsall Chord, said: “Such was the size and complexity of the project, that quite literally, hundreds of different engineers across development, design, construction, and integration and assurance were employed at some point in its lifetime, and from more than a dozen different companies. The successful, safe and integrated delivery of the project was testament to both the collaborative behaviour of all involved, and the shared vision and goals from the outset.”

The Ordsall Chord is part of the larger Great North Rail Project (GNRP), a £1 billion plus series of targeted rail network upgrades across the north of England. As well as increasing the number of trains able to run on the network, the GNRP aims to bring wider economic benefits to the region, including a greater and more diversified skills base.

Notes to editors

  1. The Major Project Award recognises the contribution of a team of up to five engineers, based in the UK, who have delivered a major engineering project that has had a substantial impact on society. Previous winners include Atkins for delivering broadband infrastructure to Scotland's Highlands and Islands, and BAE Systems for developing the technology to communicate with the Rosetta spacecraft as it delivered the Philae probe to a comet over half a billion kilometres from Earth.
    Major Project Award
  2. The Year of Engineering is a government campaign, which celebrates the world and wonder of engineering. It also forms an important part of the Industrial Strategy which is committed to boosting engineering across the UK, ensuring everyone has the skills needed to thrive in a modern economy.
  3. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

We have three strategic challenges:
- Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
- Address the engineering skills crisis
- Position engineering at the heart of society

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