Mark Whitby wins legal battle to challenge Ordsall Chord link

Mark Whitby, a former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, has been granted leave to appeal against Manchester’s £85m Ordsall Chord rail scheme, which as well as linking the city’s main stations to the airport is a key element of the Northern Hub project.

Whitby who was ICE president in 2001-2 and founder of Whitby Bird and Partners which became part of Ramboll, has been campaigning for several years to divert the planned link between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria, which is due to open in December next year.

The £85m scheme will cut through the 1830 Liverpool and Manchester Railway (LMR) lines beside the Museum of Science and Industry site and overshadow the Grade I listed George Stephenson designed viaduct. The LMR was the world’s first passenger rail system, and Whitby argues the proposed route would “substantially harm the city’s heritage” and destroy an area of “international importance”.

Whitby first challenged the scheme legally when Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin gave approval in March last year. His appeal against the Government’s decision was rejected in the High Court last October and preparatory work began immediately.

Although the High Court refused Whitby the right to further appeal, he appealed this refusal and has just been granted leave to appeal. 

“The grounds of appeal raise important points and have real prospects of success,” the Court of Appeal said. It added that the case is “an environmental matter of general importance and the appellant has no financial interest”, which means Whitby will not be liable for costs if his third challenge fails.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said: "We are fully aware of Mr Whitby's appeal. Work is continuing on site as we have the legal right to proceed, and we will continue to monitor the situation." The appeal is expected to be heard in April.

The mayor of Salford Ian Stewart has said: "Ordsall Chord is a vital piece of infrastructure that is desperately needed in the Northern Powerhouse. We need faster, more frequent services to transport people in and out of Greater Manchester – a region which is thriving.”