Heritage engineers this week voiced fears that a proposed £85M rail link in Manchester will trigger the decline of an iconic railway structure.
The ICE’s Panel for Historical Engineering Works (Phew) and English Heritage have both opposed Network Rail’s plans the build a new link between two railway lines in central Manchester.
The work will cut off an existing piece of track which runs over a Grade 1 listed masonry bridge and into the city’s Museum of Science and Industry (MoSI).
The museum is on the site of George Stephenson’s original Liverpool to Manchester railway terminus and uses the track for steam train excursions.
Heritage engineers fear that as a result of the track being cut off, the viaduct will fall into disuse and will deteriorate as a result.
The new link, known as the Ordsall Chord, forms a key part of the £560M Northern Hub project - a series of rail capacity improvements across the north of England.
“We are very worried about the proposal,” said Phew chairman Brian Crossley.
“We’re worried [the viaduct] will fall into a state of disrepair if it is not used,” he said.
English Heritage - a statutory consultee on the project - said it “cannot support the scheme” in its current form.
“We will continue to offer constructive advice to Network Rail on the heritage implications, but at present the harm to the heritage is so substantial that we cannot support the scheme,” said English Heritage in a statement.
It added it was “seriously concerned” about the impact the new rail link will have on a “historically very significant” bridge and its setting - which includes the 1830 railway terminus and warehouse, now part of the MoSI.
“The proposals will harm the ability to understand the first inter-city passenger railway in the world,” said English Heritage in a statement.
Construction of the Ordsall Chord will connect Manchester’s two main railway stations - Victoria and Piccadilly.
The new line will be electrified with 30 trains per hour planned.
Network Rail began consultation on the Ordsall Chord project in 2011 and originally planned to demolish the bridge.
It said it had considered heritage and is now proposing two options next to Stephenson’s bridge - continuation of the viaduct or an arch bridge.
“There were alternatives, but these would have had a far greater impact on the city of Manchester and would also have been considerably more expensive,” said Network Rail in a statement.
Ordsall Chord is currently at pre-application status with the Planning Inspectorate. Construction is due to begin in 2014.