Top judge throws out legal challenge by engineer Mark Whitby, allowing project to go ahead

The £85m Ordsall Chord rail scheme in Manchester has finally got the go-ahead after a top judge dismissed a legal challenge to the project.

A judicial review launched by high-profile engineer Mark Whitby against his former client Network Rail to stop the Ordsall Chord project going ahead was dismissed today at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Mrs Justice Lang dismissed all three claims made by Mark Whitby, former president of the Institute of Civil Engineers and current chairman of engineering consultancy WME, to stop Network Rail’s proposal for a 340m rail link to connect Manchester’s Piccadilly and Victoria stations with a new bridge over the River Irwell, just west of the city centre.

Speaking to Building, Whitby said he was disappointed by the decision, describing it as a “Stuart Lancaster moment” in reference to England’s exit from the Rugby World Cup and likened challenging Network Rail to “like playing Australia”.

He added: “It was certainly a worthwhile challenge but it is nonetheless disappointing. Though it is probably time for Network Rail to get on with it.”

Lang dismissed Whitby’s two statutory challenges of the Transport and Works Act order, one of the Listed Building Consent and a judicial review of the planning permission.

Network Rail says Whitby has also been refused permission to appeal against the decision.

Network Rail welcomed the decision, and a spokesperson for the infrastructure client said “the Ordsall Chord forms a key part of our railway upgrade plan for the north of England.”

The spokesperson added: “More than £1bn is being invested to provide passengers with better services and we plan to start work on the Ordsall Chord as soon as possible.”

Whitby was originally hired as a design consultant on the project but walked off the job when Network Rail rejected his proposal for an alternative route avoiding the historic bridges and buildings.

He hired lawyers to take Network Rail to court in July, claiming errors were made in the decision-making process over the project’s route, saying it would damage “the Industrial Revolution’s Stonehenge.”

Commenting on the decision to approve the Ordsall Chord scheme, Andrew Hamilton, head of the valuation team at Deloitte Real Estate, said: “Whilst the planning was met with some controversy, the public benefits clearly outweigh the challenges.

“We hope to see a development that seamlessly integrates modern infrastructure with Manchester’s heritage.”