The Ordsall Chord project is a landmark railway infrastructure investment scheme situated on the birthplace of the modern railway, the Liverpool to Manchester Railway. The aim is to provide a direct rail link between Manchester’s two largest stations, Victoria and Piccadilly for the very first time. To do so involves the construction of a 350m chord line which includes a modern, one of a kind network arch, interfacing with 150 year old Grade-listed Victorian railway structures.
Challenges and Solutions
This was and still is a very demanding project, in particular the sensitive nature of the scheme proved challenging. Given its location and interface with English Heritage, it led us on an extremely challenging path through litigation and public consultation to gain planning consents so we could begin construction. Another key challenge found very often in large UK Rail investment projects is the obligation to deliver the project whilst maintaining a safe operational railway for the general public.
Normally this can be achieved using small weekend blocks of the railway to undertake engineering works. However, given the massive upgrades required on this scheme, we required a combination of these blocks week after week, combined with multiple stages of very large amounts of disruption. One case led to blocking major commuter and freight routes into Manchester City Centre for nearly two weeks. Obviously, the effect of these proposals proved significant for all involved and this level of disruption needed early detailed planning validation. A clear demonstration of our proposals, to negotiate this disruption, was required almost two years before being implemented.
John’s role on this project began over four years ago, working with the client, Network Rail, to create and cement the project construction strategy. This involved negotiating and agreeing the access required to implement an effective strategy. Around two years ago, a consortium of specialist civil and rail engineering companies were awarded the contract to deliver the design and construction of the Ordsall Chord. This consortium is called the Northern Hub Alliance, within which John was appointed the role of project planner as part of a large planning team.
In this role, John used his previous knowledge to constantly drive home the importance of maintaining and communicating the construction strategy, as well as all the detailed staging requirements with all alliance partners. The project was split into seven key stages, one of the largest being Stage A6. It was suggested that the detailed programme for Stage A6 would be far too complex for the majority of people involved to fully understand without hours of briefing. D2 Rail therefore sought to find more effective ways to help communicate the plan for Stage A6. It had always been our intention to promote the use of 4D Planning and Synchro on the project from an early stage and this was an opportune time.
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Benefits of 4D
We realised one advantage of this method of communication is having the means to share the same information with a varied audience, for varied purposes. For example, the animation was used to help brief the workforce undertaking the work, as well as helping to explain to external parties the reasons for the disruption.
Building on our experience with the Northern Hub Alliance, we see many more benefits to using Synchro in the future. We believe instigating the use of Synchro much earlier on in a project is necessary to enable its use as a planning tool throughout the whole process, rather than just a visualisation tool towards the end of the process. It should be used to give the planner and all the participants much more transparency in the development of a programme. The key here is promoting and implementing the supporting functions, such as an adequate information management system and the timely production of 3D designs to a suitable standard. As planners we know this instinctively, but we must ensure that others in the industry understand, in order to give them the opportunity to really explore the full potential of 4D planning.
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