Project profile: Castlefield viaduct
Inspired by New York’s High Line, the Castlefield Viaduct is the result of a unique partnership between National Highways and the National Trust, alongside lead community partner Castlefield forum and other local groups.
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Location: Castlefield, Manchester
Project managed by: National Trust
Viaduct managed by: National Highways on behalf of the Department for Transport
Status: Open to the public
About the structure
Built in 1892 by the Manchester-based engineering firm behind the iconic Blackpool Tower, Heenan & Froude, the viaduct was built toward the end of ‘railway mania’ carrying heavy rail traffic in and out of Manchester Central railway station for more than seven decades.
This 330-metre-long steel viaduct sits in Castlefield, the oldest part of the city of Manchester. Once the site of the Roman fort of Mamucium and later a central hub for the industrial revolution, Castlefield is an area of rich history. Read more about the town’s past and secrets via the National Trust.
The station was closed in 1969 and with it the need for the viaduct to carry rail, the structure remained closed to the public – enjoyed from the ground or viewed on new trams transporting people between the city.
What is the project?
Inspired by New York’s High Line, Castlefield Viaduct is the result of a unique partnership between us and the National Trust, alongside lead community partner Castlefield forum and other local groups.
It was back in February 2022 that work started on the transformation of the 130-year-old viaduct, into a floating urban park. Sitting derelict for decades the idea of bringing it back into use had been discussed for years. In 2021, following public consultation, Manchester city council granted a temporary planning application to test some concepts and gather feedback on what something more permanent could be.
National Trust’s strategy ‘For everyone, for ever’ focusses on providing people will access to nature forever. Their vision for the space was for half of structure to become explorative walkway, surrounded by plants and flowers, giving visitors the chance to connect with nature and learn about history.
Our role is to care for and maintain the structure on behalf of its owner Department for Transport, one of 337 structures we look after in the North West. We worked very closely with National Trust and the project team to ensure that the viaduct’s new use could be accessed and used safely by the public.
Read our blog about what it's like managing the Castlefield Viaduct from our senior engineer Fiona Smith.
Before and during work
What stage is it at?
This project is open to the public as a pilot and has since been extended for another two years. National Trust are continuing to gather feedback from visitors and community groups on ideas for uses for the viaduct more permanently.
We continue to maintain safety of the viaduct on behalf of the Department for Transport. We fund examinations and maintenance and provide technical support to National Trust and now Railway Paths Ltd who will be taking over the project. The viaduct has been open for public use since July 2022.
- 52,000 residents living nearby to the viaduct don’t have private gardens
- Nearly 50,000 people have visited since opening in July. Numbers have been managed with tickets and restricted for safety reasons
- 98% of visitors want access to the site permanently
- 66% of visitors have felt better after spending that time in nature
- 75% of visitors felt more pride in Castlefield and in their city
- 70% have felt better informed about history of the area following a visit
Images ©National Trust Images James Dobson, Paul Harris, Annapurna Mellor