North West business briefs: Network Rail; Bee Net Zero; Chambers House Solar Farm; Maxwell Hall; UCLan

Castleton bridge

Network Rail is investing more than £20m in rebuilding a major railway bridge that takes trains over the M62 in Castleton, near Rochdale.

The infrastructure giant is giving passengers and motorists plenty of notice by urging them to check before they travel in September 2024 as rail and road closures are required to replace the 42m-long, 2,000 tonne bridge.

To complete the work, engineers need to dismantle the old bridge and take it away on the M62. The new bridge materials will be delivered by road and built on site. The M62 will be closed over two weekends between J18 and J20: The evening of Friday 6 – early morning Monday, September 9; the evening of Friday 20 – early morning Monday, September 23. Outside of the full road closure, the motorway will be reduced to three lanes. There will be nightly closures to support the work to the base of the bridge.

The railway will be closed between September 6-24, between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale. Rail replacement buses will be in operation for passengers. The bridge, known as Castleton bridge, carries six per cent of the UK’s energy supply across the country, as freight trains carry material to and from Drax power station in Selby.

Olivia Boland, Network Rail sponsor, said: “The replacement of Castleton bridge is essential for the safe running of our railway, and crucial to the country’s economy as six per cent of the UK’s energy supply relies on the bridge for transportation. I’d like to thank passengers and motorists for their understanding while we carry out this work. Please, check before you travel on the M62 or between Manchester and Rochdale in September 2024.”

Amy Williams, regional director at National Highways, said: “We appreciate the understanding of passengers and motorists during this work and urge them to check travel plans for September 2024. National Highways is actively working with Network Rail to communicate the impact on road users and ensure a smooth process during this important upgrade, more information will be shared in the coming months.”


Cllr Tom Ross

Trafford Council leader and Greater Manchester Lead for Green City Region, Cllr Tom Ross, has launched ‘Bee Net Zero | Trafford Park’, a new partnership which will help businesses based on the park to access funded services to help them transition to net zero.

The initiative has been established through a partnership between Bee Net Zero, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Trafford Council and the Growth Company.

Cllr Ross said: “Trafford Park is the largest industrial park in Europe and a vital component of Trafford and Greater Manchester’s economy, housing 1,300 businesses and providing over 35,000 employees in commercial and industrial sectors. Although a significant economic asset to the city region, it is also the source of almost half of Trafford’s overall carbon emission and the single largest carbon emitter in Greater Manchester, which means that action is needed to retrofit the park for a net zero future.”

He added: “This partnership tackles that challenge head on, through the Bee Net Zero partnership.”

Mark Hughes, chief executive at the Growth Company said: “For the continued economic prosperity of Trafford and Greater Manchester it is crucial this transition is done through decarbonisation rather than deindustrialisation, supporting innovation, job creation and economic resilience. This campaign demonstrates the wide variety of funded support that is available to businesses as they tackle climate change with their own carbon reduction plans.”


The largest publicly-owned solar farm in Greater Manchester has powered up in Heywood.

Rochdale Borough Council’s 10-hectare site at Chamber House in Heywood, which secured just over £3m funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is now switched on.

The 5.5 megawatt facility provides enough electricity to power 2,000 homes and will connect to the national grid. It will be used to offset the council’s annual energy bill, potentially saving the authority thousands of pounds a year. In addition to saving more than 2,300 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, the solar farm is also bringing extra environmental benefits, with a huge planting scheme taking place across the site. More than 8,000 hedges, trees and plants have been planted as well as wildflower seeding to increase biodiversity, alongside the installation of bird boxes and wildlife habitats to encourage animal life-cycles to continue to thrive.

Cllr Tricia Ayrton, assistant to the portfolio holder for climate change and the environment at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “This project is a really important step forward in our fight against climate change and means our borough will be more than playing its part in helping to deliver Greater Manchester’s pledge to become net zero by 2038. These types of innovative clean and green projects are really important and I know we are looking at delivering more of them in the future.”

Chamber House is the second solar farm in the borough, following the installation of panels around Rochdale Leisure centre, which power the facility. The borough’s three largest leisure centres have all had solar panels installed on their roofs, as have a selection of primary schools and other council buildings, including the Green Lane Depot and some council-owned industrial units.


Maxwell Hall

The University of Salford has confirmed that live music will be returning to its Maxwell Hall venue this Bank Holiday Sunday as it hosts Sounds from the Other City on the Peel Park campus.

For the first time since 2014, the legendary music venue will host live music from external bands as it partially hosts Salford’s biggest music festival on Sunday, May 5.

Welsh artist Gruff Rhys will headline a set at the venue, joining the likes of Paul McCartney, U2, The Smiths and Blondie who have performed on the stage over the years which will also host the festival’s joyous afterparty in the evening, featuring A Guy Called Gerald.

The festival, now in its 18th year, will be held across six venues on the campus, including Peel Hall, the Salford Museum & Art Gallery, the recently-refurbished Old Fire Station, the Working Class Movement Library and a stage on Heritage Lawn off The Crescent.

Tim France, Director of Performance, Music, English & Dance at The University of Salford, said: “We are absolutely delighted to bring live music back to the stage of our beloved Maxwell Hall. Sounds from the Other City is one of Salford’s most impactful and colourful musical spectacles and it is fitting that this year’s festival will mark the first time that bands have took to the stage there in 10 years.”


The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is now able to offer additional degree apprenticeships in health, engineering, and cybersecurity after being granted funding from the Office for Students (OfS).

Funding of £480,639 for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years will enable the university to add a range of new apprenticeships to the list it already offers. UCLan’s seven new degree apprenticeship courses includes: Aerospace Software Engineer; Electrical or Electronic Technical Support Engineer; Manufacturing Engineer; Product Design and Development Engineer; Cyber Security Technical Professional; Occupational Therapist and Speech & Language Therapist.

Dharma Kovvuri, Academic Director for Apprenticeships at the UCLan, said: “We are proud to be a leading provider of degree apprenticeships, offering one of higher education’s widest ranges. We are particularly excited about the new innovative programmes in health that are responding to skills needs for the NHS’ long term workforce plan.

“Our additional courses align with our commitment to employers to deliver degree apprenticeships which address skills gaps and positively contribute to regional economic growth. This funding, driven by our passion for transforming lives, will also enhance our innovative apprenticeship matching service.”

Martin Blunt, Head of the Enterprise and Engagement Unit at the UCLan, said: “The University of Central Lancashire’s Apprenticeship Matching Service (AMS) is a free specialist recruitment service designed for employers across diverse sectors looking to take on a degree apprentice. AMS will support businesses with recruitment, identifying the best talent to maximise a business’s potential. Concurrently, the AMS team works with educational institutions and other organisations, to help individuals find the perfect Degree Apprenticeship opportunity across a range of disciplines.”