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The Chester–Manchester line is one of two lines which run between the cities of Chester and Manchester in North West England. It is the faster of the two lines, and runs via Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Bank Quay. The other (slower) line is the Mid-Cheshire line.

Chester–Manchester line
Arriva Trains Wales Class 175, 175114, platform 5, Earlestown railway station (geograph 4512032).jpg
An Arriva Trains Wales Class 175 at Earlestown railway station
Other name(s)Chester to Manchester Line (via Warrington Bank Quay)
LocaleGreater Manchester
North West England
OwnerNetwork Rail
Transport for Wales
Rolling stock
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Operating speed75 mph (121 km/h) from Chester to Warrington Bank Quay
110 mph (180 km/h) from WBQ to Earlestown
90 mph (140 km/h) from Earlestown to Manchester
Route map

Calder Valley line
Hope Valley line
West Coast Main Line
Huddersfield line Glossop line
Manchester Mayfield
Manchester Victoria Manchester Metrolink
Manchester Piccadilly Manchester Metrolink
Manchester Exchange
Manchester Oxford Road
Manchester Central
Salford Central
Ordsall Lane
Cross Lane
Eccles Manchester Metrolink
Barton Moss
Lamb's Cottage
Flow Moss Cottage
Glazebury and Bury Lane
Kenyon Junction
to Wigan via Hindley
Parkside Junction
Golborne Junction
Lowton Junction
Newton-le-Willows Junction
Warrington Central
High Level
Warrington Bank Quay
St Helens and
Runcorn Gap Railway
Low Level
Junction reversed
during rationalisation
Runcorn East
West Coast Main Line
to London
Dunham Hill
Mickle Trafford
Chester Merseyrail
Chester Northgate

There are two trains per hour in each direction from Chester to Manchester. One (operated by Northern) runs to Manchester Victoria and continuing to Leeds and the other (operated by Transport for Wales) runs to Manchester Picadilly. A Transport for Wales service also runs from Chester to Liverpool via Frodsham and Runcorn.



Both routes to Manchester share the Chester to Crewe line for a short distance to Brook Lane Junction where the Manchester lines diverge to Mickle Trafford at which point the southern route of the Cheshire Lines Committee (see the Mid-Cheshire Line) diverges south-easterly to Mouldsworth whilst the considerably older route (the 1850 Birkenhead Railway[1]) built by the London and North Western Railway and run jointly with the Great Western Railway continues to Helsby (junction from Ellesmere Port), Frodsham (nearest station to the junction for the Halton Curve) and the 1983 station at Runcorn East. It then passes through the Sutton Tunnel (over a mile long) and heads northwards to cross and then run alongside the West Coast Main Line, eventually joining it at Acton Grange Junction en route to Warrington Bank Quay.

From Warrington the route follows the original 1837 Grand Junction Railway northwards through Winwick Junction to Earlestown where it joins George Stephenson's original Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which was the world's first inter-city railway, having opened in 1830. From here this venerable route is via Newton-le-Willows, Patricroft and Eccles and then either via the earlier route to Manchester Victoria station or, as at present, via Ordsall Lane and Castlefield junctions, joining the Manchester–Preston line and on to Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly station at platforms 13 & 14.


Transport for Wales operate an hourly service throughout between Manchester Piccadilly and Chester (no trains stop at Deansgate, Eccles or Patricroft) and onwards calling at all stations to Llandudno on the North Wales Coast Line (except in the late evenings and on Sundays, when trains terminate at Chester). Certain services run to or from Holyhead instead of Llandudno on weekdays to connect with the Irish ferries.[2]

Class 175 units are primarily used for the TfW services between Manchester and North Wales, although Class 158 units can appear; Class 142 Pacer and Class 156 Sprinter units are used on the infrequent service between Liverpool/Warrington B.Q. and Ellesmere Port which share the line between Warrington and Helsby.

Since May 2019, an hourly Northern train runs Chester–Warrington Bank Quay–Manchester Victoria–Bradford–Leeds (via the Calder Valley)[3][4] and an hourly TfW train runs from Chester-Helsby-Frodsham-Runcorn-Liverpool South Parkway-Liverpool Lime Street.

It is also used by the Freightliner Group for access to the rail-served maritime freight terminal at Ellesmere Port.

Future developmentsEdit

  • In March 2015, the Electrification Task Force said that the Manchester to Chester Line (via Warrington Bank Quay) was a Tier 1 priority for being electrified in the CP6 period (2019-2024).[5]
  • The new Northern franchise requires the removal and replacement of all Pacer trains by 2020.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Birkenhead, Lancashire and Cheshire Junction Railway." The 8D Association; retrieved 15 March 2017
  2. ^ Table 81 National Rail timetable, December 2016
  3. ^ "Rail industry confirms new summer 2019 timetable". 7 March 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Northern Rail Franchise TransPennine Express Rail Franchise" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Electrification Task Force Final Report Revealed". Archived from the original on 2017-06-14. Retrieved 2015-05-21.