Manchester Oxford Road railway station
Manchester Oxford Road railway station is a railway station in Manchester, England, at the junction of Whitworth Street West and Oxford Street. It opened in 1849 and was rebuilt in 1960. It is the second busiest of the four stations in Manchester city centre.
The Grade-II listed timber facade of the station
|Location||Manchester city centre, City of Manchester|
|Managed by||Northern Trains|
|Transit authority||Greater Manchester|
|Classification||DfT category C1|
|Original company||Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway|
|Pre-grouping||Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway|
|Post-grouping||Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway|
|20 July 1849||Opened|
|Feature||Manchester Oxford Road station (including platform structures)|
|Designated||24 November 1995|
Passenger statistics from the Office of Rail and Road
The station serves the southern part of Manchester city centre, the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, on the line from Manchester Piccadilly westwards towards Warrington, Chester, Llandudno, Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool. Eastbound trains go beyond Piccadilly to Crewe, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Peterborough, and Norwich. The station consists of four through platforms and one terminating bay platform.
The station sits on a Grade II listed viaduct, which was built in 1839 as part of the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway. To reduce load on this viaduct, the station unusually utilises laminated wood structures as opposed to masonry, concrete, iron or steel. English Heritage describes it as a "building of outstanding architectural quality and technological interest; one of the most dramatic stations in England". It was Grade II listed in 1995. Architectural critic Nikolaus Pevsner described the station as "one of the most remarkable and unusual stations in the country".
It has long been envisaged, since the Manchester Hub plan in 2009, that the station will be upgraded and, in October 2016, a Transport and Works Act application was submitted to extend platforms at the station as part of the wider Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road Capacity Scheme. As of 2019, this application remains active but has not been approved by the government. As a key transition node for both north–south and east–west transpennine routes, it is a recognised bottleneck and is the most delayed major station in the United Kingdom according to a Which? study in 2018 with over three quarters of services failing to depart on-time during peak time. In an attempt to obligate the DfT to provide funding for the Oxford Road upgrade to improve punctuality, Network Rail declared the Castlefield corridor 'congested' in September 2019.
The station opened as Oxford Road on 20 July 1849 and was the headquarters of the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway (MSJAR) until 1904. The station was built on the site of 'Little Ireland', a slum "of a worse character than St Giles", in which about four thousand people had lived in "measureless filth and stench" (according to Friedrich Engels in The Condition of the Working Class in England) and of a gasworks which was relocated to the west. The station buildings, which were temporary wooden structures, were accessed by an inclined esplanade winding to the right from Gloucester Street (now Whitworth Street West) to reach their north front.
There was a single platform on the north side of the line through to Manchester London Road (now Manchester Picadilly) and a second platform on a west-facing siding. To allow for extra trains in connection with the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857, extra platforms and sidings were built, but removed afterwards. A meeting of MSJAR contract ticket holders in 1863 included in its list of complaints the want of punctuality "especially as at Oxford Road station there is only one platform used for both passengers and milk".
From 1854 onwards, Oxford Road served as the terminus for a service to Liverpool, independent of the London and North Western Railway(LNWR) (one of the joint owners of MSJAR). The rail service went no further than Garston, with the final leg of the journey being made by steamer, but it alerted the LNWR to the possible use of the MSJAR by its co-owner, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR) to reach areas west of Manchester. Consequently, in 1857, when the MSJAR began (the decision being taken on the casting vote of the board's chairman, by rotation) running an Oxford Road - London Road service, the LNWR took strenuous measures to discourage it. Every train of the service was flagged down just short of the London Road platform and not allowed to proceed further, passengers being told they were liable to prosecution for trespass if they got out.
The MS&LR pressed ahead with the joint lines to give it direct and independent rail access to Liverpool, but the LNWR blocked any matching improvement to the MSJAR and to Oxford Road, only offering to let these go ahead when the scheme for Manchester Central station was brought forward. To defeat the Bill for the scheme, the LNWR then promised to cooperate with the MS&LR in widening the MSJAR and enlarging Oxford Road.
However, Edward Watkin, chairman of the MS&LR, later complained that the LNWR had ensured no improvement took place before the MS&LR had its route to Liverpool. In October 1874, with Liverpool Central railway station now open, a letter to the press complained that with the additional services over the Cheshire Lines now using Oxford Road it was dangerously overcrowded. In the two and a half hours from 8am, thirty-seven trains were booked to call at Oxford Road: this was far too many considering there was but one platform. Frequently, passengers were compelled to alight outside the station, sometimes on the siding rails, at risk of personal injury, because of "the blocked-up state" of the station. Furthermore, it was rumoured that the LNWR was planning to run a competing service (via Broadheath and Warrington) between Oxford Road and Liverpool Lime Street: if this were true, then it would further worsen the congestion, and the Board of Trade should forbid it 
In 1876, about twelve thousand pounds was spent on enlarging the station facilities, including the provision of a refreshment room; the station was then said to be handling about a hundred thousand passengers a week. Train-handling congestion was eased when Manchester Central railway station came into use, and in 1892 the MSJAR, under pressure to greatly improve Knott Mill, rejected the suggestion of Manchester Corporation that it could kill two birds with one stone by replacing its two existing unsatisfactory stations with a single new, thoroughly satisfactory, station somewhere between them. The MSJAR offered instead a limited reconstruction of the waiting rooms and booking hall; it also rejected the council's offer of assistance with providing a more suitable approach to the station only to accept it two years later.
Press articles on the golden jubilee of the line in 1899 noted that the platform layout was still that of 1849 and somewhat of a museum piece: "if the station were to be designed today.. it would have a platform on each side of the main line, an advantage which its frequenters know it does not possess..." and better use would be made of the space currently taken up by the terminal platform, used principally for special trains, mostly those serving Old Trafford during the cricket season.
Reconstruction took place during 1903–04. The approach was further improved, the ticket office and the refreshment room were expanded, and the MSJAR offices were removed. They were to have been moved to an adjacent building, but this proved unnecessary: the 78-year-old manager and secretary retired at the end of 1903, and administration of the line was taken over by an LNWR District Superintendent based at Manchester Exchange railway station:. An island platform was added on the through lines, coming into use in November 1904.
From 1931, it was served by the MSJAR's 1500 V DC electric trains between Altrincham and Manchester Piccadilly. From July 1959, Altrincham electric trains were cut back from Piccadilly to terminate at Oxford Road in two new bay platforms. The station's other lines were re-electrified at 25 kV AC. The whole station was again rebuilt and reopened on 12 September 1960, to a design by W.R. Headley and Max Clendinning of British Rail's London Midland region, encompassing three overlapping cones for the main structure. The station's location on a viaduct running through the city centre required its load to be lightened, which the architects achieved by using wood for the station structure and platform canopies.
When Manchester Central railway station closed in 1969, further rebuilding took place: one of the bay platforms was taken out of use and a new through platform provided (platform 1), the others being renumbered accordingly. In 1971, the Altrincham line was re-electrified at 25 kV AC and the 1930s DC trains withdrawn; from then on, local trains from Altrincham ran through to Piccadilly and on to Crewe. Oxford Road this, once again, became predominantly a through station.
Use of the station increased in 1988 when the Windsor Link between Deansgate and Salford Crescent opened, connecting lines to the north and south of Manchester. This led to further investment in the station, including the installation of computer screens.
In 1992, the Altrincham line stopping service was converted to light rail operation for the Manchester Metrolink. Oxford Road, once served almost entirely by suburban stopping trains, has now returned to having many more longer-distance services.
The station, a Grade II listed structure, requires frequent maintenance. In 2004, the station roof was partially refurbished to prevent leaking. In 2011, the platform shelters, seats and toilets were refurbished at a cost of £500,000. In 2013, the station received a £1.8 million renovation to improve access, including lifts and an emergency exit.
On 10 December 2017, with the opening of the Ordsall Chord, it became possible for trains to run from Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Victoria. Initially an hourly Northern service operated to the Calder Valley but, from May 2018, the TransPennine Express (TPE) Manchester Airport to Newcastle and Middlesbrough services were rerouted through the station.
In the Northern Hub plans, the platforms will be extended to allow use by longer trains. The bay platform will be removed to allow the other platforms to be extended. Under controversial plans much of the nearby area's Victorian character will be razed, including the Salisbury pub, and the group of streets nearby known as 'Little Ireland'.
The station had become dilapidated by the 1950s and, in connection with the electrification and modernisation programme of the Manchester to London Euston line in 1960, the old buildings were replaced by the current structure by architects William Robert Headley and Max Clendinning and structural engineer Hugh Tottenham. It was designed in a distinctive style in concrete and wood with curves bringing to mind the Sydney Opera House.
The station is a grade II listed building. 'Pevsner' calls it "One of the most interesting and innovative buildings of the period ... the most ambitious example in this country of timber conoid shell roofing" (p. 36) and "One of the most remarkable and unusual stations in the country both for the architectural form and the technological interest...it is the most dramatic and it is an important example of the deployment of timber to achieve large roof spans incorporating clerestory lighting."(p. 178)
The choice of timber was forced by the weak viaduct on which the station is situated; anything heavier could have compromised its structural strength. The station has three overlapping conoid structures although they are only viewable from above. The light conoid roofs allow for a column-free interior space, maximising space and reducing load.
Despite its architectural acclaim, the structure began to deteriorate within ten years. The roof started to leak and for years the station's platform buildings were encased in scaffolding and other metalwork, partly to support the structure and prevent material falling on the platforms and passengers. Partial remedial refurbishment was completed in 2004.
A Class 323 and the distinctive canopies
- Northern Trains
- 1tph to Wigan North Western via Bolton
- 2tph to Blackpool North via Bolton
- 1tph to Liverpool Lime Street via Newton-le-Willows
- 2tph to Liverpool Lime Street via Warrington Central (local stopping service)
- 2tph to Manchester Airport, of which one continues to Crewe
- 1tph to Alderley Edge via Stockport
- 1tph to Hazel Grove
- 11tpd to Barrow-in-Furness
- 4tpd to Windermere
- TransPennine Express
- Transport for Wales
- East Midlands Railway
This is reduced on a Sunday, most services operating hourly. There are various other peak services. All eastbound trains (those to Nottingham, Norwich, Crewe, Alderley Edge and Manchester Airport) also call at Manchester Piccadilly.
|Preceding station||National Rail||Following station|
|Transport for Wales Rail|
Manchester to North Wales
|East Midlands Railway|
Liverpool to Norwich
TransPennine North West
Manchester to Blackpool
Liverpool to Crewe
Alderley Edge to Southport
Liverpool to Manchester
Line closed, station open
|BR (London Midland Region)
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- Historic England. "Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway Viaduct (1200837)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
- "Our plans: Manchester Oxford Road". Network Rail. Archived from the original on 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Network Rail - Enhancements Delivery Plan". Network Rail. September 2016. p. 11. Archived from the original on 29 September 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
- "Watch: How Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations could look after £1bn redevelopment". Manchester Evening News. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
- "Piccadilly Station should get two new platforms - but does 'crass stupidity' mean it might never happen?". Manchester Evening News. 8 February 2017.
- Paton, Graeme (16 October 2018). "Manchester Oxford Road station is worst for delays". The Times.
- "UK's railway stations with most train delays revealed". BBC News. 16 October 2018.
- "Castlefield Corridor - Congested Infrastructure Report: Capacity Analysis – System Operator" (PDF). Network Rail. 6 September 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
- "Twenty Fourth Supplemental Agreement to the Track Access Contract" (PDF). ORR. 24 June 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
It noted that Network Rail had highlighted that the Corridor has congestion issues between 0700 and 2000 and would be more than happy to contractually agree to the additional rights being confined to the proposed hours of operation.
- Dixon, Frank (1994). The Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-454-7.
- "Railway Committees: Manchester South Junction and Altrincham". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 14 June 1845. p. 2.
- Engels, Frederick; (trans. Wischnewetzky, Florence Kelley) (1943). The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844 With a Preface written in 1892. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. pp. 60–61.
- "Opening of the Manchester and Altrincham Railway". Manchester Times. 21 July 1849. p. 3.
- "Railway Arrangements". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 2 May 1857. p. 9.
- "Meeting of Railway Contract Ticket Holders at Bowdon". Northwich Guardian. 31 October 1863. p. 5.
- "New Route from Manchester to Liverpool". Liverpool Mail. 10 June 1854. p. 3.
- "The Evils of Railway Competition". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 28 November 1857. p. 7.
- (advert.)"Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 18 March 1865. p. 1.
- "Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway: Opening of New Station at Oxford-road". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 30 June 1865. p. 1.
- "Manchester City Council: The Oxford-road Railway Station". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 5 May 1864. p. 4.
- (advert.)"Opening of the New Route Between Manchester and Liverpool". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 20 May 1864.
- "Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway: Half-yearly Meeting". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 26 July 1866. p. 3.
- "Railway Intelligence: London and North Western". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 16 August 1866. p. 4.
- "Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Bill". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 28 June 1876. p. 8.
- A Daily Passenger (29 October 1874). "Oxford-Road Station: Dangerous Railway Competition". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. p. 7.
- "Brewster Sessions: Manchester: Refreshments at Oxford Road Station". Manchester Times. 2 September 1876. p. 3.
- "Manchester City Council: The Knott Mill Railway Station". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 28 May 1892. p. 9.
- "Public Improvements in Manchester and Salford". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 23 December 1892. p. 5.
- "Street Improvements in Manchester and Salford". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 29 December 1894. p. 14.
- "Jubilee of the Bowdon Line". Manchester Times. 5 May 1899. p. 5.
- "Manchester, South Junction, and Altrincham Railway". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 22 July 1899. p. 9.
- "Impending Retirement of Mr Richard Haig Brown". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 16 December 1903. p. 6.
- "Manchester Railways". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 3 February 1905. p. 10.
- "A Manchester Improvement : Oxford Road Station to be Rebuilt". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 12 September 1903. p. 15.
- "Oxford Road Station: Opening of the New Passenger Platform". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 7 November 1904. p. 3.
- Jenkins, Simon (2017). Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-241-97898-6.
- "Sensitive Design: It Works". Manchester Confidential. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Cox, Charlotte (20 September 2013). "Manchester Oxford Road station is on track for overhaul". Manchester Evening News.
- "Network Rail plans more trains through Manchester". BBC News. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Manchester's second coming – but are developers destroying its industrial soul?". The Guardian. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Oxford Road, City (west side) Manchester Oxford Road Station (including platform structures). Grade II. 24.11.95" "A-Z of listed buildings in Manchester". Listed buildings in Manchester. Manchester City Council. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
- Hartwell, Clare (2002). Manchester. Pesvner Architectural Guides: City Guides. London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09666-8.
- "Oxford Road Railway Station". Manchester Modernist Society. 7 April 2012. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Table 82, 89 & 90 National Rail timetable, May 2018
- Table 39 National Rail timetable, May 2018
- Table 81 National Rail timetable, May 2016
- Table 49 National Rail timetable, May 2018
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