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The Northern line is one of the two commuter rail lines operated[5] by Merseyrail in Merseyside, England, with the Wirral Line being the other. A third line, the City Line, is not owned or operated by Merseyrail. All three lines are funded by Merseytravel.

Northern line
A yellow "M" over a grey circle.The words "Northern Line" in white over a green background.
507024 Central.jpg
A Northern line Class 507 at Liverpool Central
TypeCommuter rail
SystemNational Rail
North West England
TerminiSouthport, Ormskirk, Kirkby
Hunts Cross
OwnerNetwork Rail
Depot(s)Kirkdale TMD
Rolling stockBritish Rail Class 507
British Rail Class 508
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Loading gaugeW6[3]
Electrification750 V DC third rail[2]
Operating speed60 mph (97 km/h) maximum[3][4]
Northern line
(divided platform)
Aughton Park
Town Green
Maghull North
Old Roan
Hall Road
& Crosby
Orrell Park
Seaforth & Litherland
Bootle New Strand
Bootle Oriel Road
Bank Hall
Rice Lane
Stock transfer line
to James Street
Liverpool Lime Street
Wirral line
Liverpool Central
St James (proposed)
St Michaels
Garston (closed)
South Parkway
Liverpool John Lennon Airport
Hunts Cross
Merseyrail map, with the Northern line in blue
Merseyrail lines shown in Merseyside
  Primary route
  Secondary route
  Rural route
  Goods line
  Disused line

The Northern line passes underground through Liverpool city centre with termini at:

Passenger interchange to the Wirral Line is available at Moorfields and Liverpool Central, and to the City Line at Hunts Cross and (including regional and long-distance services) Liverpool South Parkway.



The line runs from Hunts Cross via the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) route towards Liverpool Central. Brunswick station between St Michaels and Liverpool Central was added in 1998 to provide a connection to the Brunswick Business Park. Just south of Liverpool Central, the line leaves the CLC route, in tunnel at that point, into a 1970s tunnel that drops to a lower level into the underground Mersey Railway Liverpool Central (Low Level) station. North of Central the line uses the Mersey Railway tunnel for about half of the route to Moorfields, an underground station built in the 1970s to replace the surface-level Liverpool Exchange. North of Moorfields the route emerges from the tunnel to join the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway lines from the former Exchange station.

After Sandhills, the Liverpool, Crosby and Southport Railway branches off towards Southport, while the other routes continue to Kirkdale on what was a joint section of track between Liverpool, Ormskirk and Preston Railway and the Liverpool and Bury Railway. After Kirkdale, the Ormskirk and Kirkby lines diverge.

Trains from Hunts Cross continue to Southport, while trains to Ormskirk and Kirkby start at Liverpool Central. Daytime trains operate every 15 minutes on each of the three routes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 30 minutes evenings and Sundays. Summer Sunday frequencies on the Southport route used to be increased to every 15 minutes but this practice ended in 2017. There are no peak hour frequency increases but trains on the Southport and Ormskirk routes are increased to six carriages, as are weekend services during the summer on the Southport route. Special timetables are implemented for major events such as Grand National Race Week at Aintree and golf tournaments at Birkdale. These involve changing services on all branches and even the closure of stations in anticipation of overcrowding risks.


The Northern line was opened on 1977. It consisted of amalgamations of

Former stationsEdit

This list is incomplete. Apart from Garston, all closures were prior to the formation of the Northern line.


The line is electrified using 750 V DC third rail, identically to the third rail system present in southern England.

  • Liverpool Exchange to Southport, Crossens and Meols Cop was the first section to be electrified, in 1904.
  • The branch to Aintree, on the Ormskirk branch, followed in 1906, extended to Ormskirk in 1913.
  • The Kirkby branch and the line south to Garston were electrified to create a north–south line through the Link Tunnel in 1978.
  • Electrification was cut back to Southport in the north in 1964 as part of the Southport-Preston line closure, stations closing which previously had had electric services were St Lukes, Hesketh Park, Churchtown, and Crossens, electric services also ceased to Meols Cop station although the conductor rail remained until 1970 to serve the large depot at Meols Cop, and this station continues to serve trains on the Southport to Wigan/Manchester line.[6]
  • Garston to Hunts Cross was electrified in 1983.


Interchange with the Wirral line is available at Liverpool Central and Moorfields. As the Northern line does not pass through Liverpool Lime Street, passengers from other rail networks must use the Wirral line as a connection. As there is only a direct escalator down to the Wirral line towards Birkenhead at Liverpool Central and given the short distance between Central and Lime Street most passengers prefer to walk rather than use the several escalators necessary to travel between the two stations.

Liverpool city centre stations have lifts for wheelchairs buggies and heavy luggage but they are small.

Interchange with other National Rail services can be made at Southport, Ormskirk, Kirkby, Liverpool South Parkway and Hunts Cross.

Liverpool South Parkway opened on 11 June 2006, replacing Garston and providing connections to the City Line formerly available at Allerton.


Plans to re-open St James station have been proposed. Merseytravel agreed to work with Liverpool Vision in March 2014 to investigate the cost of re-opening the station and its projected usage.[7] Merseytravel listed the re-opening of St James station as a 'top rail project' on a Rail Development and Delivery Committee report in 2016.[8]

As part of Lancashire County Council's plans to build a new railway station in Skelmersdale, they have proposed an extension to the Northern Line that would change the terminus of the Kirkby branch of the line from Kirkby to Skelmersdale. The proposals could see a new station built at Headbolt Lane and Merseyrail services also passing through Rainford railway station. By September 2017, Merseytravel and Lancashire County Council had committed £5 million of funding to the scheme. Merseytravel believe the scheme could cost around £300 million to develop and could be ready in a decade.[9]

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Long Term Rail Strategy document of October 2017, page 37, states a review in 2020 to introduce new Merseyrail battery trains will be undertaken, in view to put Preston onto the Merseyrail network by extending the Merseyrail Northern Line from Ormskirk to Preston. The aim is to have Preston one of the terminals of the Northern Line. The document states, "The potential use of battery powered Merseyrail units may improve the business case".[10]

Passenger volumeEdit

Passengers from the year beginning April 2002 to the year beginning April 2010.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Merseyrail - About Merseyrail". Merseyrail. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  2. ^ "04 - Current Capability" (PDF). Network Rail. 1 August 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Merseyside Route Utilisation Strategy" (PDF). Network Rail. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  4. ^ "Network Capability – Baseline Declaration : (1) Line-speeds : (2) London North Western Route (North)" (PDF). Network Rail. 31 March 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  5. ^ Merseyrail - A brief History (PDF),, archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2006, retrieved 4 January 2009
  6. ^
  7. ^ Thomas, JoeJoe (21 January 2015). "Merseytravel plan St James station re-opening study in next financial year". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Merseytravel Committee Rail Development and Delivery" (PDF). Merseytravel. Merseytravel. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  9. ^ Houghton, Alistair (18 September 2017). "Skelmersdale rail link moves step closer as £5m funding revealed". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  10. ^

External linksEdit