Manchester to Preston Line

Manchester to Preston line
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale Lancashire
North West England
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Northern
TransPennine Express
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

Manchester to Preston Line

West Coast Main Line

Blackpool branch lines
East Lancashire Line
Ormskirk Branch Line
Euxton Junction
West Coast Main Line
Buckshaw Parkway
Lancashire Union Railway
to Blackburn
Rawlinson Bridge
Lancashire Union Railway
to Wigan North Western

BlackrodHorwich Branch
Lancashire & Yorkshire Rly
to Hindley and Daisy Hill
Horwich Parkway
Lostock Lane

to Wigan Wallgate
via Westhoughton
Ribble Valley Line
to Bury
Moses Gate
Dixon Fold
to Bury
Agecroft Bridge
Pendleton Bridge
Manchester to Southport Line
and Kirkby Branch Line
Salford Crescent

Windsor Bridge
to Manchester Victoria

Windsor Link
Liverpool to Manchester lines
Manchester Oxford Road
Manchester Piccadilly Manchester Metrolink
West Coast Main Line
to Huddersfield and Glossop

The Manchester to Preston line runs from the city of Manchester to Preston, Lancashire. It is largely used by commuters entering Manchester from surrounding suburbs and cities, but is also one of the main railway lines in the North West and is utilised by TransPennine Express regional services and to Scotland. Electrification currently ends just north of Deansgate. It was announced in December 2009 that the line would be electrified, following an announcement in July 2009 that the Chat Moss route between Manchester and Liverpool was to be electrified first. The electrification work for this line commenced in May 2015 and is due for completion in December 2017.[1][2]

The line is one of the busiest in the North West, with seven trains per hour in each direction during the off-peak daytime timetable. The line speed is currently 75 mph, and will be increased to 100 mph when the electrification project is complete.


The line was opened as far as Bolton in 1838 by the Manchester and Bolton Railway, then extended in 1841 by the Bolton and Preston Railway. These were amalgamated, via the East Lancashire Railway, as part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.


The route now has 2 starting points in Manchester:

The route then continues to Clifton, it passes through Kearsley, Farnworth and Moses Gate following the Irwell Valley for much of the route. The first major town is Bolton. Just after Bolton station there is a junction to the right where the Ribble Valley line, a single line, heads off to Blackburn and Clitheroe. The line cuts through the western suburbs of Bolton including Lostock, where trains to Wigan Wallgate via Westhoughton, branch off. Next is Horwich Parkway opened in 1999 and Blackrod (where the former Horwich Branch diverged). It then proceeds through the town of Adlington and on to Chorley, passing through Buckshaw Parkway, which opened in 2011 and finally joining the West Coast Main Line at Euxton Junction before continuing via Leyland to Preston.


Two Train Operators serve the length of the route:

Other TOCs operate along the southern section of the route to Ordsall Lane Jn and go on to Warrington:

Freight and diversions

The line is an important diversionary route at weekends, used in conjunction with the Crewe to Manchester line to divert away from a large section of the West Coast Main Line if required. The convenience is that this only adds 35–40 minutes to a journey and negates the need for costly bus replacement services. Some freight still uses this line (such as stone trains from the Peak District to a distribution terminal at Hope St., Salford and "Bin-liner" refuse trains from Pendleton to Scunthorpe), especially during the peak periods during the day. It is, however, a primary passenger route in the North West of England.


Class 185 trains are now the most frequent units on the line: working for TransPennine Express to Blackpool, Barrow and Windermere. In the other direction, they all usually work to Manchester Airport although engineering works can mean units working to Manchester Victoria instead. Prior to 2007, Class 175 trains worked the majority of these services before the 185s took over. Between May 2001 and December 2006, they worked all Barrow and Windermere services and the majority of the Blackpool services. However, they never worked to Scotland due to this being a Virgin Cross Country service until December 2007.

Northern operate a variety of rolling stock for their services, with Class 142, Class 150 and Class 156 units all appearing regularly on the line. Class 153 units also use the line – mainly seen on a booked daily service between Stockport and Blackpool North in the evening (usually coupled up with another unit for strengthening purposes), however they are not permitted on routes using Wigan Wallgate because the body-side steps under the doors foul the platform coping stones at that station.


Work on 25kV OHLE electrification of the line began in May 2015 and has included numerous bridgeworks plus the major undertaking of the re-boring of Farnworth Tunnel.[1] Its high profile resulted in a visit from Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, shortly after work started,[3] and from Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in August 2015 during the reboring of Farnworth tunnel.[4] Breakthrough was achieved in late, rather than early October, due to loose sand delaying the work in August; the first trains running through the new twin track bore on Monday December 14, 2015. Electrification is now due for completion, after the Preston to Blackpool North line is electrified, by December 2017.[2]


See also

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