Preston railway station

For the Australian station, see Preston railway station, Melbourne. For the railway station in Brighton, see Preston Park railway station.
Preston National Rail

The north end of platforms 7 to 4 (left-to-right). The ticket office is centre top.
Place Preston
Local authority City of Preston
Coordinates 53°45′22″N 2°42′26″W / 53.7560°N 2.7072°W / 53.7560; -2.7072Coordinates: 53°45′22″N 2°42′26″W / 53.7560°N 2.7072°W / 53.7560; -2.7072
Grid reference SD534290
Station code PRE
Managed by Virgin Trains
Number of platforms 9
DfT category B
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2010/11 Increase 4.169 million
2011/12 Increase 4.385 million
2012/13 Increase 4.436 million
2013/14 Increase 4.509 million
2014/15 Increase 4.557 million
31 October 1838 Opened
2 September 1850 East Lancashire platforms added
July 1880 Rebuilt
1903 New platforms added to west side
1913 New platforms added to east side
1972 East Lancashire platforms closed
National Rail – UK railway stations
* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Preston from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.
UK Railways portal

Preston railway station serves the city of Preston in Lancashire, England, and is a major station on the West Coast Main Line, and is the notional half-way point on the WCML between London Euston and Glasgow Central 194 miles from Glasgow Central and 206 from London Euston although (the actual half-way point is at Leyland, approximately 6 miles south). It is served by Northern, Virgin Trains, and TransPennine Express services, plus Caledonian Sleeper overnight services between London and Scotland.

A station was first opened on this site by the North Union Railway in 1838. It was extended in 1850 with new platforms under the separate management of the East Lancashire Railway, and by 1863, LondonScotland trains stopped here to allow passengers to eat in the station dining room. The current station was built 1880 and extended in 1903 and 1913, when it had fifteen platforms. A free buffet for servicemen was provided during both World Wars. The "East Lancashire" platforms were demolished in the 1970s as connecting lines closed. Only eight platforms remain in regular use today.

As well as intercity trains to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, the station is served by local trains to most parts of Lancashire, and parts of Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Yorkshire.

Station layout and amenities

The main entrance to the station is at the bottom of the station approach, a ramp off the bridge that carries Fishergate over the railway. The ticket office exists within the small concourse. This concourse gives direct access, down the ramp, to the intercity platforms 3 and 4. There are footbridges on either side of this ramp to all other platforms. The eastern footbridge ends at an alternative entrance to the station on Butler Street, giving closer access to Preston city centre and the station car park. There also exists a subway which provides step-free access to all eight platforms in use at the station and with platform 7, at the south end of which is another entrance serving the station car park.

The island forming platforms 3 and 4 is a very wide island platform with a long series of buildings. Inside these buildings are services and amenities including a newsagent and several food outlets including a licensed restaurant. There are also toilets and a large waiting room. A small travel centre on platform 3, near the ramp, is operated by Virgin Trains staff to give information for passengers on the platform. In addition to these main amenities, there is a small coffee shop outlet on platform 4, as well as an additional shop on platforms 1 and 2.

Passenger information systems were updated during 2007 and now use dot matrix display screens. Preston retains a manual tannoy system, a rarity amongst the larger stations in the UK. In 2009 the station was identified as one of the ten worst category B interchange stations for mystery shopper assessment of fabric and environment, and was set to receive a share of £50m funding for improvements prior to a public spending review initiated in 2010.[1][2]


Layout of station in 2008
The ramp to platforms 3 and 4
Platform 2 looking south
Platform 3 looking north

There are currently six through and two bay platforms in use at Preston, with two more available for emergency use. All lines are electrified, allowing any train to use any platform.


TransPennine Express

Virgin Trains

Serco operate their "Highland" Caledonian Sleeper service with a call at Preston to and from the Scottish Highlands. They are the only services through the station not operated by the three companies listed above. London Midland's single evening peak service from Birmingham New Street no longer operates, having been withdrawn at the end of the 2007-08 timetable.

Grand Central has been given permission to run six trains a day from London to Blackpool North from 2018, which will call at Preston.[3] The London terminus will be either Euston or Queen's Park, depending on network capacity during planned infrastructural work to the West Coast Mainline.[3] Additional intermediate stations at which the service will stop are also dependent upon future capacity.[3]

Preceding station National Rail Following station
Lancaster   TransPennine Express
TransPennine North West
  Manchester Oxford Road or
Wigan North Western
Lancaster   Northern
Manchester - Barrow/Windermere
  Chorley or
Buckshaw Parkway or
Poulton-le-Fylde or
Kirkham and Wesham
Blackpool - Manchester (fast)
  Chorley or
Buckshaw Parkway or
Terminus   Northern
Manchester Airport - Preston
  Chorley or
Buckshaw Parkway
Kirkham and Wesham   Northern
Blackpool - Liverpool
Kirkham and Wesham   Northern
Manchester Victoria - Preston
Salwick   Northern
East Lancashire Line
Blackpool (S) Branch Line
  Lostock Hall or
Poulton-le-Fylde   Northern
Caldervale Line
Lancaster or
Poulton-le-Fylde or
Buxton Line
Blackpool North   Northern
Blackpool - York via Manchester
Terminus   Northern
Ormskirk Branch Line
Lancaster or
Glasgow Central or
Terminus or
Oxenholme or
  Virgin Trains
London-Glasgow/North West
  Wigan North Western or
London Euston
Lancaster   Virgin Trains
  Wigan North Western
Kirkham and Wesham   Virgin Trains
Edinburgh Waverley   Caledonian Sleeper
Highland Caledonian Sleeper
Historical railways
Lea Road   Preston and Wyre
Joint Railway
Terminus   North Union Railway   Farington
Oxheys   London and North Western Railway
Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway
Disused railways
Cop Lane
  West Lancashire Railway   Terminus
Terminus   Preston and
Longridge Railway
Terminus   East Lancashire Railway
Blackburn and Preston Railway &
L'pool, Ormskirk & Preston Rly
  Preston Junction


In coaching days, Preston was an important centre for both passenger and postal traffic. This importance continued into the railway age, both as a major junction and as a stopping point about halfway between London and Glasgow.[4]

Preston’s railways

The first rail lines in Preston were those of the Lancaster Canal Tramroad, a horse-drawn line connecting two parts of the Lancaster Canal. It opened in 1805, but never carried passengers and never converted to steam. It ceased operating in Preston in 1862.[5]

The first steam-hauled passenger railway in Preston was the North Union Railway (NUR). On 31 October 1838 it opened its line from Wigan to a station on the site of the present-day Preston Station.[6] This immediately linked the town to London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.

Each subsequent line was built by a different company. Rivalry often prevented any cooperation over shared facilities, and so almost every railway line into Preston used its own station. It was not until 1900 that all lines in Preston shared a single station, by which time all the companies had been taken over by one or both of just two companies.

The second passenger railway into Preston was the Preston and Longridge Railway, which opened as another horse-drawn tramway on 1 May 1840, to a terminus in Deepdale Street.[7] It converted to steam in 1848, but did not run its trains into the North Union station until 1885.[8]

Railways around Preston in 1913

The Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway (L&PJR) was the third line, which opened on 25 June 1840,[9] initially using the North Union station. However, relations between the NUR and L&PJR soured, and, from 1 January 1842, most L&PJR trains used, instead, Maxwell House railway station, a short distance to the north of the North Union station. A few trains passed through, but the NUR charged a toll of 6d per passenger. Most passengers refused to pay, preferring to alight at Maxwell House and walk the 200 yards (200 m) to the North Union station, but the NUR refused to hold the train to allow passengers to walk and rebook. The NUR advised northbound passengers to travel by the Lancaster Canal rather than the L&PJR.[5] On 1 January 1844, Maxwell House station came into the possession of the NUR, and lack of agreement led to several weeks when hapless L&PJR passengers had to alight on the trackside at nearby Dock Street (off Pitt Street). Lancaster trains were able to use the North Union station from 12 February.[10]

Preston’s fourth railway was the Preston and Wyre Joint Railway to Fleetwood, opening, just a few weeks after the L&PJR, on 16 July 1840, to its own terminus at Maudlands in Leighton Street.[9] After 12 February 1844, regular Preston and Wyre trains used the North Union station, along with the L&PJR, although Maudlands Station continued to be used for excursions for some decades.[10]

The fifth company to run trains into Preston was the Bolton and Preston Railway (BPR), from 22 June 1843. Its line joined the North Union’s at Euxton, 5 12 miles (9 km) south of Preston, but the company used Maxwell House station instead of the North Union’s. However, the NUR charged 1s per passenger to BPR trains over its tracks, and eventually the BPR resorted to ferrying its passengers by road between Euxton and Preston. The BPR was driven into submission and was taken over by the NUR from 1 January 1844.[5]

The sixth line into Preston was that of the Preston and Blackburn Railway, which opened on 1 June 1846, joining the North Union line immediately south of Farrington Station (respelt “Farington” from October 1857). The railway company was absorbed into the East Lancashire Railway (ELR) on 3 August 1846.[11] Once again, the NUR charged high tolls for the use of its line which led the ELR to build its own line into Preston. The line was initially opposed by Preston Corporation, but was eventually permitted on condition that the embankment north of the Ribble (which later became the dividing line between Avenham and Miller Parks) be ornamentally laid out, and that a pedestrian path (still in use today) be provided on the river bridge. The line ran into new platforms built on the east side of the North Union station, which were managed and staffed by the ELR, and which had their own booking hall and entrance in Butler Street. The new platforms were effectively a separate station.[12][13] The new line and station opened on 2 September 1850.[14]

The seventh line in Preston was the North Union’s own Victoria Quay Branch to Victoria Quay on the River Ribble (later extended to Preston Docks in 1882 and which now connects to the heritage Ribble Steam Railway).[15] The single-track goods line opened in October 1846 from a south-facing junction immediately south of Preston Station, through a tight curve into a tunnel with a gradient of 1 in 29, emerging north of Fishergate Hill near the riverside.[16]

The eighth line to Preston was the Liverpool, Ormskirk and Preston Railway, owned by the ELR and connected to its Blackburn line into Preston. It opened on 2 April 1849.[14] From 1891, its trains used a new curve at Farington to enter Preston via the North Union line.[13]

The ninth and final line into Preston was the West Lancashire Railway (WLR) from Southport. The railway arrived in Preston on 16 September 1882, by which time all the town’s other lines were owned by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) or the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR), or jointly by both. The independent WLR built its own Fishergate Hill station. It also built a connecting line to the former ELR (then LYR) line, via which the majority of Southport-to-Preston trains continued to Blackburn. The railway was not a success, and on 1 July 1897 it was taken over by the LYR. This resulted in the diversion of all passenger services to use the East Lancashire platforms of Preston Station from 16 July 1900.[17]

The network of lines south of Preston allowed great flexibility in the routing of trains. A train approaching the town on any of the lines from the south (except the WLR from Southport) could be routed to enter the station via either the North Union or the East Lancashire line. It was even possible for trains from the north to perform an effective U-turn, a feat sometimes carried out by trains between Scotland and Blackpool that would otherwise have had to reverse.

Station development

Layout of station until 1850

When the station was first opened in 1838 by the North Union Railway, the line north of the station passed through a tunnel under the west end of Fishergate (then Preston’s major thoroughfare). It was on a slope so steep that sometimes station staff had to push trains out of the station. By 1846, the station was already very busy, handling trains from Wigan and the south, Bolton, Fleetwood, Blackpool, Lancaster and the north, and Blackburn. There were no footbridges; passengers had to cross the lines escorted by station staff.[18] North of the station was a network of goods lines around the end of the Lancaster Canal. The coal yards and sidings here continued to operate long after the canal had fallen into commercial disuse.

The station’s first expansion came in 1850 when the new East Lancashire line used new platforms staffed and managed by the East Lancashire Railway, with their own entrance and booking office in Butler Street.[12] From 1863, trains between London and Scotland, having no dining cars, were scheduled to allow 20 minutes at Preston for passengers to eat in the station’s dining room.[19] The pressure on catering staff was increased when northbound and southbound trains would often arrive about the same time.[20] The condition of the station deteriorated to the extent that on 18 August 1866 part of the roof on the East Lancashire side collapsed injuring three people, one seriously. By then, 150 trains a day passed through the station.[21]

Eventually the station was rebuilt, at a cost of a quarter of a million pounds, reopening in July 1880, and with seven through platforms and four bay platforms. At this time, both the Ribble bridge and the line as far as Euxton, were widened from two tracks to four.[21][22] A striking feature of the new station was its long and wide central island platform, 1,225 feet (373 m) long and 110 feet (34 m) wide. It was larger than any of the London terminal station platforms, the longest being Kings Cross at 990 feet (302 m). Along the centre of the platform were refreshment rooms, offices, and waiting rooms. A booking hall at the north end of the station was accessed from the middle of a new bridge carrying Fishergate over the railway. A broad ramp led down to the main island platform, with footbridges to smaller platforms on either side. Further south, the platforms were also linked by a passenger subway and a separate subway for luggage, accessed via hoists.[23] At the south end of the main platform, a footbridge led to the nearby Park Hotel, a joint LYR/LNWR property, opened in 1883.[24][25]

On 30 January 1877 a heavy storm blew the roof completely away from the station,[26] but a more serious accident occurred on 13 July 1896 when a Euston to Glasgow train passed through the station at an estimated 45 mph (70 km/h), despite a 10 mph (16 km/h) speed limit. It was derailed on a tight curve at the north end of the station, killing one person.[21][27] As a result of this, the tracks were realigned. Charles Street, to the west of the station, was demolished, as were more houses northwest of the station. Fishergate bridge was extended on its west side. This allowed more tracks and platforms to be built on the west side of the station, with gentler curves. The Ribble bridge was widened again, from four to six tracks. These enlargements were completed by 1903.[21][28] The east side of the station was also extended in 1913.[29]

Layout of station in 1926

By 1926, the lines and platforms were used as follows, from west to east:

Later, platforms 11, 12, 13 and 10 were renumbered into the more logical sequence 10, 11, 12, 13.


The East Lancashire platforms and goods shed, pictured in 1959 from Vicar's Bridge.
Approximately the same location in 2007. A multi-storey car park has since been built over part of this area.

A number of lines around Preston have closed, including the Longridge line in 1930[31][32] and the West Lancashire line in 1964.[33] The old island platforms one and two were closed in 1970 together with the goods lines to the west of the station, but it was then extended northwards to allow platform two to become a dedicated parcels platform. The line towards Liverpool was truncated and singled in summer 1970, with Preston services terminating at Ormskirk. This was followed by the closure of the East Lancashire line, between Preston and Bamber Bridge, via its original direct route, in April 1972. The East Lancashire platforms 10 to 13 were demolished, along with the Butler Street Goods Yard.[34] Their site is now covered by car parks for the station and the adjacent Fishergate Shopping Centre, which was built in the 1980s, partly over the north end of the former goods yard. The remaining platforms 3 to 9 were renumbered 1 to 7.

Some of the station's heritage can still be seen:

Special features

Plaque on one of the catenary stanchions on platform 4 commemorating the visit of Queen Elizabeth II on 7 May 1974[35]

A free buffet for servicemen was provided at the station during both World Wars. The Preston Station Free Buffet Association served free hot drinks, biscuits and buns and sold sandwiches at cost price to anyone in uniform 24 hours a day for the duration of the First World War. Four hundred women working 12-hour shifts served over 3 million men between 1915 and 1919. 12 million cups of tea were served between 1939 and 1945.[36] It was funded by subscription and had its own marked crockery. The station was on a major north-south route for troops. There are three commemorative plaques related to the First World War buffet in the waiting room on platforms 3 and 4, the former site of WWI buffet. One of the drama segments of the televised Preston Passion of 2012 was set in the First World War servicemen's buffet. The Second World War buffet was located in the southern building further down platforms 5&6 (now platforms 3&4).

One of the catenary stanchions on platform 4 is notably better kept than others, and carries a small plaque detailing the visit of Queen Elizabeth II on 7 May 1974, after the completion of electrification of tracks north of the point where it stands. This was significant because it marked the completion of the total electrification of the West Coast Main Line.[35]

See also


  1. "£50m revamp for 'worst stations'". BBC News. 17 November 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  2. Tracks of our fears Lancashire Evening Post
  3. 1 2 3 Topham, Gwyn. "Virgin has a rival: GNWR to run London to Blackpool west coast rail service". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  4. Lawrence, p.136
  5. 1 2 3 Greville & Holt 1, pp.9798
  6. Greville & Holt 1, p.95
  7. Greville & Holt 2, p.198
  8. Greville & Holt 2, pp.200–201
  9. 1 2 Greville & Holt 1, p.96
  10. 1 2 Greville & Holt 1, p.99
  11. Greville & Holt 1, pp.99–100
  12. 1 2 Greville & Holt 1, p.101
  13. 1 2 Suggitt, p.59
  14. 1 2 Greville & Holt 2, p.197
  15. Greville & Holt 2, p.203
  16. Greville & Holt 1, p.100
  17. Greville & Holt 2, pp.201–202
  18. Greville & Holt 3, pp.274275
  19. Greville & Holt 3, p.277
  20. Lawrence, p.142
  21. 1 2 3 4 Greville & Holt 3, p.276
  22. Gairns, p.337
  23. Lawrence, p.139
  24. Gairns, p.342
  25. Suggitt, p.63
  26. "The Gale. Meteorological Reports". D (28853). The Times. 31 January 1877: 6. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  27. Lawrence, p.140
  28. Lawrence, p.141
  29. Rush, p.7
  30. Gairns, pp.342–343
  31. Suggitt, p.52
  32. Greville & Holt 2, p.201
  33. Suggitt, p.115
  34. Suggitt, p.60
  35. 1 2 Engineering Timelines: Carlisle (Lune) Bridge, accessed 10 January 2008
  36. Hunt, p.18


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