Crewe railway station
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2010)|
|Platforms 5 and 6 at Crewe.|
|Local authority||Cheshire East|
|Managed by||Virgin Trains|
|Number of platforms||12|
|Live arrivals/departures and station information
from National Rail Enquiries
|Annual rail passenger usage*|
|- Interchange||1.197 million|
|- Interchange||1.234 million|
|4 July 1837||Opened|
|National Rail – UK railway stations|
|* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Crewe from Office of Rail Regulation statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.|
|UK Railways portal|
The station was completed in 1837 and is one of the most historic railway stations in the world. Crewe was chosen after Winsford, seven miles to the north, had rejected an earlier proposal, as had local landowners in neighbouring Nantwich, four miles away.
Crewe railway station has twelve platforms and a modern passenger entrance containing a bookshop and ticket office. Passengers access the platforms via a footbridge, stairs and lifts. The platforms buildings dating from the 19th century contain two more bookshops, bars, buffets and waiting rooms. The last major expenditure on the station was in 1985 when the track layout was remodelled and station facilities updated.
Crewe station set many 'firsts' in the history of the world's railways. For instance it was the first station to have its own adjacent railway hotel: The Crewe Arms, built in 1838, and still in use. It was the first to be completely rebuilt owing to the need for expansion. It was the first to form a junction between more than two companies. It was the also first to have completely independent rail lines built around it, in order to ease traffic congestion.
The story begins on 4 July 1837, with the opening of the Grand Junction Railway. The purpose of this railway was to link the four largest cities of England by joining the existing Liverpool and Manchester Railway with the projected London and Birmingham railway. The line, which was the first long-distance railway in the world, ran from Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham to Dallam in Warrington, Cheshire, where it made an end-on junction with the Warrington and Newton Railway, a branch of the L&M.
Conceived as a through route, the GJR was not interested in serving towns en route. Wolverhampton, for instance, was by-passed by half a mile because it did not lie on the intended route, and no central station was built for several years, instead a small Wolverhampton station, later renamed Wednesfield Heath was deemed to suffice. The line passed through Stafford, also opened on 4 July 1837. A station was built in the township of Crewe, which formed part of the ancient parish of Barthomley. The township later became a civil parish in its own right, and, later still, was renamed Crewe Green to avoid confusion with the town of Crewe, which was adjacent to it. The actual position of the station was at the point where the line crossed the turnpike road linking the Trent and Mersey and the Shropshire Union Canals. Since the land was bought from the Earl of Crewe, whose mansion stood nearby, and it was located in the township of Crewe, the station was called Crewe. The railway station gave its name to the town of Crewe that was actually situated in the ancient parish of Coppenhall. In 1936, the railway station was transferred from the civil parish of Crewe to the then municipal borough of Crewe.
As soon as the station opened it was seen to be at a useful point to begin a branch line to the county town of Chester. The Chester and Crewe Railway was formed and was absorbed by the GJR shortly before it opened to traffic in 1840. A locomotive depot was built at the station, to serve the Chester line, and to provide banking engines to assist trains southwards from Crewe up the Madeley Incline, a modest gradient which was a challenge to the small engines of the day.
By 1841, the Chester line was seen as a starting point for a new trunk line to Holyhead, to provide the fastest route to Ireland, and the importance of Crewe as a junction station began to be established. This was given further endorsement when the Manchester and Birmingham Railway, a separate undertaking which had hoped to build a wholly independent line linking the two cities, shorter than the GJR, decided that it would be uneconomical to compete with that line over the greater part of its length, and decided to divert its own line to meet the GJR at Crewe. Teething squabbles between the companies delayed the running of through services for a while, and the M&B had to build a temporary station of their own, part of which survives today as an isolated platform next to the North Junction, at the start of the line to Manchester.
In 1842 the GJR decided to move its locomotive works from Edge Hill in Liverpool to Crewe, siting the works to the north of the junction between the Warrington and Chester lines. To house the workforce and company management the town of Crewe was built by the company to the north of the works.
London & North Western Railway
In 1845 the GJR merged with the London and Birmingham and the Liverpool and Manchester railways to form the London and North Western Railway Company, which until its demise in 1923 was the largest company in the world. The new company extended the existing lines to Holyhead, the Warrington line to Lancaster and Carlisle, the Manchester line to Leeds, and built the new Crewe and Shrewsbury Railway to Shrewsbury to join the joint GWR owned Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway, which provided connections to South Wales. The North Staffordshire Railway built a line from Stoke-on-Trent, joining the LNWR from the South East. Crewe was therefore the centre of a wide-ranging railway network, and freight-handling facilities grew up to the south of the station.
To cope with the increase of traffic, the station was rebuilt in 1861, the buildings facing each other on the present platforms 5 and 6 dating from this time. At the same time the works was extensively redeveloped and enlarged, and the town also considerably enlarged, under the leadership of John Ramsbottom, a Stockport man who had become Locomotive Superintendent for the whole company. Locomotive construction, hitherto divided with Wolverton (on the London and Birmingham Railway) was concentrated at Crewe. Ramsbottom also built a steelworks, the first in the world to make large-scale use of the Bessemer process, as only the LNWR required enough steel to keep a Bessemer plant continuously occupied. He also introduced mass-production techniques, whereby as many parts as possible were identical between one engine and another.
Ramsbottom retired in 1871 and was succeeded by the legendary Frank Webb, a colourful and controversial figure who was known as 'The Uncrowned King of Crewe'.
By the 1890s Crewe junctions had become so busy that a survey revealed 1,000 trains passing within a 24-hour period. Since half of these were freight trains which did not need to call at the station, the company decided to build a completely separate four-track railway line passing to the west of the station, joining the existing lines beyond the north and south junctions, burrowing beneath them and avoiding them completely. This huge undertaking also included a vast marshalling yard to the south of the station at Basford Hall, a revolutionary 'tranship shed' which allowed fast transfer of freight from wagons to road vehicles under cover, and the increase in the size of the passenger station by one-half again.
London Midland and Scottish Railway
In 1923 the LNWR became part of the London, Midland and Scottish railway group. Crewe remained the major centre for locomotive construction. In 1938-39 the signal boxes at North and South Junctions were completely reconstructed as massive concrete structures to withstand air raids, and remained in use until the resignalling project in 1985. The North Junction signal box can now be visited as part of the Crewe Heritage Centre. Although the railway station is virtually synonymous with the town of Crewe, it was not actually incorporated within the borders of the borough of Crewe until the late 1930s, as it lies about 1 mile to the south east of the actual town centre.
With the exception of two new signal boxes and associated greatly improved colour light signalling, track circuiting and electrically operated track points, train operation at Crewe changed little in over fifty years. The trains did become longer and heavier and were hauled by larger engines, which required increased supplies of water to be taken on board before departure, but the number of passenger trains using Crewe Station and the method of operation did not vary greatly despite the passage of two world wars. Trains continued to divide at Crewe with the front portion for Manchester and the rear for Liverpool. The station pilot engine always had a pair of restaurant cars in a bay platform ready to attach to a morning service to London. Always there were extra coaches waiting to be attached to overcrowded trains. In addition to passengers there were vast quantities of mail, parcels and even live animals and birds of all descriptions transported in specially designed transit crates. When necessary the station staff had to feed and water these special passengers, which travelled in copious luggage vans.
In 1948 the LMS was nationalised as British Railways, London Midland Region. Nationalisation greatly facilitated the modernisation of British Railways and, after a false start developing new improved steam engines, electrification came, along with diesel power and fixed-formation air-braked trains. These changes had a significant effect on Crewe station. Notably, the variation in station use caused firstly by the electrification in stages of the West Coast Main Line between 1959 and 1974 and secondly by the general end of steam traction on Britain's railways. Following the completion of electrification in 1974, trains did not need to change locomotives at Crewe, except for the London to Chester and Holyhead service. Many locomotive hauled trains were replaced by electric or diesel multiple unit trains, with much faster turn-round times. Additionally, two local branch lines had closed, which resulted in fewer trains terminating at Crewe. However, compensating for the decline of local passenger traffic, the reduction in mail and parcels traffic and the total elimination of livestock carriage, came the great increase in inter-city passenger traffic and the need for even faster, smoother and more efficient handling of passenger trains.
In 1985 the entire track layout was modernised, simplified and reduced, eliminating a vast array of points and crossings and allowing 80 mph running over the North Junction. At the same time all but one of the six 1902 extension platforms were taken out of use.
|Rail network in the Crewe area|
During the day, there are 23 trains passing through every hour (with additional less frequent services). As a summary:
- 5tph to London Euston, of which:
- 3tph to Birmingham New Street, of which:
- 1tph is operated by Virgin Trains and continues to London Euston, as noted above.
- 2tph is operated by London Midland
- 2tph to Stoke-on-Trent
- 1tph to Shrewsbury, operated by Arriva Trains Wales, of which:
- Arriva Trains Wales operate 3 trains per day to Birmingham: 1 via Stafford and 2 indirectly via Shrewsbury.
- CrossCountry operate 1 train per day to Bristol Temple Meads and 2 trains per day to Bournemouth
- 4tph to Manchester Piccadilly, of which:
- 3tph to Liverpool Lime Street, of which:
- 1tph is fast, calling only at Runcorn, and is operated by Virgin Trains
- 1tph to Scotland, heading alternately to either Glasgow Central or Edinburgh Waverley, operated by Virgin Trains
- 2tph to Chester, of which
- 1tph is operated by Arriva Trains Wales
- CrossCountry operate 1 train a day to Manchester Piccadilly
- Platform 1 - Northern Rail stopping services to and from Manchester Piccadilly and occasionally Virgin Trains northbound services to Manchester Piccadilly and Virgin Trains southbound services to London Euston.
- Platform 2 - Extra Capacity.
- Platform 3 - London Midland services to and from London Euston.
- Platform 4 - East Midlands Trains services to and from Derby.
- Platform 5 - Virgin Trains Northbound services to Manchester Piccadilly and Southbound to Birmingham New Street and London Euston, London Midland services to Birmingham New Street, Arriva Trains Wales services to Cardiff, CrossCountry services to Bournemouth and Bristol Temple Meads.
- Platform 6 - Arriva Trains Wales services Northbound to Manchester Piccadilly and Southbound to Cardiff and beyond. Some Virgin Trains Northbound services to Preston and Glasgow Central & southbound to London Euston also use this platform along with a CrossCountry service to Manchester Piccadilly.
- Platform 7 - Arriva Trains Wales stopping services to and from Shrewsbury.
- Platform 8 - No scheduled services, occasionally used by terminating London Midland services, often used as headshunt by locomotives running to or from Gresty Bridge and LNWR depots.
- Platform 9 - Arriva Trains Wales services to Chester and Holyhead.
- Platform 10 - No scheduled services, often used as headshunt by locomotives running to or from Crewe EMD.
- Platform 11 - Virgin Trains Northbound services to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Chester and North Wales and Saturdays only Southbound locomotive hauled service to London Euston, locomotive detaches here. London Midland Northbound services to Liverpool Lime Street.
- Platform 12 - Extra capacity.
In the SRA's 2002/03 financial year 773,969 people joined the railway system at Crewe railway station, and 763,846 left it there (tickets sold at Crewe, and tickets sold to Crewe; figure does not include passengers interchanging between one rail service and another).
In 2007 Network Rail published a proposal to replace the existing Crewe station with a new station located approximately 1 mile to the south in the area of the current Basford Hall freight yard, adjacent to the A500 road and with new links to the M6 motorway; this proposal is claimed to be better suited to the operations of the modern railway as it is estimated that the existing station will be at 125% of its operating capacity in the mid-2020s, and the new station will have a more efficient track layout with fewer conflicting train movements. It is, however, unclear how the line from the south-east (Stoke-on-Trent) and south-west (Shrewsbury) would access the new site. It has also been proposed in a related development that a "Crewe Town" station would be built nearer the town centre on the Chester line, with a shuttle service to the new main station. 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 is set to receive a share of £50m funding for improvements.
The proposal to move the station was abandoned in 2010 and instead maintenance work is being carried out on the current building. Cheshire East Council is completing a new regeneration master plan for Crewe, which includes the railway station. Work is planned to start on a £6 million redevelopment scheme in December 2012. In January 2013, it was announced that the existing Crewe station would be a stop on the western branch of the planned HS2 high-speed rail route.
Notes and references
- Guardian newspaper article, The beauty of Crewe (6 December 2005). Retrieval Date: 10 August 2007.
- Chambers (2007, pp. 76, 94); Dunn (1987, p. 26); Ollerhead (2008, pp. 7, 10, 16). "Crewe (near Wybunbury)". GENUKI (UK & Ireland Genealogy). Retrieved 3 February 2009.. The unusual relationship between the town of Crewe and the civil parish of Crewe, mediated by the railway station, is described in the following riddle: "The place which is Crewe is not Crewe, and the place which is not Crewe is Crewe."Curran et al. (1984, p. 2).
- The usage information (Station Entries and Station Exits) is based on ticket sales in the financial year 2002/03 and covers all National Rail stations. It does not include those stations that are owned by TfL. The calculation of station usage levels uses sales recorded in the railway ticketing system prior to their allocation to individual operators. It does not take into account any changes of train during the course of a journey. The ticketing system does not record certain journeys made using TfL bought travelcards, TfL Freedom Passes, staff travel passes and certain other PTE specific products. Continued usage notes, and Excel format table for all stations available.
- "Station could be moved". BBC News. 2 July 2008.
- "£50m revamp for 'worst stations'". BBC News. 2009-11-17. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
- King, Emma (15 June 2010). "Crewe station revamp scrapped by coalition Government". The Sentinel. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
- "Crewe Vision". Sandbach: Cheshire East Council. Archived from the original on 13 September 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
- Cheshire East News (September 2012); downloaded from
- BBC News: Crewe railway station revamp to get under way (accessed 9 December 2012)
- BBC News: HS2: High-speed rail route phase two details announced (accessed 28 January 2013)
- Chambers, S (2007), Crewe: A history, Chichester, Sussex: Phillimore, ISBN 978-1-86077-472-0
- Curran, H; Gilsenan, M; Owen, B; Owen, J (1984), Change at Crewe, Chester: Cheshire Libraries and Museums
- Dunn, F. I. (1987), The ancient parishes, townships and chapelries of Cheshire, Chester: Cheshire Record Office and Cheshire Diocesan Record Office, ISBN 0-906758-14-9
- Langston, K (2006), Made in Crewe: 150 years of engineering excellence, Horncastle, Lincolnshire: Mortons Media Group, ISBN 978-0-9552868-0-3
- Ollerhead, P (2008), Crewe: History and guide, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7524-4654-7
- Youngs, F. A. (1991), Guide to the local administrative units of England. (Volume 1: Northern England), London: Royal Historical Society, ISBN 0-86193-127-0
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