|Chester to Runcorn via Halton Curve|
|Type||Regional rail, Heavy rail|
|Status||Operational in one direction only|
|Locale||Cheshire, Halton, (North West England)|
|Stations||4, (Chester, Helsby, Frodsham, Runcorn)|
|Closed||5 May 1975 (local traffic)|
Class 150 Sprinter
Class 156 SuperSprinter
|Line length||14 mi (23 km)|
|No. of tracks||Single (1)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Operating speed||40 mph (64 km/h) maximum|
Service runs in one direction only (Chester → Runcorn)
The Halton Curve is a railway line in the borough of Halton, Cheshire. It runs from Frodsham Junction (north of Frodsham station) to Halton Junction (south of Runcorn station), providing a link from the North Line to the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line.
The line can now be used only northbound because the southbound line and the associated points and diamond crossings at each end of the curve have been removed to permit higher speeds on the main line towards Crewe at the northern end and reduce maintenance costs, meaning that the line is rarely used. The journey from Chester to Runcorn in total is almost 14 miles in length, although the distance along the curve is only just over a mile and a half.
There are occasional freight workings and one scheduled passenger train service, a parliamentary train, operated by Northern Rail. This replaced the former Liverpool to Llandudno and return summer Saturday train that used the curve up until September 1994. Regular passenger services over the line had previously ceased in May 1975, though it was often used as a diversionary route (when the WCML south of Weaver Junction was closed for engineering work) until the early 1990s.
A rail user group, the North Cheshire Rail User Group, supports and actively campaigns for an improved service at this station and for this railway line.
The curve is single track and owned and maintained by Network Rail. The crossover to the Halton Curve at Frodsham Junction has a speed restriction of 20 mph, this then increases to 40 mph before decreasing to 20 mph as the line converges with the 90 mph West Coast Mainline near Runcorn.
Frodsham Junction signalbox controls access from the Chester direction, whilst Halton Junction signalbox controls access at the Runcorn end.
Arriva Trains Wales and the North East Wales Integrated Transport Task Force have recently shown interest in upgrading the line, as a dual track could allow direct services from Liverpool Lime Street to stations on the North Wales Coast Line and also to South Wales via Wrexham and the Welsh Marches Line.
Currently, the only passenger service which operates on the line runs as follows:
Train Service Number: 2F80 07:53 Chester to Runcorn
Operated by Northern Rail
Runs on specified Summer Saturdays only.
|↓Helsby||08:01 ½||Does not stop|
|↓Frodsham||08:05||Does not stop|
|↓Frodsham Junction||08:06 ½||Crosses onto the Curve|
|↓Halton Junction||08:11 ½||Joins the West Coast Mainline|
|Runcorn||08:14||Terminates here, Platform 2|
|Preceding station||National Rail||Following station|
In 2004, the Strategic Rail Authority announced that it intended to close the line. The Runcorn area of the West Coast Main Line was due to be resignalled, and the SRA claimed that incorporating the curve into the scheme added a significant extra cost which could not be justified given the scant service. The closure plans have since been postponed.
Other organisations are working to upgrade the line rather than close it. The North Cheshire Rail Users Group campaign for the reintroduction of regular services.
Merseytravel proposed upgrading the Halton Curve so it can be worked bidirectionally (which would need a new crossover at Halton Junction), providing a second rail route between Liverpool and Chester. Other new services could include direct trains from Liverpool Lime Street to Wrexham or Llandudno via Liverpool South Parkway and Runcorn, which would provide improved access to Liverpool Airport for passengers from Chester, Wrexham and the various towns along the North Wales coast.
In conjunction with the above proposal, Halton Borough Council are investigating the possibility of a new station on the curve, at Beechwood, which would provide convenient interchange with Runcorn's busway network.
On 8 March 2005, the then Transport Minister Tony McNulty announced in Parliament that the resignalling work is currently scheduled for 2010 and the future of the Halton Curve will be "resolved" by then.
In July 2012, it was announced that the government would not include the Halton Curve in a £9.4 billion rail improvement scheme, although Theresa Villiers, rail and aviation minister, said the scheme had ‘recognisable benefits’. The infrastructure has remained relatively unchanged for several years.
Chemical manufacture Ineos ChlorVinyls has also revealed that the company will evaluate the possibility of using the Halton Curve for delivery of refuse-derived fuel to their Runcorn site, as part of a wider assessment being undertaken in support of their new planning application.
Network Rail's draft Route Utilisation Strategy for Wales discusses the future of the line. An hourly service between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn and Helsby, calling at all stations except Edge Hill could be feasible if the curve was restored to bidirectional operation. The RUS document recommends that further development work take place.
In January 2014, MerseyTravel announced that it would fund research into the re-development of the Halton Curve, stating that there were benefits for Liverpool commuters and those using Liverpool John Lennon airport. The research project was to be done in conjuction with MerseyTravel, Halton Borough Council, the Welsh Government and six county authorities in North Wales.
- Merseyside Route Utilisation Strategy - March 2009
- Aerial view of line Wikimapia.org; Accessed 2008-12-18
- Broadbent, S; Article in RAIL Magazine issue 608, pp 33-34
- Halton Curve Campaign
- "Direct rail link between Liverpool and North Wales urged BBC News website article; Retrieved 2013-08-29
- Back page: Timetable - Chester - Runcorn
- Queen boosts rail bid - Crewe Chronicle
- Halton Curve Campaign
- I met my hon. Friend and my hon : 8 Mar 2005: House of Commons debates (TheyWorkForYou.com)
- Halton Curve Misses out on £9.4 billion Rail SplurgeRuncorn & Widnes Weekly News article
- Strange Bedfellows In Halton Curve Rail Line Push
- Wales Route Utilisation Strategy - Draft for Consultation[dead link]
- Map of area showing route of Halton Curve
- North Cheshire Rail Users Group
- Network Rail Document mention halton curves.