Manchester to Preston Line
|Manchester to Preston Line|
North West England
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
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 intercity services for Scotland and the north. Electrification ends just north of Deansgate. It was announced on 9 December 2009 that the line would be electrified, this follows the announcement in July 2009 that the Chat Moss route between Manchester and Liverpool is to be electrified in the next few years.
The line is one of the busiest in the North West, with at least seven trains per hour in each direction during the off-peak daytime timetable. The line speed is currently 75 mph, but could be increased to allow faster running for the high speed express services. When the line was an extension of the Manchester-Bournemouth line, the trains would go faster than 75 mph but this was due to a low amount of other trains running at the time (London Midland, TransPennine Express, and Northern ran during the times Virgin ran but infrequently)
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 line begins at Manchester Piccadilly, which offers rail links to most large cities in the country. Trains using the route will call at the through platforms 13 and 14 on the west side of the station. It then follows the route of the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway as far as Deansgate, where it uses the Windsor Link to reach Salford Crescent and joins the line from Manchester Victoria.
From Manchester Victoria it goes through Salford Central, Salford Crescent and Clifton and then before reaching Bolton, it passes through Kearsley, Farnworth and Moses Gate following the Irwell Valley for much of the route. After Bolton, the line cuts through the western suburbs of Bolton including Lostock and Horwich, before passing through the town of Adlington and on to Chorley. It passes through Buckshaw Parkway, which opened in 2011, and joins the West Coast Main Line at Euxton Junction.
Three operators operate services along the length of the route:
- Northern Rail operate services from Buxton, Alderley Edge (Sundays only), Manchester Airport, Manchester Victoria, and occasionally Chester and Huddersfield to Blackpool North, Wigan Wallgate, Wigan North Western, Southport, Blackburn and Clitheroe. They stop at the smaller suburban stations along the line. Northern generally operate stopping services calling at most or all of the stations on the line.
- TransPennine Express operate express services that only call at selected stations on the route. They are generally services that start at Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central, Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool North, Windermere and occasionally Preston. They follow the line to Manchester Piccadilly and continue south to Manchester Airport. TransPennine Express operate four 'portion trains' each day - they all split at Preston. These are:
- 08:47 Manchester Airport to Blackpool North and Windermere
- 12:47 Manchester Airport to Blackpool North and Windermere
- 16:47 Manchester Airport to Glasgow Central and Blackpool North
- 17:32 Manchester Airport to Barrow-in-Furness and Blackpool North
- In addition, several operators use the line partially. Arriva Trains Wales operate services that stop only at Manchester Oxford Road before branching off at Ordsall Lane Junction onto the older, northern section of the two Liverpool to Manchester Lines en route to Llandudno via Warrington Bank Quay and Chester. East Midlands Trains also operate services between Norwich and Liverpool Lime Street, and various other Northern Rail services also operate into Liverpool via parts of the line in Manchester.
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 45 minutes to a journey and negates the need for costly bus replacement services. Some freight still uses this line, 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, Windermere, Glasgow and Edinburgh. In the other direction, they all usually work to Manchester Piccadilly and onto 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).
See also 
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