North West England
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Styal Line is a railway line in south Manchester and north-east Cheshire. It runs from Slade Lane Junction, some 2 km south of Manchester Piccadilly, to Wilmslow. There also is a spur to Manchester Airport. The line is an early commuter line running through many suburban stations. It was electrified in 1959 as part of the West Coast Main Line electrification scheme but most of the trains now using the line are diesel powered. The branch to the airport leaves the Styal Line via a triangular junction between Heald Green and Styal.
Services are currently operated by:
- Northern Rail, whose trains run from Manchester Piccadilly to the Airport via all stations on the line. Services operate on a 30 minute frequency. They consist of an hourly Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe service via Manchester Airport and Wilmslow and an hourly Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport service. Evening services on the Crewe to Manchester Line start and terminate at Wilmslow and are extended through Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Oxford Road. All services are operated by Class 323 Electric Multiple Units.
- Northern also run hourly DMU services from the Airport to Southport via Bolton and to Liverpool Lime Street via Newton-le-Willows, which mostly run non-stop to Piccadilly. These use a variety of units, including Class 142s, Class 150s and Class 156s.
- TransPennine Express, which run trains on this line through Manchester Piccadilly. Their services are through services from across the north of England including Newcastle upon Tyne or Middlesbrough via York and Leeds (2 per hour) and from Cleethorpes via Sheffield (hourly). Their trains also operate from Barrow-in-Furness, Glasgow Central/Edinburgh Waverley (both 2-hourly) and Blackpool North (hourly) via Preston, Bolton and Manchester Piccadilly. These are operated by Class 185 DMUs.
- Arriva Trains Wales run a very limited (three trains per day) weekday service from the Airport to Chester as an extension of their route between North Wales and Manchester Piccadilly, using Class 175 units.
In early twentieth century the line between Manchester Piccadilly and Stockport became unable to cope with the increasing traffic. To solve the problem, a new route avoiding Stockport was constructed by the London and North Western Railway. It ran from Slade Lane Junction (located in Longsight, Manchester) to Wilmslow through what was then mainly a rural area. The primary purpose was to provide a bypass for express trains, but a few wooden stations were built on the line to encourage suburban development. In practice, very few expresses latterly used the line, as it was necessary for most trains to serve the important station at Stockport.
The line opened in 1909, and from 1923 was operated by the London Midland and Scottish Railway. The Manchester Airport spur was added in 1993, initially towards Heald Green only (the link towards Styal was added a few years later).
Nowadays the majority of services operate via the airport, however there are a couple of services each day (mainly long distance trains) which take the direct route from Styal to Heald Green, that is to say from Heald Green South Junction to Heald Green North Junction, for traincrew route knowledge retention purposes. This route can also be used for diversions if the Stockport route is closed for engineering work.