Canada Dock Branch

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Canada Dock branch
Canada Dock branch passes under LCSR.JPG
The Canada Dock branch passes beneath the Merseyrail Northern Line near Balliol Road, entering the dock complex.
LocaleUnited Kingdom (Liverpool
North West England)
OwnerNetwork Rail
Line length4 mile 59 chain (7.62 kilometre)
Number of tracksDouble track throughout
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Loading gaugeW10
Route map
Liverpool–Manchester lines
Edge Hill
Broad Green
Wavertree Technology Park
Junction with LMR
Edge Lane
Stanley cattle yard
Tue Brook
Breck Road
Walton & Anfield
Northern line
KirkdaleTo Kirkby and Ormskirk
Atlantic Junction
Bank Hall
Canada Dock
Junction with LCSR
Bootle Balliol Road
Bootle Oriel Road
Alexandra Dock
To Southport

The Canada Dock Branch is a 4-mile 59 chain (7.62 kilometre) long railway line in Liverpool, England. The line's route is from the large Edge Hill rail junction in the east of Liverpool to Seaforth Dock to the north. The line was originally built by the London and North Western Railway terminating at Canada Dock, with a later branch extension added to Alexandra Dock and links onto the MDHC railway lines. The line is not electrified.


The line opened in 1866 between Edge Hill and Canada Dock. Passenger trains ran on the line to Canada Dock from 1870. The initial stations were: Canada Dock, Walton & Anfield, Breck Road, Tue Brook, Stanley and Edge Lane. On 5 September 1881 a sub-branch to Alexandra Dock was opened from the main branch at Atlantic Junction. The branch was in a cutting to the south west of Kirkdale Station. This added the Alexandra Dock and Bootle Balliol Road stations to the line. A further station as added in 1882 at County Road named Spellow. On 1 May 1886 a junction with the Liverpool, Crosby and Southport Railway was opened from the Alexandra Branch.[1]

By 31 May 1948 all the passenger stations on the line closed. The line continued to be used by regular Southport to Liverpool Lime Street services, which operated primarily to provide a convenient Southport connection to long haul mainline trains. The service was withdrawn in October 1977.[2] A new Merseyrail underground station below the mainline Lime Street station gave access from Southport via the Merseyrail Northern Line and Wirral Line.

A planned extension to Hornby and Gladstone Docks was abandoned in September 1973, however the extension was built and opened in September 1985 for the transport of grain and coal.[3]


The line is currently a freight-only diesel-traction line and is sometimes referred to as the Bootle Branch or Seaforth Container Terminal Branch (SCT) providing the sole remaining rail connection to the Port of Liverpool.

The Olive Mount chord at Edge Hill junction was re-opened in December 2008, approximately doubling the Canada Dock branch's throughput of freight from the Port of Liverpool to the West Coast Main Line. The reinstatement of the chord was essential for existing port operations, ready for the increase in freight when the Post-Panamax, Liverpool2 container terminal was completed at Seaforth Dock. The new container terminal can berth the world's largest container ships, transporting up to 14,000 containers per ship.

Biomass wood pellets are imported into Liverpool and delivered to the Drax power station in Yorkshire via the rail link. The service started in 2015 with four trains a day, each carrying 25 wagons containing approximately 1,600 tonnes of biomass pellets.[4]

A thrice-weekly rail link between the Port of Liverpool and the Mossend terminal in Glasgow was set up in 2018. It is expected that each trip will consist of about 40 containers.[5]

It is hoped the increase of rail use on the Canada Dock branch line will remove large road vehicles from congested areas, such as Switch Island, giving many local environmental benefits.

The future[edit]

Freight use[edit]

In May 2016 it was announced that the line's final section into the dock estate would be upgraded to double track from single track to increase capacity to the port. Combined with improved signalling at Earlestown, the improvements will enable up to 48 trains a day to enter the port. Work on the line is expected to be completed by 2019.[6] Peel Ports announced in September 2017 that they were planning on linking the port to the national rail network with a new rail service. Home bargain store B&M Bargains have expressed an interest in the new rail service, claiming that they have already saved the equivalent of 4 million road miles by using the Port of Liverpool.[7]

Passenger use[edit]

The line is also being seriously assessed for reopening to passengers with Everton F.C. and Liverpool F.C. stadia both located on the line's route.

On 16 July 2007 the Liverpool Daily Post reported that Liverpool F.C. may partially fund the reopening of the line to passenger services providing a direct rail link to the proposed Stanley Park Stadium however this project has since been dropped by the club.[8] This was highlighted on the Network Rail North West development plan as a potential project to be undertaken by Network Rail, rather than Liverpool F.C..

The Department for Transport's Rail electrification document of July 2009, states that the route to Liverpool Docks will be electrified. The Canada Dock Branch Line is the only line into the docks.[9] From the document:

70. Electrification of this route will offer electric haulage options for freight.
There will be an alternative route to Liverpool docks for electrically-operated freight trains, and better opportunities of electrified access to the proposed freight terminal at Parkside near Newton-le-Willows.

The electrification of this branch line would greatly assist in recommissioning passenger trains, as costs would be reduced.

The Route Utilisation Strategy document makes note of the benefits of dual-voltage Electric multiple unit trains, which can be utilised on both the third rail Merseyrail network and future electrified lines which are likely to use overhead wires.

There is also a serious suggestion to introduce passenger services on this line in the Local Transport Plan for Merseyside.[10] This was again mentioned in Merseytravel's 30-year plan of 2014.[11] The October 2017 Liverpool City Region Combined Authority update to the Long Term Rail Strategy mentions the re-opening of the line to passenger use with new stations at Anfield, Tue Brook and Edge Lane.[12]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Disused Stations - Spellow" Disused Stations Site Record
  3. ^ Johnston, Howard (January 1986). "Around the regions: Midland - Liverpool". Rail Enthusiast. No. 52. EMAP National Publications. p. 58. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  4. ^ Hodgson, Neil (27 October 2015). "£100m Port of Liverpool biomass handling facility enters service". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  5. ^ "New rail freight route will link the Port of Liverpool to Scotland - Liverpool Business News". Liverpool Business News. 4 May 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Rail upgrades promised as part of Port of Liverpool developments"Rail Technology Magazine article, 16 May 2016
  7. ^ Houghton, Alistair (13 September 2017). "New rail service plan for Port of Liverpool". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  8. ^ "New rail link crucial for 80,000-seat stadium plan". Liverpool Daily Post. 16 July 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
  9. ^ "Britain's Transport Infrastructure Rail Electrification" (PDF). Department for Transport. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 April 2010.
  10. ^ "Chapter 15: The Enhanced Programme - Major Schemes" (PDF). Transport Merseyside. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  11. ^ Shennan, Paddy (28 August 2014). "Merseytravel plan to open or reopen host of new stations". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  12. ^ Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. "Long Term Rail Strategy" (PDF). Retrieved 4 November 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Birmingham, Doug (11–24 February 1998). "Eight days a week... Part One". RAIL. No. 324. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 40–45. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • Birmingham, Doug (25 February – 10 March 1998). "All you need is freight! Part Two". RAIL. No. 325. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 54–57. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

External links[edit]