Chester railway station
The front of Chester railway station
|Local authority||Borough of Cheshire West and Chester|
|Managed by||Transport for Wales|
|Number of platforms||7|
|Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections|
from National Rail Enquiries
|Annual rail passenger usage*|
|– Interchange||0.920 million|
|– Interchange||0.943 million|
|– Interchange||0.963 million|
|– Interchange||0.804 million|
|– Interchange||0.790 million|
|Passenger Transport Executive|
|PTE||Merseytravel (for Merseyrail services only)|
|1875||Renamed Chester General|
|1972||Chester General rail crash|
|National Rail – UK railway stations|
|* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Chester from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.|
|UK railways portal|
Chester railway station in Newtown, north-east of Chester city centre, England, is operated by Transport for Wales. Services from Merseyrail, Northern and Virgin Trains use the station. From 1875 to 1969 the station was known as Chester General to distinguish it from Chester Northgate. The station's Italianate frontage was designed by the architect Francis Thompson.
Work on a £10 million regeneration scheme, the Chester Renaissance programme was completed in 2007. The development includes a new roof, improved customer facilities and improved access to the station. A plaque commemorating Thomas Brassey is installed on the wall opposite the booking office. The station marks one end of the Baker Way a footpath leading to Delamere railway station.
Scheduled departures from Chester Station are: a quarter-hourly Merseyrail electric service on the Wirral Line to Liverpool, half-hourly in the evenings and on Sundays; Virgin Trains to London Euston via Crewe and Holyhead; Transport for Wales to Manchester Airport via Warrington Bank Quay and to Cardiff Central/Birmingham New Street via Wrexham General, North Wales Coast Line trains to Crewe, Llandudno Junction, Llandudno, Holyhead for ferries to Dublin ; and Northern to Manchester Piccadilly via Northwich. Northern plans to operate an hourly train to Leeds stopping at Warrington Bank Quay, Newton-le-Willows Manchester Victoria, Bradford Interchange and Leeds.
- 1 History
- 2 Services
- 3 Future
- 4 Layout and facilities
- 5 Accidents
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Background and construction
On 23 September 1840, the first station at Chester was opened by the Chester and Birkenhead Railway (CBR). One week later, on 1 October 1840, the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) opened a separate station. Neither station was open for long, due to the inconvenience of transferring goods and passengers between them. They were replaced by the new joint station  at the junction between the CBR, GJR and Robert Stephenson's new Chester and Holyhead Railway (CHR) which started at the joint station. The station was designed by the architect Francis Thompson, and constructed by Thomas Brassey. The engineer C. H. Wild designed the train shed. Elements of the overall design were produced by other engineers, including Stephenson.
On 1 August 1847, construction of the station began, the foundation stone was laid by Brassey. It was built by a workforce of around 2,000 people, including bricklayers, stonemasons, carpenters, roofers, plumbers and other skilled and unskilled workers. On 1 August 1848, Chester Station was officially opened, exactly a year after construction began. The opening was met with great acclaim amongst the city's populace due to the wide range of destinations that could be reached for the first time.
The station building is built of Staffordshire blue brick and pale grey Storeton sandstone with slate roofs in the Italianate style. It has a 305-metre two-storey façade with a 15-bay central section and 5-bay lateral projecting pavilions, each of which have two towers. A large clock, manufactured by J. B. Joyce & Co on the front of the station was originally located centrally, but was moved to the western half of the facade following the construction of the Queen Hotel, which obscured it. The central section's middle seven bays contain carvings by sculptor John Thomas. Several carved wooden owls occupy locations in the roof beams above platform 4 to deter feral pigeons from roosting.
As first built, the station had a single through platform, a pair of bay platforms, and the main building. Early on, it became highly trafficked, partially due to its position as a junction between multiple lines and railway companies. In its first few decades of opening, it was expanded via the construction of sidings, warehouses, signalboxes and two motive power depots to service steam locomotives that belonged to different railway companies. To accommodate the increasing number of passengers and freight in the 1860s and 1870s, the station was extended again. Two island platforms, two bay platforms, and additional facilities connected via a footbridge to the existing station were completed by 1890.
From its opening on 1 August 1848, Chester was a joint station used by the Chester and Holyhead, Grand Junction, the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway and the Chester and Birkenhead Railways. The C&HR and GJR merged with other companies to form the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). in 1850 the Birkenhead, Lancashire and Cheshire Junction Railway built a line from Chester to near Warrington, later absorbing the C&BR. The S&CR was later merged with others into the Great Western Railway (GWR). The LNWR and the GWR later acquired the BL&CJR jointly.
Chester Station was served by GWR express passenger trains (and subsequently by the Western Region of British Railways) from Birkenhead Woodside via Chester, Wrexham, Ruabon, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Wellington (Shropshire), Wolverhampton, Birmingham Snow Hill, Leamington Spa and Banbury to London Paddington until 4 March 1967. The final service, a special The Zulu, was hauled by 7029 Clun Castle.
During 1875, Chester Northgate railway station was opened by the Cheshire Lines Committee. To prevent confusion between the stations, the older station was renamed "Chester General". In 1969, as a result of the Beeching cuts, Chester Northgate was closed and Chester General reverted to Chester.
Peak activity was during the Edwardian era when more than 200 trains called at the station daily and more than one hundred staff were employed. Large quantities of freight were also moved, including the Royal Mail's letters and parcels business. Special excursion trains were laid on for Chester Races. During the First World War, troop trains used the station when moving military personnel from training camps in North Wales to the Western Front.
During the interwar period, the station was busy, only slightly affected by the rise of road transportation. Trams, and later buses linked the station to the city and its suburbs. During the Second World War, the station saw a high volume of traffic, including trains hauling ammunition. It survived the conflict unscathed, sustaining no direct hits but to mitigate against aerial attacks, a concrete bunker was built to house signalling equipment.
In January 2016, according to the Office of Rail and Road, passenger numbers doubled over the previous ten years, making Chester the eighth-busiest station in the North-West region. The rise was attributed to new services, such as direct trains to London and increased frequencies on the Merseyrail network.
Starting in 2005, the station was restored in the Chester Renaissance Project. Improvements made by Network Rail included groundworks around the east end frontage and repairs to the façade's east and west wings, renewal of the roof's glazing, enhancements to the train shed and other general improvements. Improved local traffic management and access to the station was achieved by alterations to Station Square which were completed in December 2007. Architectural lighting was installed in strategic areas and a new concourse was opened by Arriva Trains Wales in October 2008. Between 2009 and 2010, improvements included a second staircase to access the island platform, structural repairs to platforms, restoration of the overbridge and work to enhance the station's frontage.
The station is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a Grade II* listed building. It is one of 22 Grade I or II* listed railway stations in England. A plaque commemorating Thomas Brassey was installed on the wall opposite the booking office. Brassey was born at Buerton 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Chester.
Extensions and redoubling initiatives
In 1993, an extension to the Wirral Line received third rail electrification on existing track and Chester became its terminus. Its trains use Platform 7 the only one with access to the third rail. The line provides frequent rapid access to the Wirral, Birkenhead and all four underground stations in central Liverpool. The historic Chester and Birkenhead Railway, the first railway to serve Chester, became a part of Merseyrail's Wirral Line.
In April 2017, Network Rail and contractors completed the redoubling of the Wrexham to Chester line enabling increased line speeds up to 90 mph on certain sections. When the work was completed, there were no plans to increase speeds or introduce new services until late 2017 at the earliest.
Chester is served by four train operating companies.
Transport for Wales
- 1 train per hour to Llandudno (via Llandudno Junction)
- 1 train per hour to Holyhead (via Bangor)
- 1 train per hour to Wrexham General and Shrewsbury of which one every two hours continues to Cardiff Central and one every two hours continues to Birmingham International
- 1 train per hour to Manchester Airport (via Warrington Bank Quay)
- 1 train per hour to Crewe, which gives a near half-hourly (xx.35 Virgin & xx.55 Arriva) service in conjunction with Virgin Trains' service
- 1 train per hour to Liverpool Lime Street via Runcorn using the Halton Curve
- A Monday to Friday daily limited-stop express south to Cardiff Central and north to Holyhead
- 1 train per hour to London Euston via Crewe and Milton Keynes Central
- Certain trains from London continue to Holyhead and Bangor
- 1 train per weekday continues to Wrexham General
- Occasional services to/from Crewe start or terminate at Chester or Holyhead or Bangor
- 4 trains per hour to Liverpool Central via Birkenhead during peak times on weekdays and Saturdays. Late evenings and Sundays the frequency is every 30 minutes. Merseyrail services to Birkenhead and Liverpool use Platform 7b or 7a, Platform 7 is the only third-rail equipped platform. These services are provided by Class 507 and Class 508 EMUs.
- 1tph on the Mid-Cheshire Line to Manchester Piccadilly and Stockport via Northwich. A 2-hourly service operates on Sundays.
Table of services
|Preceding station||National Rail||Following station|
|Crewe||Transport for Wales
North Wales Coast Line
|Helsby||Transport for Wales
Chester to Manchester Line
|Wrexham General||Transport for Wales
Birmingham – Holyhead via Chester
|Transport for Wales
Cardiff Central to Holyhead
|Helsby||Transport for Wales
towards Liverpool Central
|Crewe||Virgin Trains (West Coast)
WCML North Wales Branch
|Virgin Trains (West Coast)
WCML Wrexham Branch
|Crewe||Virgin Trains (West Coast)
WCML Chester Branch
Line open, station closed
|London and North Western Railway
Chester and Holyhead Railway
|Terminus||GWR & LNWR
Chester and Birkenhead Railway
Line open, station closed
Line and station closed
|London and North Western Railway
|Railway lines in Chester|
Northern Franchise Requirements
Under the Northern franchise, Arriva Rail North (branded 'Northern') must fulfil the following requirements:
- From December 2017, an extra hourly train from Chester to Leeds, via Warrington Bank Quay, Newton-le-Willows, Manchester Victoria and then either Dewsbury or Bradford (via the Calder Valley) operated by new 100 mph diesel trains from 2019.
- On the Manchester Piccadilly to Chester via Northwich line, Sunday services will operate hourly in both directions (up from two hourly).
- The franchise requires the removal and replacement of all Pacer trains by 2020.
To date direct services between Chester and Leeds have not been introduced, although the planned summer 2019 timetable does include a commitment to introduce them. 
Halton Curve reopening
In July 2014, George Osborne announced £10.4 million of funding to finance the Halton Curve's redevelopment to pemit through services between Liverpool and North Wales via Liverpool South Parkway and Chester. The 30-year plan for the curve included connections to South Wales. The link will provide Chester with a direct link to Liverpool Airport and an alternative route to central Liverpool.
In March 2016, Network Rail announced the Halton Curve would be open from May 2018 as a part of the 2017 upgrade to Liverpool Lime Street. The reintroduction of services was originally forecast for December 2018 but it was later put back to May 2019. Plans for the summer 2019 rail timetable confirm an hourly service between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester via Runcorn, with peak time extensions to Wrexham General.
Layout and facilities
The station has seven platforms. Platform 1 is a bay platform located at the east end (a second one alongside it is no longer utilised for passenger traffic but can be used for stock stabling). Platform 2 at the western end is another bay platform. Platform 3 is a through bi-directional platform and is closest to the concourse; it is split into sections 3a and 3b although on occasions a train will use the middle of the platform.
Over the bridge – or by way of lifts – is the island platform. Opposite Platform 3 is Platform 4, another through bi-directional platform, with sections designated as 4a and 4b. There are two east facing bays (Platforms 5 and 6). Platform 7 is an additional through platform, the only one with third-rail electrification; it is split into 'a' (eastern) and 'b' (western) sections and thus capable of accommodating two trains at once.
The station has a booking office and is staffed 15 minutes before and after the first and last train. There is a payphone, vending machine, booking office and live departure and arrival screens, for passenger information. The station has lifts and is fully accessible for disabled users. There is a car park with 83 spaces and cycle racks for 68 cycles.
Carved wooden owl above Platform 4 at Chester Railway station
Platform 1, used by trains to Euston starting from Chester and for services to Crewe
- On 4 July 1949, a Derby to Llandudno passenger train ran into the rear of a Crewe to Holyhead passenger service, resulting in fifty injured people.
- On 8 May 1972, a freight train suffered a brake failure and collided with a diesel multiple unit at Chester General station and caught fire, causing severe damage to the building and the trains involved.
- On 20 November 2013, a Class 221 Super Voyager diesel-electric multiple unit from London Euston to Chester collided with the buffer stops on platform 1, riding up over them and smashing a glass screen. There were no injuries, although one passenger was taken to hospital for checks. A Rail Accident Investigation Branch report stated that the incident was due to exceptionally slippery rails, but that the consequences of this were made more severe by the buffer stop being of an older design, which did not absorb the impact energy effectively. The report further stated that that particular stop had not undergone a risk assessment within the previous ten years, and was possibly not appropriate for class 221 units.
- Slater, J.N., ed. (July 1974). "Notes and News: Western's last "General"". Railway Magazine. Vol. 120 no. 879. London: IPC Transport Press Ltd. p. 361. ISSN 0033-8923.
- Chester Renaissance website. Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine Retrieval Date: 10 July 2007.
- "Northern franchise improvements". p. Chester to Leeds.
- "Arriva Trains Wales to extend number of services to Manchester Airport". www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
- Whittingham, John. "A Short History of Chester Railway Station." chesterwalls.info, Retrieved: 3 July 2018.
- “Chester Station.” ‘’engineering-timelines.com’’, Retrieved: 2 July 2018.
- Hartwell, Clare; Hyde, Matthew; Hubbard, Edward; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2011) , Cheshire, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 249, ISBN 978-0-300-17043-6
- Historic England. "Chester railway station (1375937)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- Hendry, R. Preston; Hendry, R. Powell (1992). Paddington to the Mersey. Oxford Publishing Company. p. 116. ISBN 9780860934424. OCLC 877729237.
- Holmes, David. "Chester Railway Station sees passenger numbers double in 10 years." Chester Chronicle, 29 January 2016.
- "Delayed Wrexham to Chester rail work to begin in 2017". 10 August 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
- Williams, Kelly. "Wrexham to Chester railway line upgrade finally complete after major delays." dailypost.co.uk, 5 April 2017.
- GB National Rail Timetable 2013–14, Table 81
- GB NRT 2013–14, Tables 65 & 82
- "Wirral Line timetable" (PDF). Merseyrail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- GB NRT, Table 88
- "Northern Rail Franchise TransPennine Express Rail Franchise: Stakeholder Briefing Document and Consultation Response" (PDF). Rail Executive. February 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- "Your Service". Arriva Northern.
- "Northern Franchise Improvements".
- "Rail industry confirms new summer 2019 timetable". 7 March 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
- "Chancellor announces £10.4m to redevelop Halton Curve rail line". Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- "Halton Curve to be reinstated with £10.4m upgrade". Chester Chronicle. 3 July 2014.
- Shennan, Paddy (28 August 2014). "Merseytravel plan to open or reopen host of new stations". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- Hodgson, Neil (21 March 2016). "Merseyside train passengers will take the strain during £340m railway improvement work". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
- Fuller, Mike (19 April 2016). "Direct trains from Frodsham and Helsby to Liverpool move step closer". Chester Chronicle.
- "Next stage of Halton Curve upgrade gets underway". merseytravel.gov.uk. 2 February 2018.
- "New Chester-Liverpool rail service". Cheshire Live. 21 September 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
- "Dudley Mall's Railway Directory - Chester to Hereford & Cardiff." www.dudleymall.co.uk, Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- "Chester train station | timetable | ticket prices & facilities". www.merseyrail.org. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
- "Report on the Collision which occurred on 4th July, 1949, at Chester Station in the London Midland Region British Railways" (PDF). Railways Archive. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
- "Report on the Derailment and consequent Fire on 8th May 1972 at Chester General Station in the London Midland Region British Railways" (PDF). Railways Archive. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
- "Train crashes into Chester Station barrier". BBC News Online. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- "Buffer stop collision at Chester station 20 November 2013" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. November 2014. pp. 5, 9, 29–30, 37. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
- Biddle, Gordon (1981). "Chapter 1 – North Cheshire & The Peak". Railway Stations in the North West. Clapham, Yorkshire: Dalesman. p. 8, fig. 1. ISBN 0-85206-644-9. – photo of station frontage
- Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (2010). Shrewsbury to Chester. West Sussex: Middleton Press. figs. 112-117. ISBN 9781906008703. OCLC 495274299.
- Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (2011). Chester to Rhyl. West Sussex: Middleton Press. figs. 1-6. ISBN 9781906008932. OCLC 795178960.
- Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (2012). Chester to Birkenhead. West Sussex: Middleton Press. figs. 1-8. ISBN 9781908174215. OCLC 811323335.
- Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (2012). Stafford to Chester. West Sussex: Middleton Press. figs. 102-120. ISBN 9781908174345. OCLC 830024480.
- Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (2013). Chester to Warrington. West Sussex: Middleton Press. figs. 1-5. ISBN 9781908174406. OCLC 910526793.
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