Chester railway station

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Chester National Rail
Chester railway station frontage - 2005-10-09.jpg
The front of Chester railway station
Place Chester
Local authority Borough of Cheshire West and Chester
Coordinates 53°11′48″N 2°52′47″W / 53.1968°N 2.8798°W / 53.1968; -2.8798Coordinates: 53°11′48″N 2°52′47″W / 53.1968°N 2.8798°W / 53.1968; -2.8798
Grid reference SJ413669
Station code CTR
Managed by Arriva Trains Wales
Number of platforms 7
DfT category B
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2011/12 Decrease 2.957 million
– Interchange  Increase 0.818 million
2012/13 Increase 3.011 million
– Interchange  Decrease 0.806 million
2013/14 Increase 4.256 million
– Interchange  Increase 0.920 million
2014/15 Increase 4.523 million
– Interchange  Increase 0.943 million
2015/16 Increase 4.620 million
– Interchange  Increase 0.963 million
Passenger Transport Executive
PTE Merseytravel (for Merseyrail services only)
Zone G1
1848 Opened
1875 Renamed Chester General
1969 Renamed Chester
1972 Chester General rail crash
National RailUK 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.
170433 at Edinburgh Waverley.JPG UK Railways portal

Chester railway station is a railway station in Newtown in the city of Chester, England. It is currently operated by Arriva Trains Wales, with Merseyrail, Northern and Virgin Trains (West Coast) services also operating from the station. It is situated to the north-east of the city centre. From 1875 to 1969 the station was known as Chester General station, to distinguish from Chester Northgate.[1]

Work on the £10 million regeneration of the station and surrounding areas as part of the Chester Renaissance programme[2] was completed in 2007. The development includes a new roof, improved customer facilities and better access to the station. A small plaque commemorating Thomas Brassey, one of the world's greatest railway building contractors in the early to mid-19th century, can be seen on the wall opposite the new booking office. The station marks one end of the Baker Way, a footpath leading to Delamere railway station.

Normal 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; frequent services on the North Wales Coast Line (thereby connecting with Holyhead for ferries to Dublin); Virgin Trains (West Coast) to London Euston via Crewe and to Holyhead; Arriva Trains Wales to Manchester Airport via Warrington Bank Quay and Cardiff Central/Birmingham New Street via Wrexham General as well as North Wales Coast Line trains to Crewe, Llandudno Junction, Llandudno, Holyhead; 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 and Leeds in the near future.[3][4]


Opened in 1848, Chester General station was a joint station between the Chester and Holyhead Railway, the Chester and Crewe Railway and the Birkenhead Railway. Later these became the London and North Western Railway (which took over the Chester and Holyhead and the Chester and Crewe) and the Great Western Railway (GWR) (which ran the line to Wrexham and Shrewsbury) These companies owned the Birkenhead Railway jointly .

A 1903 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram showing railways in the vicinity of Chester (centre, shown as GENERAL STA.)

Architecturally the station has an Italianate frontage designed by Francis Thompson. The station also has carved wooden owls at some strategic locations high in the roof beams to help deter feral pigeons.

GWR and latterly BR Western Region express passenger trains operated from Birkenhead Woodside via Chester, Wrexham, Ruabon, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Wellington (Salop), Wolverhampton, Birmingham Snow Hill, Leamington Spa and Banbury to London Paddington station until 4 March 1967.[5] The final service, a special named The Zulu, was hauled by the Castle Class steam locomotive 7029 Clun Castle.[5]

From 1875, Chester was also served by Chester Northgate station (owned by the Cheshire Lines Committee); however, that station was closed in 1969 and is now the site of a leisure centre.

In 1993, a line extension of the Wirral Line of the Merseyrail network was accomplished through the use of third rail electrification. The line ended at the station, and became the terminus of a branch of the Wirral Line, and providing frequent rapid access along the Wirral to Birkenhead and all four underground stations in central Liverpool. The historic Chester and Birkenhead Railway, the first railway to serve Chester then became a part of Merseyrail's Wirral Line.


The station was built between 1847 and 1848, designed by Francis Thompson, and built by the railway contractor Thomas Brassey. Also involved in the design and construction were the engineer C. H. Wild. who designed the train shed, and Robert Stephenson. It is built in Staffordshire blue brick and pale grey Storeton sandstone with slate roofs.[6][7] Its architectural style is Italianate.[7] It has a very long two-storey façade, with a 15-bay central section, and five-bay lateral projecting pavilions, each containing a pair of towers. The middle seven bays of the central section contain carvings by John Thomas.[6] The station building is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building.[7] A small plaque commemorating Thomas Brassey, one of the world's greatest railway building contractors in the early to mid-19th century, can be seen on the wall opposite the new booking office. Brassey was born at Buerton, on what is now the Eaton Estate, some 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Chester; the house is no longer standing.


Chester is served by four train operating companies.

Arriva Trains Wales[edit]

An Arriva Trains Wales Class 175 waits at platform 3

Virgin Trains (West Coast)[edit]

A pair of Virgin Trains SuperVoyagers departing from Chester.


Merseyrail map with Chester to the south of the Network
  • 4 trains per hour (one every 15 minutes) to Liverpool Central via Birkenhead during the working day on weekdays and Saturdays. Late evenings and Sundays the frequency is every 30 minutes.[10] Merseyrail services to Birkenhead and Liverpool exclusively use Platform 7b although occasional operational requirements may necessitate the use of Platform 7a, Platform 7 being the only third-rail equipped platform at the station. These services are all provided by Merseyrail's fleet of Class 507 and Class 508 EMUs.

The Wirral Line provides a direct service to central Liverpool and central Birkenhead with underground stations at Birkenhead Hamilton Square, Liverpool James Street, Liverpool Moorfields, Liverpool Lime Street Low Level station and Liverpool Central. The Wirral Line runs in a clockwise loop through Liverpool's city centre returning to Chester, hence trains may be indicated as bound for Chester whether running north or south. A change at Birkenhead Hamilton Square station gives connections to New Brighton and West Kirby. A change at Liverpool Moorfields gives access to all of the Merseyrail Electrics Northern Line services. City Line services and Inter-City services are accessed by changing at Liverpool Lime Street.

Northern Rail[edit]

Northern Rail Sprinters at Chester

There are proposals (see below) under consideration to reinstate a regular passenger service along the Halton Curve south of Runcorn railway station, which would permit the re-introduction of through trains from Liverpool to the North Wales Coast.

Preceding station National Rail Following station
Crewe   Arriva Trains Wales
North Wales Coast Line
Helsby   Arriva Trains Wales
Chester to Manchester Line
Wrexham General   Arriva Trains Wales
Birmingham – Holyhead via Chester
  Arriva Trains Wales
Cardiff Central to Holyhead
Terminus   Merseyrail
Wirral Line
towards Liverpool Central
Mouldsworth   Northern
Mid-Cheshire Line
Terminus   Northern
Halton Curve (one departure summer saturday, northbound only)
Crewe   Virgin Trains (West Coast)
WCML North Wales Branch
Crewe or
  Virgin Trains (West Coast)
WCML Wrexham Branch
  Wrexham General
Crewe   Virgin Trains (West Coast)
WCML Chester Branch
Historical railways
Line open, station closed
  London and North Western Railway
Chester and Holyhead Railway
Terminus   GWR & LNWR
Chester and Birkenhead Railway
Line open, station closed
Disused railways
Saltney Ferry
Line and station closed
  London and North Western Railway
Mold Railway


The station is 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.[12]

Railway lines in Chester
Wirral line (Merseyrail)
Chester to
Manchester Line
Mid-Cheshire Line
Roodee Junction
North Wales Coast Line
to Holyhead
North Wales Coast Line
to Crewe
Shrewsbury to
Chester Line

Future Services[edit]

New Northern Franchise Requirements[edit]

Under the new Northern franchise, the new operator Arriva Rail North (branded as 'Northern') must fulfil the following requirements:

  • From December 2017, there will be an extra hourly train running from Chester to Leeds, via Warrington Bank Quay, Newton-le-Willows, Manchester Victoria and then either Dewsbury or Bradford (via the Calder Valley).[13] This will be operated by brand new 100mph diesel trains from 2019.[3][14]
  • On the Manchester Piccadilly to Chester via Northwich line, Sunday services will operate every hour in each direction (up from every two hours currently).[15]
  • The new franchise requires the removal and replacement of all Pacer trains by 2020.

Chester to Wrexham redoubling[edit]

Network Rail completed work in April 2017 to redouble the Wrexham to Chester line and increase line speeds to 90mph on certain sections, after a previous target of November 2015. However there are no plans to increase journey speeds or introduce new services until late 2017 at the earliest.[16] [17]

Halton Curve Reopening[edit]

In July 2014, George Osborne announced £10.4m of funding to redevelop the Halton Curve had been secured. The reopened route will permit through services between Liverpool and North Wales via Liverpool South Parkway and Chester.[18][19] In March 2016 Network Rail announced that services would run from Liverpool to Chester via the Halton Curve from May 2018 as part of the 2017 upgrade to Liverpool Lime Street.[20][21] The 30-year plan for the network included possible uses for the curve such as connections to South Wales.[22] This link will provide Chester with a direct rail link to Liverpool Airport, as well as an alternative route to central Liverpool in case of engineering work or severe delays on the Wirral Line.


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.[23]


  • 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.[24]
  • 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.[25]
  • 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.[26][27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Slater, J.N., ed. (July 1974). "Notes and News: Western's last "General"". Railway Magazine. London: IPC Transport Press Ltd. 120 (879): 361. ISSN 0033-8923. 
  2. ^ Chester Renaissance website. Retrieval Date: 10 July 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Northern franchise improvements". p. Chester to Leeds. 
  4. ^ a b "Arriva Trains Wales to extend number of services to Manchester Airport". Retrieved 29 June 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Hendry, R. Preston; Hendry, R. Powell (1992). Paddington to the Mersey. Oxford Publishing Company. p. 116. ISBN 9780860934424. OCLC 877729237. 
  6. ^ a b Hartwell, Clare; Hyde, Matthew; Hubbard, Edward; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2011) [1971], Cheshire, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 249, ISBN 978-0-300-17043-6 
  7. ^ a b c Historic England. "Chester railway station (1375937)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  8. ^ GB National Rail Timetable 2013–14, Table 81
  9. ^ GB NRT 2013–14, Tables 65 & 82
  10. ^ "Wirral Line timetable" (PDF). Merseyrail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  11. ^ GB NRT, Table 88
  12. ^ "Chester train station | timetable | ticket prices & facilities". Retrieved 8 February 2017. 
  13. ^ "Northern Rail Franchise TransPennine Express Rail Franchise: Stakeholder Briefing Document and Consultation Response" (PDF). Rail Executive. February 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  14. ^ "Arriva Northern". 
  15. ^ "Northern Franchise Improvements". 
  16. ^ "Delayed Wrexham to Chester rail work to begin in 2017". 10 August 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Chancellor announces £10.4m to redevelop Halton Curve rail line". Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  19. ^ "Halton Curve to be reinstated with £10.4m upgrade". Chester Chronicle. 3 July 2014. 
  20. ^ Hodgson, Neil (21 March 2016). "Merseyside train passengers will take the strain during £340m railway improvement work". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 
  21. ^ "Direct trains from Frodsham and Helsby to Liverpool move step closer". 
  22. ^ Shennan, Paddy (28 August 2014). "Merseytravel plan to open or reopen host of new stations". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  23. ^ "Dudley Mall's Railway Directory - Chester to Hereford & Cardiff"; Retrieved 10 November 2016
  24. ^ "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. 
  25. ^ "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. 
  26. ^ "Train crashes into Chester Station barrier". BBC News Online. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  27. ^ "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. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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. 

External links[edit]