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*
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
2016/17 Increase 4.650 million
– Interchange  Decrease 0.804 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] Architecturally, the station features an Italianate frontage, designed by the architect Francis Thompson.

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 Interchange and Leeds in the near future.[3][4]


Background and construction[edit]

During the 1830s and early 1840s, demand for the introduction of the recently-developed railways was growing across the country. It has been claimed by local author and historian John Whittingham that the population of Chester were generally enthusiastic and supportive of having train services made available to and from their city.[5] The first station in Chester was opened by the Chester and Birkenhead Railway Company on 23 September 1840; barely a week later, the Chester and Crewe Railway Company opened its own separate station on 1 October 1840. However, neither of these stations were long-lived, especially as the inconvenience of transferring both goods and passengers between the two stations, which resided in separate parts of Chester, had quickly became apparent; to resolve this, it was decided that a new joint station should be developed to replace both of the existing facilities.[5]

The origins of the current Chester Station can be found amid the establishment of the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company during the 1840s; this initiative which was heavily influenced, and principally engineered, by the pioneering railway engineer Robert Stephenson.[6] Specifically, Chester Station served as the starting station for the line, and was built specifically by the company. It was designed by the architect Francis Thompson, and constructed by railway contractor Thomas Brassey.[6] Other figures also played a prominent role in the station's design and construction processes, including the engineer C. H. Wild. who designed the train shed, and Stephenson.[7] On 1 August 1847, construction of Chester Station commenced; the foundation stone was laid by Brassey himself.[5] A workforce of approximately 2000 labourers were employed, comprising an array of bricklayers, stonemasons, carpenters, roofers, plumbers and other skilled and unskilled workers. On 1 August 1848, the completed station was opened, exactly one year after commencing work.[5]

The station building is primarily composed of a combination of Staffordshire blue brick and pale grey Storeton sandstone with slate roofs.[7][8] Its architectural style is Italianate.[8] It is furnished with a relatively lengthy (305 meters) two-storey façade, which comprises a 15-bay central section, and five-bay lateral projecting pavilions, each of which containing a pair of towers.[6] The middle seven bays of the central section contain a number of carvings produced by the noted sculptor John Thomas.[7] In addition, there are several carved wooden owls scattered across strategic locations high in the roof beams; allegedly, these figures had been originally installed for the purpose of deterring feral pigeons.[citation needed]

As opened, Chester Station was originally built with a single straight-through platform and a pair of bay platforms, along with the station building.[5] Quickly proving to be popular with the travelling public, rapid expansion of the site was undertaken, which included the construction of additional sidings, warehouses, signalboxes and a pair of motive power depots, the latter being used to service steam locomotives that belonged to various different railway companies. To accommodate the increasing volume of both passengers and freight which was encountered during the latter half of the 1800s, it was decided to extend the existing station; specifically, this involved the construction of a pair of island platforms, two bay platforms, and additional station buildings. The new facilities were connected to the original station buildings by a sizeable footbridge; these additions were completed during 1890.[5]

From its opening on 1 August 1848, Chester Station was operated as a joint station between the Chester and Holyhead Railway, the Chester and Crewe Railway and the Birkenhead Railway companies. Later on, these companies were all merged together with the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), which took on the Chester and Holyhead and the Chester and Crewe lines as a result in conjunction with the Great Western Railway (GWR) Company, which ran the line to Wrexham and Shrewsbury. The LNWR and GWR owned the Birkenhead Railway jointly.[6]


Chester Station was regularly served by express passenger trains operated by GWR, and latterly by British Rail’s Western Region, which ran 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.[9] The final service, which was a special named The Zulu, was hauled by the Castle Class steam locomotive 7029 Clun Castle.[9]

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

During part of Chester Station's operational life, the city was also served by another station, referred to as Chester Northgate, which was opening during 1875 and owned by the rival Cheshire Lines Committee.[6] As a measure to prevent confusion between the two stations, the earlier station was renamed ‘’Chester General’’. As a result of the Beeching cuts, during 1969, that station was permanently closed to traffic; as a consequence, Chester General Station was renamed back to simply ‘’Chester’’.[6] In the present day, the former site of Chester Northgate is now occupied by a leisure centre.[citation needed]

According to Whittingham, the peak of activity at Chester Station was during the Edwardian era, by which point there were in excess of 200 trains calling at the station during each day, while over one hundred staff were present to handle the various demands of passengers and goods traffic alike; this included the letters and parcels businesses from the Royal Mail.[5] During the interwar period, the station remained relatively heavily-trafficked, being mildly impacted by the rise of road transportation; this also brought some benefits as well, the addition of trams, and later buses, to the city provided the station with a direct service into Chester's city centre and the suburbs. During the Second World War, Chester Station saw a very high volume of traffic; it survived the conflict unscathed, sustaining no direct hits from enemy bombers; although fear of such an attack had motivated the construction of a concrete bunker onsite, which housed signalling equipment.[5]

In January 2016, according to statistics released by the Office of Rail and Road, passenger numbers at the station had doubled over the previous ten years, reportedly making it the eighth-busiest station in the North-West region. It has been speculated that is can partially be attributed to the addition of new services, such as direct trains to London and an increased frequencies along the Merseyrail network.[10]

Starting in 2005, Chester Station was the recipient of renovation works as part of a wider Chester Renaissance Project.[6] These improvements included groundworks around the east wing of the frontage, along with repairs to the east and west wings of the façade, Furthermore, the glazing of the station roof was repaired, and general improvements to the train shed were conducted by national railway infrastructure company Network Rail .[6] Improved local traffic management and access to the station was achieved via alterations to the adjacent Station Square, the modifications to which were completed during December 2007. Architectural lighting was installed at strategic areas, while a new concourse for the station was opened by train operating company Arriva Trains Wales in October 2008.[6] Between 2009 and 2010, further improvements to Chester Station included the addition of new facilities, such as second staircase for accessing the island platform, structural repairs to platforms, restoration of the overbridge, and work to achieve a visual enhancement of the station’s external frontage.[6]

The station building is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building.[8] It is one of only 22 Grade I or II* listed railway stations in the whole of England.[6] 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 a local to Chester, having been 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.[citation needed]

Extensions and redoubling initiatives[edit]

In 1993, a line extension of the Wirral Line of the Merseyrail network though to Chester Station was accomplished via the installation of third rail electrification on existing track. The extended line ended at the station, and thus Chester became the terminus of a branch of the Wirral Line; it provides the station with frequent rapid access along the Wirral to Birkenhead as well as to all four underground stations in central Liverpool. The historic Chester and Birkenhead Railway, which was the first railway to serve Chester, therefore became a part of Merseyrail's Wirral Line.[citation needed]

During April 2017, it was announced that Network Rail and its contractors had officially completed work on the redoubling of the Wrexham to Chester line, as well as having increased line speeds up to 90mph on certain sections, after having missed a previous target of completion by November 2015. As a result of this work, future journeys are to be faster; however, there were no plans to increase journey speeds or introduce new services until late 2017 at the earliest.[11][12]


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.[15] 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 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

Railway lines in Chester
Wirral line (Merseyrail)
Manchester line
Mid-Cheshire line
Roodee Junction
North Wales Coast Line
to Holyhead
North Wales Coast Line
to Crewe
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).[17] This will be operated by brand new 100mph diesel trains from 2019.[3][18]
  • On the Manchester Piccadilly to Chester via Northwich line, Sunday services will operate every hour in each direction (up from every two hours currently).[19]
  • The new franchise requires the removal and replacement of all Pacer trains by 2020.

Halton Curve Reopening[edit]

In July 2014, George Osborne announced £10.4 million of funding had been secured for the purpose of finance the Halton Curve's redevelopment. Once reopened, the route will permit through services between Liverpool and North Wales via Liverpool South Parkway and Chester.[20][21] In March 2016, Network Rail announced that the Halton Curve would be open for passengers from Liverpool to Chester from May 2018 onwards, and that the work would be undertaken as a part of the 2017 upgrade to Liverpool Lime Street.[22][23] Reportedly, the reintroduction of services is forecast for December 2018.[24]

The 30-year plan for the network included possible uses for the curve such as connections to South Wales.[25] 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.

Layout and facilities[edit]

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.[26]

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.[27]


  • 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.[28]
  • 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.[29]
  • 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.[30][31]

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. Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine. 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 c d e f g h Whittingham, John. "A Short History of Chester Railway Station.", Retrieved: 3 July 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k “Chester Station.” ‘’’’, Retrieved: 2 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b c 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 
  8. ^ a b c Historic England. "Chester railway station (1375937)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Hendry, R. Preston; Hendry, R. Powell (1992). Paddington to the Mersey. Oxford Publishing Company. p. 116. ISBN 9780860934424. OCLC 877729237. 
  10. ^ Holmes, David. "Chester Railway Station sees passenger numbers double in 10 years." Chester Chronicle, 29 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Delayed Wrexham to Chester rail work to begin in 2017". 10 August 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  12. ^ Williams, Kelly. "Wrexham to Chester railway line upgrade finally complete after major delays.", 5 April 2017.
  13. ^ GB National Rail Timetable 2013–14, Table 81
  14. ^ GB NRT 2013–14, Tables 65 & 82
  15. ^ "Wirral Line timetable" (PDF). Merseyrail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  16. ^ GB NRT, Table 88
  17. ^ "Northern Rail Franchise TransPennine Express Rail Franchise: Stakeholder Briefing Document and Consultation Response" (PDF). Rail Executive. February 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  18. ^ "Your Service". Arriva Northern. 
  19. ^ "Northern Franchise Improvements". 
  20. ^ "Chancellor announces £10.4m to redevelop Halton Curve rail line". Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  21. ^ "Halton Curve to be reinstated with £10.4m upgrade". Chester Chronicle. 3 July 2014. 
  22. ^ Hodgson, Neil (21 March 2016). "Merseyside train passengers will take the strain during £340m railway improvement work". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 
  23. ^ Fuller, Mike (19 April 2016). "Direct trains from Frodsham and Helsby to Liverpool move step closer". Chester Chronicle. 
  24. ^ "Next stage of Halton Curve upgrade gets underway". 2 February 2018. 
  25. ^ Shennan, Paddy (28 August 2014). "Merseytravel plan to open or reopen host of new stations". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  26. ^ "Dudley Mall's Railway Directory - Chester to Hereford & Cardiff.", Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  27. ^ "Chester train station | timetable | ticket prices & facilities". Retrieved 8 February 2017. 
  28. ^ "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. 
  29. ^ "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. 
  30. ^ "Train crashes into Chester Station barrier". BBC News Online. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  31. ^ "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]