Transport in Liverpool

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As a major British city, Liverpool has significant road and rail networks and also an international airport and port. It also has a significant underground railway network that serves the city and immediate locality.


In common with most other major cities within the United Kingdom, Liverpool's transport infrastructure is centred on its road and rail networks. Public transport services within the city are controlled and run by the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (branded as Merseytravel), with the city's national rail services managed by Network Rail. The road network in and around Liverpool is primarily managed by the relevant local authority in which the roads are located, although, in common with all parts of the United Kingdom outside London, the major trunk roads are the responsibility of the Highways Agency.


Liverpool has direct road links with many other major areas of England.

The west to east M62 motorway connects Liverpool with Hull and along the route also provides a link with areas including Manchester, Leeds and Huddersfield, and not far along the M62 from Liverpool is the interchange with the north to south M6 that provides links to more distant areas including Birmingham, Staffordshire, the Lake District and the Scottish border.[1]

The Kingsway road tunnel gives direct access to the M53 motorways, which runs east to the M56. The north south M6 has a junction with the M56. The Queensway road tunnel give a direct link to the A41 that eventually stretches to London, although using the M62 or M6 and eventually M1 is a far quicker route from Liverpool to London. However, the A41 is a relatively quick and direct link with Cheshire and Shropshire. This in turn provides a quick link to the A55 road that runs along the North Wales coastline.[2]

In the early 1960s there were plans to build a "Liverpool Inner Motorway" which would have been similar to the "urban motorways" which were later built around the cities of Manchester and Leeds. The motorway was still a possibility as the 1970s drew to a close, but it was never built. The only section built was from Leeds Street in the north of the city centre, south along the dock road to Parliament Street.[3]


Long distance coach services arrive at and depart from the National Express stop at Liverpool One Bus Station. Local buses serve the whole of the city and its surrounding areas. The two principal termini for local buses are Queen Square Bus Station (located near Lime Street railway station) for services north, east and west of the city, and Liverpool One Bus Station (located near the Albert Dock) for services to the south and east.


Liverpool is served by two separate rail networks. The local urban rail network, which is underground in the centres of Liverpool and Birkenhead, is managed and run by Merseyrail and serves the whole of Merseyside, also providing links beyond. The national mainline network, which is managed by Network Rail, provides Liverpool with connections to major towns and cities across England.


Main article: Merseyrail

Liverpool's local urban rail network is known as Merseyrail and consists of three lines: the Northern Line, which runs to Southport, Ormskirk, Kirkby to the north of the city and Hunts Cross to the south. The Wirral Line, which runs through the Mersey Railway Tunnel has branches to New Brighton, West Kirby, Chester and Ellesmere Port. The City Line, which begins at Lime Street, providing links to St Helens, Wigan, Preston, Warrington and Manchester.

The Northern and Wirral lines of the network are electrified while diesel trains operate on the separate City Line. Work is currently underway electrifying the City Line.

Services on the Northern and Wirral lines are operated by the Merseyrail franchise and managed by the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive. This electric network is one of the busiest and most extensive in the country, covering 75 miles of track, with an average of 100,000 passenger journeys per weekday.[4][5] It should be noted that local services on the City Line are operated by Northern rather than Merseyrail, although the line itself remains part of the Merseyrail network.

Within the city centre the majority of the network is underground, with 4 city centre stations and over 6.5 miles of tunnels.[4]

Mainline Services[edit]

Mainline rail services in Liverpool provide the city with links across England and are centred on Lime Street station in the city centre. The station, which is owned by Network Rail,[6] is served by five train operating companies in addition to services provided by Merseyrail on the local network.[7]

The primary operator for mainline services out of Liverpool is Northern, who provide local links to other towns and cities in the North West including Blackpool, Manchester, Preston, Warrington and Wigan.[8][9][10] Many of these services also call at other stations within the city including Broad Green, Edge Hill, Hunts Cross, Huyton, Liverpool South Parkway and Wavertree Technology Park.[8][9][10]

The city is linked to London via the West Coast Main Line, with services to London Euston run by Virgin Trains.[11] One train per hour leaves Lime Street station destined for the capital, with the service increasing to two trains per hour during peak times.[12]

Other rail operators that provide services from Liverpool include London Midland,[13] TransPennine Express[14] and East Midlands Trains,[15] who provide links to other major towns and cities in the UK, including but not limited to Birmingham, Leeds, Norwich, Nottingham, Sheffield and York.[13][14][15]

Historic tramway and railways[edit]

Historically, Liverpool had an extensive tram network, construction of which started in 1869 by the Liverpool Tramways Company; however, this was dismantled in the 1950s. Other railway lines, such as the Canada Dock Branch from Edge Hill to Kirkdale, no longer see passenger services, or have been removed completely, such as the North Liverpool Extension Line.

Liverpool had been home to the first electrically powered overhead railway in the world. Known as the Liverpool Overhead Railway opening on the 4 February 1893 with an eventual total of 14 stations. The line suffered extensive damage during the Second World War and was eventually closed down on 30 December 1956 with considerable protest. The tunnel portal in Dingle and Dingle underground station, are the only large surviving signs of the railway's existence as the iron elevated sections were removed for scrap.


Opened in the 1930s, Liverpool Airport, is situated near Speke in the south of the city. It was renamed Liverpool John Lennon Airport in 2001, in honour of the late musician and founding member of The Beatles, John Lennon. The airport's logo consists of a sketch that John Lennon had drawn of himself, and the words "Above us only sky", lyrics from his song "Imagine". The sensitivity surrounding the airport's name change meant that the logo had to be designed in secret before it could be unveiled by John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono. The airport was the starting point for Beatles tours in the sixties, and images of the band boarding planes there were seen throughout the world. In 2006 the airport handled nearly 5 million passengers and now serves 64 destinations, including many key European cities. New routes to New York and Toronto in summer 2007 were withdrawn towards the end of the year, as was the route to London City Airport, due to low passenger numbers.

Water transport[edit]

Liverpool's position on the River Mersey, close to the mouth into the Irish Sea, has contributed to its rise as a major port within the United Kingdom. In addition to the Port of Liverpool's role as a major cargo terminal, the port also provides a base for ferry and cruise services, particularly at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal.

Port of Liverpool[edit]

In 2002, 716,000 passengers used the Port of Liverpool, with the Isle of Man and Ireland being the two most important passenger routes. The goods trade, which was very low after several decades of decline, is growing once again.

Together, the Port of Liverpool and Manchester Ship Canal offer a comprehensive range of port facilities, handling more than 40 million tonnes of cargo and 15,000 ship movements a year – making the River Mersey Britain's third busiest estuary.[16]

The Port and Canal form the "green" gateway to an economy of more than 120,000 industrial and commercial enterprises and a population equal to that of greater London.

The Port of Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal are now as one under the banner of Peel Ports, the UK's second largest ports group.

Mersey crossings[edit]

There are three tunnels under the River Mersey: the Mersey Railway Tunnel; and two road tunnels, Queensway Tunnel and Kingsway Tunnel.

Albert Dock at night

The Mersey Ferry continues to provide an important link between Liverpool and the Wirral, as well as a tourist attraction. Made famous by the song "Ferry Cross the Mersey" by Gerry & The Pacemakers, the song is now played on the ferryboats themselves every time they prepare to dock at Liverpool after a tourist cruise.

The Mersey is crossed upstream from Liverpool at Runcorn and Widnes, by the Silver Jubilee Bridge (usually known simply as the "Runcorn Bridge") and the Runcorn Railway Bridge. The proposed Mersey Gateway project will see a further bridge east of the Silver Jubilee Bridge.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal[edit]

Built between 1770 and 1816, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal links Liverpool and the Mersey to Leeds and the River Aire. Its terminus had been at Old Hall Street, Pall Mall, Chisenhale Street, but that section now ends at Eldonian Village. A flight of locks just north of there takes the canal down to Stanley Dock, famous for the Tobacco Warehouse, and on to the main dock system.

Future developments[edit]

Proposed new tram[edit]

In 2001, a plan to build new a light rail system, Merseytram was developed. After central government insisted on additional guarantees prior to the release of previously committed funds, it was cancelled in November 2005. However, it is to be included in the transport plan from 2006–2011, as it is deemed to be an important part of Liverpool's development.[17]

Northern rail hub[edit]

Main article: Northern Hub

In February 2010, Network Rail outlined plans to invest £530m to improve rail services in the north of England, including those in and around Liverpool.[18][19] Amongst the improvements for Liverpool would be an increase in services to towns and cities in Yorkshire and Cheshire, as well as faster and more frequent services to Manchester.[18]

This plan follows an earlier announcement that the northern line between Manchester and Liverpool via St Helens will be electrified as part of a £100m project aimed at improving services between the cities.[20] It has also been suggested that the southernline between Liverpool and Manchester, which runs via Warrington should also be electrified.[21]


  1. ^ "Motorway Database M62". Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  2. ^ "Motorway Database A55". Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  3. ^ "Liverpool Inner Motorway". Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  4. ^ a b "Who are Merseyrail". Merseyrail. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 23 July 2009. 
  5. ^ "Public transport". Liverpool City Council. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  6. ^ "Liverpool Lime Street". Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  7. ^ "Liverpool Lime Street Station Information". Northern Rail. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Liverpool to Wigan, Preston and Blackpool and Preston to Ormskirk" (PDF). Northern Rail. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "Liverpool to Manchester Airport and Warrington Bank Quay via Earlestown (includes Helsby to Ellesmere Port)" (PDF). Northern Rail. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "Liverpool to Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington Central" (PDF). Northern Rail. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "Our routes from Liverpool Lime Street". Virgin Trains. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "Train Timetable London-Stafford-Liverpool" (PDF). Virgin Trains. 2009-12-13. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  13. ^ a b "Liverpool". London Midland. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Trains to Liverpool". First TransPennine Express. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "Towns, cities and regions". East Midlands Trains. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  16. ^ "Port of Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal". Peel Ports. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  17. ^ "Local Transport Plan 2006-2011" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  18. ^ a b "Rail travel in Merseyside and Cheshire to be transformed by 'Northern Hub'". Liverpool Echo. 2010-02-16. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  19. ^ "Network Rail unveils £530m revamp plans for the North". BBC News. 2010-02-16. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  20. ^ "Train journey times between Liverpool and Manchester to be slashed thanks to rail electrificiation". Liverpool Echo. 2009-06-23. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  21. ^ "Liverpool-Manchester link should be updated for electric trains". Liverpool Echo. 2009-10-20. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 

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