The Anonymous Widower

Piccadilly Capacity Study Commissioned

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the October 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

New NR Chief Executive Andrew Haines has commissioned work to understand options for capacity through platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly.

It was originally planned to build two extra tracks, with additional platforms  between Manchester Piccadilly and Deansgate stations, to improve the capacity over the Ordsall Chord.

But various engineers and politicians have suggested that Digital Signalling may be an alternative solution.

Speaking to the House of Commons Transport Committee, Mr. Haines said.

We might be better off replacing some of those fleets of trains with trains which have more doors.

Boarding is slow all across the North and I suspect Mr. Haines has studied the problem.

He also added.

He had commissioned work to understand if 15 trains per hour could be delivered through platforms 13 and 14 without major infrastructure works.

I don’t think that Network Rail would waste money on a study, if they didn’t think that 15 trains per hour (tph) were not possible.


  • Thameslink and Crossrail will soon be running 24 tph through Central London in four directions.
  • The East London Line currently runs 16 tph in a tunnel that was opened only thirteen years after the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
  • Trains designed for short dwell times and easy boarding and unloading, as suggested by Mr. Haines would obviously help.

Platforms and the related access at Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Deansgate stations would need to be improved.

But that would be a smaller number of affordable projects.


I do think Andrew Haines has a mind that doesn’t believe in boxes, so his ideas won’t go down well with those with big-spending conservative ideas like most rail union leaders, some rail company bosses and the Mayor of Manchester.


September 27, 2018 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , ,


  1. Another study… how many years is this going to take exactly? Castlefield viaduct is a mixed railway with many types of train running, old, new, passenger, freight, none of those London lines have more than 1 type of train running so are not at all comparable. How exactly are all the different types of train using Castlefield viaduct supposed to be made digital signalling compatible in the near future? The concept is just ridiculous. The whole Northern local rail system needs the infrastructure work to begin at Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations to start NOW.

    Comment by Michael Gaskell | September 28, 2018 | Reply

  2. As you identify, the big problem is the signalling and it means all trains that go through the area will need to be fitted. It would be stupid to do any major infrastructure work until the digital signalling is installed on all trains.
    But that doesn’t rule out rebuilding the platforms and their access at Deansgate, Oxford Road and Piccadilly, so they are wide and have lots of escalators to get passengers away quickly.
    Canada Water on the East London Line is a two-platform station with wide platforms, several escalators and lifts that handles 25 million passengers a year. It was built in 2010. It handles 16 trains per hour and is planned to go to 20.
    By comparison Oxford Road station handles 8.5 million passengers on 5 platforms and Deansgate handled just 400,000 passengers on 2 platforms.
    Piccadilly station only handled 27 million passengers with fourteen platforms.
    These Manchester stations are an absolute disgrace and need demolishing and rebuilding, including.
    1. All passenger trains should be step-free from platform to train to speed up access.
    2. Wide platforms.
    3. Escalators and lifts.
    4. No stairs except for an emergency and very busy times.
    5. Staff on the platforms to marshall passengers.
    Freight trains should also be diverted if possible.
    Thinking about it, Victoria needs to have eacalators to get up and down from the bridge. Reading has them and changing at Reading is easy.

    Reading also has four escalators fron the station entrance to the bridge across the platforms.

    How many does Victoria have?

    Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2018 | Reply

    • I really can’t see how the situation at the London stations is remotely comparable.

      I can’t imagine the DfT funding digital signalling equipment for all the different stock that uses the Castlefield corridor, even if it was technically possible. There’s no point suggesting all the passenger stock using the line should be modern metro type with doors in the middle as that isn’t going to happen either. TPE are rolling out new carriages with doors at the end, they will take longer to load, that’s it.

      The 15&16 project is a shovel ready conventional solution that will add capacity and resilience. It’s the correct solution for a mixed railway that’s always going to have quite variable dwell times. The land is also available, that’s amazing in its self for a city rail project. That won’t be the case for ever though. The project should have been finished now and the daily chaos and dangerous platform overcrowding my fellow commuters have to suffer could have been avoided.

      Comment by Michael Gaskell | September 30, 2018 | Reply

  3. The London stations are relevant as they are modern and can handle well upwards of fifteen trains per hour.

    By rebuilding all the current platforms and giving them proper step-free and escalator access, the Manchester stations would easily handle. Looking at past trains through Deansgate about fifteen pass through in an hour in both directions of which a dozen stop.

    St. Pancras International on Thameslink will soon handle twenty-four stopping trains in an hour, with two wide long platforms.

    As I said earlier Deansgate only handles 400,000 a year, which is much less than Oxford Road and Piccadilly.

    Given that it has a good interchange to the trams, this figure could surely be raised to several million to take the pressure off the other two stations.

    Updating Deansgate should be done first and it would only cost a few millions. It could also be done without causing hardly any disruption to passengers, whereas building platforms 15/16 at Piccadilly will probably mean massive disruption to trains.

    I haven’t seen the new coaches yet, but I will be very surprised if the access is bad and that the single doors at the end of the coach are narrow.

    As to digital signalling, all freight engines are being fitted, at the present time.

    I very much doubt that Platforms 15/16 will ever be built.

    Comment by AnonW | September 30, 2018 | Reply

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