The Anonymous Widower

railfuture On The Castlefield Problem

This report on the railfuture web site is entitled The Castlefield Problem – A Great Opportunity For Freight.

This is the introduction to the report.

Railfuture believes that railways should be the transport mode of choice if we are to balance the needs of the economy with those of tackling the Climate Emergency and campaigns for a bigger and better railway capable of carrying more freight as well as providing for ever increasing passenger demand.

Manchester’s Castlefield corridor is a bottleneck and has become a byword for unreliability. It is expected to carry 12 passenger services and one freight train in each direction every hour. This report recommends some medium to long term interventions aimed in particular at expanding the freight offering, since movement of goods by road is the most difficult to decarbonise.

It then goes on to describe the problem in detail. This is an important paragraph.

Meanwhile, the increase in intermodal freight traffic between Trafford Park and the southern ports has seen all the available freight capacity (known as signalling paths) taken up, with each freight train using the equivalent of two passenger paths.

The report then makes these points about the freight services to and from Trafford Park Rail Freight Terminal.

  • Freight has no choice but to use the Castlefield route.
  • There is no access to Trafford Park is from the West Coast Main Line (WCML) other than via Castlefield.
  • As freight doesn’t complain on social media when it is late or cancelled, it is a popular target for politicians looking for a solution.

The report says that the ideal solution would be to access Trafford Park from the western end.

The report then asks, the fundamental question, as to whether the Trafford Park terminal is fit for purpose and details these points.

Operation is not very efficient.

It only has a limited number of sidings with gantries.

Can Trafford Park handle the growth of rail freight to and from Manchester?

This map shows the Trafford Park terminal.

There doesn’t appear to be much space to expand.

railfuture’s Solution

railfuture are proposing that a second rail freight terminal be built in the Borough of Trafford at Carrington Park, which is described by this paragraph in the report.

This brownfield site, once the Shell chemical works, lies to the south west of Manchester but still within Trafford Borough. Until its closure it enjoyed rail access via the former line between Stockport and the Warrington Central (CLC) line at Glazebrook. It is currently a Business Park, although the lorry parking facility in the area we are interested in could easily be relocated to another part of this vast and mostly empty site.

This Google Map shows the site.


  1. The blue arrow indicating the centre of Carrington Business Park.
  2. Irlam station on the route between Liverpool and Manchester line via Warrington is in the North West corner of the map.
  3. The Manchester Ship Canal running across the North-West corner of the map.
  4. The route of the former Glazebrook East Junction–Skelton Junction line, runs diagonally across the bottom of the map.
  5. Another railway used to run up the middle of the site.

railfuture’s plan for Carrington Park is as follows.

  • Build a Rail Freight Terminal North-South along the route of the disused railway indicated in 5.
  • Reinstate the Glazebrook East Junction–Skelton Junction line, so that freight trains can go between Carrington Park and the East.
  • I doubt, it’s possible to connect to the Liverpool and Manchester line via Warrington, as there is Carrington power station in the way.
  • But it would link Carrington Park and Trafford Park.

Once at Skelton Junction, trains can go East to connect with the Manchester branch of the  West Coast Main Line between Stockport and Cheadle Hulme stations.

I have followed the line to the East in my helicopter.

It is double track until it splits from the route to Stockport and Manchester under Junction 4 of the M60.

It continues as single-track under the Styal Line, before turning South.

It then passes under the Manchester branch of the West Coast Main Line.

This Google Map shows where we have arrived.


  1. The Manchester branch of the West Coast Main Line going diagonally North-South across the map.
  2. Stockport and Manchester are to the North.
  3. Cheadle Hulme station is just off the map to the South.
  4. The line, I’ve been following crossing the Manchester branch in an East-West direction.

Conveniently, the large block of land lying to the South-East of where the two rail lines cross, is a landfill site that closed in 1985.

railfuture’s plan is to use this space to create a new Adswood junction between the two lines.

They recommend building a double-track junction.

  • Trains could go between Manchester and the South via Wilmslow or Stoke.
  • Trains via Stoke would avoid the busy lines through Crewe.

The report, then goes on to list a load of other benefits that could be built into the scheme.

  • Adswood junction could be built, so that stone trains between the Peak District and the South could use a simpler route.
  • The route through Carrington Park could be extended to Trafford Park.
  • Passenger services could be run on the new route.
  • There could be possibilities to combine parts of the scheme with High Speed Two.
  • A new route to the North East is thought possible.

The report says this about the costs and benefit cost ratio of the proposed scheme.

Benchmarking against the outturn prices of similar projects undertaken elsewhere and allowing for inflation, we expect the costs to come in under £300m. This does not include potential third party investment or assume any release value of eventual redevelopment at Trafford Park. Adding the connection at Flixton would probably add a further £100m, still giving an overall BCR of over 2:1.

This scheme needs serious consideration.




May 15, 2020 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , ,


  1. This country has become a byword for procrastination just need to get on do things so we reap benefits quickly not in decades. Also i see Ian Walmsey in Modern Railways this month pretty well says this route if operated more effectively and with more common stock types would be more than capable of delivering 15TPH. With our railways all but nationalised currently and the Williams review likely to promote the concession model then the opportunity is presenting itself for Rail for the North to get hold of this and create a timetable that optimises whats available in Castlefield corridor as starting point for all operations in the North.

    Should all be doable for Dec 21 TT change if we just get on with it.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | May 16, 2020 | Reply

    • If you take the East London Line, that is pencilled in for 20 trains per hour using a software modification to the existing signalling.

      One station guy on platform 14 at Piccadilly, who had worked on the Underground told me, that one of the problems is the passengers in the North, who don’t obey instructions and just rush the trains. So get the freight trains using another route and all trains the same at a higher frequency through Castlefield and it all might work. Better platform access might help too!

      Comment by AnonW | May 16, 2020 | Reply

      • Anon i travelled daily on Thameslink until i retired and those trains just hovered up people even when service was perturbed. I put this down to large wide doors but fundamentally driver only operation which is in force at London Bridge to St.Pancras Intl far more efficient that platform dispatch used at the likes of E.Croydon, Gatwick and many other large stns on Brighton Line.

        What this route needs is more 331’s (with batteries) and even 195’s but all 3-4 car and all ready to go designs just tell CAF to get on with it and im sure they will give us a good price!.Then you would easily be able to push 15TPH down this route and not have to spend a fortune on new infrastructure which will both take years to come and will be at heavy price on disruption as well.

        They also just need to build the new freight terminal but now. Actually i got sense from Shapps when he did 5PM briefing this week that he was laying the foundations for something more radical in planning of infrastructure projects. “And we must examine why it is that bureaucratic bindweed makes British infrastructure some of the costliest and slowest in Europe to build?”

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | May 16, 2020

  2. […] railfuture On The Castlefield Problem […]

    Pingback by Beeching Reversal – Glazebrook Junction And Skelton Junction « The Anonymous Widower | August 3, 2020 | Reply

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