The Anonymous Widower

Possibly One Of The Best Underground Railways In A Smaller City In The World!

I took these pictures, as I took the Wirral Line between James Street and Lime Street stations.

I do compare them with the dingy inside of Essex Road station, which was refurbished by British Rail about the same time.

Merseyrail’s stations and trains are generally immaculate and that can’t be said for the dirty and tired infrastructure on the Northern City Line. As I indicated in the title of this post, t is one of the best underground railways under the centre of a smaller city. Liverpool would probably be regarded as a second size of city as it lacks the several millions of London, Paris or Berlin.

The tunnels of Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral Lines, would have been probably been used as a model for British Rail’s proposed Picc-Vic Tunnel, that sadly never got to be built!

Manchester would be very different today, if it had an underground railway across the City to the standard of that in Liverpool or Newcastle.

This map clipped from Wikipedia show the proposed route of the Picc-Vic Tunnel.

Some of the other proposals included.

  • The tunnel would be twin bores and jus under three miles long.
  • The tunnel would be electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • The rolling stock would have been Class 316 trains, which would have been similar to those on Merseyrail.
  • Train frequency could have been forty trains per hour (tph)

In some ways the specification was more ambitious than Crossrail, which might be able to handle 30 tph, at some time in the future. But Dear Old Vicky, which was designed at the same time, is now handling forty tph.

Wikipedia says the following routes could have run through the tunnel.


  1. The Styal Line now provides the link to Manchester Airport.
  2. The route map on the Wikipedia entry, shows only Bury and Bolton as Northern destinations. But surely fanning out the trains could have run to Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Clitheroe, Colne, Hebden Bridge, Kirkby, Preston, Rawtenstall, Tochdale, Southport, Stalybridge, Todmorden, Wigan and Windermere

The only problem, I could see would be that there would need to be a lot of electrification North of Manchester, some of which has now been done.

There have also been developments in recent years that would fit nicely with a system of lines running through the Picc-Vic Tunnel.

More Services In Manchester Piccadilly And Manchester Victoria Stations

If you look at Liverpool Lime Street station after the remodelling of the last few years, the station is now ready for High Speed Two.

You could argue, that it would be more ready, if the Wapping Tunnel connected services to and from the East to the Northern Line, as I wrote about in Liverpool’s Forgotten Tunnel, as this would remove a lot of local trains from the station.

The Picc-Vic Tunnel would have done the same thing for Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria stations and removed the local services.

This would have left more space for High Speed Two and other long distance services.

Northern Powerhouse Rail

The original plan also envisaged an East-West Tunnel at a later date. – Northern Powerhouse Rail?

But the creation of capacity by the diversion of local services from Manchester Victoria into the Picc-Vic Tunnel, would surely have enabled the station to be developed thirty years ago as a station on an improved TransPennine route.


The system would have accepted tram-trains, which hadn’t been invented in the 1970s.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport had only one runway in the 1970s and I think only a few would have believed, it would have expanded like it has.

The Picc-Vic Tunnel would create a superb service to the Airport, at a frequency upwards of six tph.

High Speed Two

The Picc-Vic Tunnel would have created the capacity in  for Manchester Piccadilly station and allowed High Speed Two services to use the station.

In The Rival Plans For Piccadilly Station, That Architects Say Will ‘Save Millions’, I talked about a radical plan for extending Manchester Piccadilly station for High Speed Two, that has been put forward by Weston Williamson; the architects.

This sort of scheme would also fit well with the Picc-Vic Tunnel.


Manchester was short-changed and not building the Picc-Vic Tunnel was a major mistake.

It would have created an underground railway in a similar mould to that of Liverpool’s, but it would probably have served a larger network.

They would probably be the best pair of underground railways for smaller cities in the world.

August 20, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Some time after cancellation of the Picc – Vic scheme rumours and later newspaper reports cited route of the tunnel would have been impeded by “secret” cold war bunker and telephone exchange under Piccadilly gardens.

    The following link is worth a look

    in association with

    Who’d have thought?

    Comment by Fenline scouser | August 20, 2020 | Reply

  2. I read that in Wikipedia.

    But just imagine how Liverpool or Newcastle would be if British Rail hadn’t built the tunnels in the 1970s.

    Lime Street is ready for High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail now and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the original British Rail plan finished to give the station more long distance capacity.

    Comment by AnonW | August 20, 2020 | Reply

    • Swings and roundabouts. I still miss Exchange station and the Preston “expresses”.

      I remember some folk older than myself arguing that had the same effort been put into saving the “dockers’ umbrella” the link would have been unnecessary.

      Way back when and shortly before I left school an exhjbition of the Merseyrail proposals was mounted. This consisted of a large board with proposed routes mapped out with 6v torch type bulbs and electrical switching to give an animated effect. All very impressive.

      All the current expansion aspirations were included (outer loop, Wigan, Warrington, Southport via Burscough, Preston via Ormskirk, Aintree via Linacre Lane) and Wrexham – Bidston electrification.

      One notable inclusion on said map was a route looping from Aintree / Old Roan over the CNC Southport line to Woodvale thence by new chord to gain the Northern Line (southward) north of Freshfield. I have never managed to locate any archived document relating to this. I can only presume that this was considered unjustified in terms of demand or that intercounty agreement could not be met.

      Of course James Street station is a gem. I trust the Dream Passage is still operational.

      Comment by Fenline scouser | August 20, 2020 | Reply

  3. I used to work with guys, who remembered the Overhead Railway. I think if it had limped on for another ten years or so, it would still be here today. It would probably have been replaced by something like the Docklands Light Railway.

    But I think that Stadler are up to something. They are a very innovative company and I think we’ll see the new Class 777 trains, running as tram-trains in Liverpool to the airport.

    The same basic vehicles seem to have been sold to the Tyne and Wear Metro and they have a need for tram-trains to develop some routes.

    Stadler’s motto seems to be “Have Tracks, Will Travel”

    Comment by AnonW | August 21, 2020 | Reply

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