In a comment a friend said this about going by train from Stockport to Liverpool.
When we first moved here, there was no direct train to Liverpool, we had to go into Piccadilly, cross to Victoria and get a train to Liverpool. And before the trams that was a complete pain!
So how is it now?
Using National Rail Enquiries, I find that every hour there is a direct train from Stockport station to Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street stations at around twenty-five minutes past the hour, that takes a few minutes over the hour to get to Liverpool Lime Street.
They seem to be run by East Midlands Trains, so they will be a Class 158 train, which is fine.
If say you were to drive to Manchester Airport first, you can get a refurbished electric train, that takes virtually the same time to Liverpool.
Stockport To Manchester Airport
Until I wrote this, I hadn’t realised that Airport trains don’t go via Stockport, but they use the Styal Line that by-passes Stockport.
Looking at maps of the area, it would appear that there might be a way of trains going from Manchester to the Airport via Stockport.
Trains might take the Mid-Cheshire Line and then access the Styal Line at a new junction North of Gatley station.
This Google Map shows the area where the railway lines cross.
Gatley station is at the South-West corner of the map and the Styal Line runs Northwards past the motorway junction between the M60 and the A34.
The Mid-Cheshire Line runs across the map South of the motorway junction and the Alexandra Hospital.
I suppose the cost was too high, but then how do you put all the travellers’ cars on the train?
The fact that the rail link between Stockport and Manchester Airport wasn’t created at the same time as the motorway junction is a design crime of the highest order.
It looks to me that there is even space for a Park-and-Ride for Stockport and Manchester in the area.
The Ordsall Chord
The Ordsall Chord, will link Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations with a huge bridge across the Irwell, before the end of 2017
It will have four trains per hour (tph) in both directions, between Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly, Oxford Road, Deansgate, Salford Central and Manchester Victoria stations. There is probably capacity for this service to go to eight tph,
Initially, trains will be refurbished four-car Class 319 electric trains, that currently work Liverpool to Manchester services.
These trains are no suburban trundlers, but will be able to cruise near to 100 mph on parts of the journey, thus knocking a few minutes off the time between Manchester Piccadlly and the Airport.
What Will The Ordsall Chord Do For Stockport?
I have to ask this question and until the timetables are published late this year, everything I say here will be speculation.
- I would be very surprised if there wasn’t at least 1 electric tph that went to Manchester Victoria station.
- Eventually, this service could be made more frequent and perhaps extended to Blackburn, Burnley, Huddsersfield or Stalybridge.
- If Manchester Victoria has been designed right, there should be same-platform interchange at the station to TransPennine services to places like Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
- I also suspect train companies will use the chord to provide new services like perhaps Chester to Leeds, that could go through Stockport.
Forget HS3 for the moment, this is the reality of 2017.
Liverpool to Manchester Airport
Several stations in Liverpool have an hourly service to Manchester Airport and this will probably get better as more Class 319 and Class 319 Flex Trains are brought into service.
It’s rather ironic, but from what I have found, that it would appear that Liverpool gets at least as good a service to Manchester Airport as does the much Stockport!
And Liverpool’s service is likely to double in frequency in the near future!
The Liverpool and Stockport services to Manchester Airport, do have one thing in common though! Both have intermediate stops at Manchester Piccadilly!
But why would you want to go to Manchester Piccadilly, when you’re just going a few miles down the road? Especially, as if you’re going to Manchester Piccadilly, you already have in excess of four tph.
Leeds To Manchester Airport
Currently, Leeds to Manchester Airport has a two tph service via Huddersfield.
When the Ordsall Chord opens that Leeds to Manchester services will go to a higher frequency via Manchester Victoria, thus improving the service to the Airport from Leeds, by giving Leeds passengers access to Manchester local tram and train services to the Airport.
Services from Stockport through Manchester will improve, due to the opening of the Ordsall hord and other electrification works.
But, Stockport needs a quick non-stop service to the Airport with a frequency of at least two tph for economic prosperity.
Perhaps to get a good service to Manchester Airport, your city must begin with L or M.
I took this picture on the island platform 13 /14, at Manchester Piccadilly station on my trip to the North last week.
I actually took the picture, as I wanted to check if the lines were electrified, which can be seen.
Services Through Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly and Salford Crescent Stations
After the current works on the Ordsall Chord has been completed, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly and Salford Crescent stations will form a triangle of lines and stations, through which services passing through Manchester will travel. This map from Wikipedia shows the lines in a simplified form.
Note the lines to Leeds, Bolton, Liverpool, Warrington, Stockport. It is a real Crossrails of the North.
The only similar intensive set of railway junctions in a city with multiple terminal stations is be the tangle of lines across the South Bank of the Thames in London encompassing London Bridge, Cannon Street, Blackfriars, Waterloo East and Charing Cross stations. This map from Wikipedia shows the lines in a simplified form.
Simple it is not!
As an aside it should be noted that Thameslink is planned to run twenty-four trains per hour (tph), through the central core tunnel, of which sixteen tph stop at both Blackfriars and London Bridge stations. Add in the 14 tph terminating at Charing Cross and the 16 tph terminating at Cannon Street, all of which stop at London Bridge and you get a measure of the capability of modern signalling.
Northern Electric Services To Manchester Airport
As I write this, Northern Electrics trains from Liverpool Lime Street, Edinburgh via Wigan North Western and Blackpool North via Bolton are all scheduled to call in Platforms 13 at Manchester Piccadilly station within the next hour on their way to Manchester Airport. Only the Liverpool service is run by an electric train, which is one of the 100 mph Class 319 trains.
But after the Manchester to Preston Line via Bolton and the Blackpool Branch Lines are electrified and the Ordsall Chord is opened, which will hopefully happen late in 2017, there could be more Northern |Electrics services through these platforms going to Manchester Airport from these and other stations.
Stations marked with Flex will be run by Class 319 Flex trains, but as they will be running on the overhead wires through these platforms to and from the Airport, they can be considered to be the same as the electric Class 319 trains.
If you look at the current service between Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Airport stations, the frequency is something like eight trains per hour.
So there will be a large number of electric trains going through Platforms 13/14 at Piccadilly! And the trains will be getting longer, with the minimum train size being four-cars and surely eight-cars are possible on some routes.
All of these services will bring passengers to and from Platforms 13 /14 at Piccadilly.
Manchester’s New Urban Link
Across the South Bank of London most people take the Jubilee Line!
But I don’t!
Between say London Bridge and Charing Cross, I will use Southeastern’s 14 tph service between the two stations, as it’s quicker, the views are better and there’s less walking in tunnels underground.
And according to some of their Customer Service people, I’m not the only one.
Manchester will also be getting a new similar high capacity urban link from Manchester Piccadilly station across the city, that will serve.
Before splitting into two branches.
As there is also a line that joins Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria via Salford Crescent, train planners will have a lot of scope for improving services.
- Liverpool and Manchester services have a choice of Manchester terminals and a variety of routes.
- A service linking Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport would be possible. Current services go via the West Coast Main Line.
- Inwards to Manchester, an improved Salford Crescent station could be a cross-platform interchange with Salford Central/Victoria services on one platform face and Deansgate/Oxford Road/Piccadilly/Airport services on the other.
- Similarly, outwards from Manchester, Salford Crescent station could be a cross platform interchange between services.
I think that this could lead to the Metrolink being connected to one or both of the two Salford stations.
To sum everything up, there will be lots of trains going through the three stations of Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly and Salford Crescent.
And all those trains using the Windsor Link and the Ordsall Chord will be coming through Platform 13 or Platform 14 at Manchester Piccadlly station.
Overcrowding At Platform 13 and 14 At Manchester Piccadilly Station
Overcrowding at these two platforms is bad enough already and it’s going to get worse if more and longer trains are running through the platforms.
Looking at the picture, the platforms are not overly-wide either.
But at least there are solutions, as I’ll discuss now.
The Alternative Route
Londoners are world-champions at ducking-and diving and will find the route that is quickest after a few weeks of a new rail line or bus route opening. It’s probably one of the reasons that Transport for London, placed the forecast for the passenger usage on the London Overground on the low side.
I don’t know how Mancunians will react to the Ordsall Chord and the new Northern Electrics services, but if they quickly suss-out the best route for their personal journey, this may mean that passengers avoid using Platforms 13/14 at Piccadilly.
There are a quite a few interchange stations on the Piccadilly-Salford Crescent and Piccadilly-Victoria routes through the City.
Better Access To The Island Platform 13/14
Access to the island platform is not good and perhaps more escalators and lifts will help.
Whatever is done to improve the through route, improvement of the access will be on the list of projects to perform.
A Bigger Island Platform 13/14
Looking at the picture in this post, I wonder if the island platform could be made bigger.
If it was wider, this would need the tracks to be moved apart and if this is possible another metre on the platform width would help.
I was on Platform A at St. Pancras Thameslink station this morning and it is very long platform, with the trains stopping vaguely in the middle, thus leaving spare platform space at each end.
So if the platform could be lengthened would this help with the overcrowding?
This Google Map shows the Western end of Platform 13/14.
Platform 13/14 is the pointy one in the middle.
And this one the Eastern end.
Again Platform 13/14 is the one in the middle.
It’s all very tight and I estimate Platform 13/14 isn’t much more then ten metres wide at any point.
Access to Platforms 13/14 From Below
I don’t know whether this is possible, but the platforms sit on a large viaduct and in many stations like this escalators and lifts are used to access the platforms from below.
This picture shows the Platforms on the viaduct.
Platform 14 is closest to the camera.
I think that with imagination, access might be possible from this side.
A New Bridge To Platforms 13/14
This Google Map shows the London end of the platforms at Piccadilly.
Platform 13/14 is at the bottom of the picture.
I think there is space to put a second bridge over the platforms here and it could reach all the way to the new HS2 platforms on the other side of the station.
Platforms 15 And 16 At Manchester Piccadilly Station
Building two new platforms 15 and 16 has been touted as a solution.
I think that the key to whether four through platforms is needed, is how many trains will be going through.
In a few years time the two track cross-London lines; Crossrail aqnd Thameslink will be handling 24 tph, with a third; the East London Line handling 20 tph.
Also at London Bridge, 54 tph in both directions are handled by nine platforms, which means that an average of 12 tph go through each platform.
If you look at the Y-shaped line through Manchester, Thameslink could be overlaid on the top.
- Blackfriars would be Platforms 13/14 at Piccadilly.
- St. Pancras Thameslink would be Deansgate.
- West Hampstead Thameslink would be Salford Crescent.
- Finsbury Park would be Victoria.
Other conditions would be needed for a throughput approaching that of Thameslink.
- All trains must be modern electric trains, capable of making quick stops.
- All trains must be fitted with modern signalling.
- No trains terminating at Manchester Oxford Road
- Some services from the North linked back-to-back with services to the South to free up platform space at Victoria and Piccadilly.
Thameslink is aiming for 24 tph and currently runs 14 tph.
I can’t see, if everything is done correctly, that Platform 13/14 at Piccadilly can’t handle somewhere between 14-24 tph.
And as Thameslink manages 14 tph with a proportion of Class 319 trains, I would be very surprised if this figure is not attainable.
Under Proposal in the Wikipedia entry for the Ordsall Chord, this is said.
The Ordsall Chord will provide a direct link between Piccadilly and Victoria stations, allowing trains from Manchester Victoria and the east to continue to Piccadilly. On completion the chord will allow four trains per hour to travel between Manchester Airport/Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in each direction, eight trains per hour from Manchester Victoria towards the west via Chat Moss, and six trains per hour from Manchester Piccadilly towards either Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston. Other trains will travel from Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington.
This appears to say that only the following trains would use Platform 13/14 at Piccadilly.
- 4 tph Manchester Airport/Piccadilly to Victoria
- 6 tph Piccadilly to Chat Moss or Bolton/Preston
So that is just 10 tph.
Currently, in the Peak, it appears that the frequency of trains between Oxford Road and Piccadilly is 10 tph.
I have a feeling that with a bit of reorganisation of services, the rather difficut problem of building Platforms 15/16 can be delayed for ten years or more, if not for ever.
Manchester Airport From The South
How would people from Birmingham, London and the South get to Manchester Airport?
There are two routes.
- Change at Manchester Picaadilly to any of the several tph to Manchester Airport
- Change at Crewe to the Crewe-Manchester Line.
I would use the second option as it’s fifteen minutes quicker and avoids Platform 13/14 at Piccadilly.
I suspect that the train companies will reorganise their services from Crewe to Manchester via the Airport to take advantage of the Ordsall curve and the new electrification North of Manchester.
HS2 Arrives At Crewe
HS2 will have various effects, when it arrives at Crewe in 2027!
One interesting idea, borrowed from the French, would be to split and join, shorter HS2 trains at Crewe. So perhaps two or even three shorter units would work as a larger unit between London and Crewe.
The advantage of this is that anywhere that is electrified and has a platform long enough could get a high-speed service to London and the South, if the market was there.
According to this page in the Guardian, Crewe will be just 58 minutes from London, instead of the fastest time of 97 minutes today.
Currently Crewe to Manchester Airport takes thirty minutes in a Class 323 train. If as I suspect HS2 trains can run efficiently on classic lines, the following times might be possible using the 110 mph Crewe-Manchester Line to complete the journey.
- Manchester Piccadilly – 88 minutes instead of the current 127 minutes.
- Manchester Airport – possibly 78 minutes instead of 144 minutes.
- Stockport – 76 minutes instead of 115 minutes
No services would need any changes.
But a train might leave London, do a quick stop at Crewe, where it divided with one portion going to Manchester Airport and the other to Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly.
The operator would be able to run short HS2 trains on the classic lines to the North and East of Manchester using the lines now being electrified.
Currently, Huddersfield to Manchester Piccadilly takes 33 minutes, so a modern electric train must be able to do the journey in 20 minutes.
On my estimate of 88 minutes to Piccadilly using HS2, on the electrified existing tracks Huddersfield could be reached without a change in 108 minutes.
The current fastest time is 175 minutes with a change at York.
Running HS2 trains through platforms 13/14 at Piccadilly would have no effect on the design of the platforms, as the HS2 trains will be designed to run to any electrified platform, that is long enough.
The interesting destination of a portion of a train would be Blackburn, if the electrification was extended to the town.
I estimate it could be done in 133 minutes without a change as opposed to 162 minutes today with a change at Preston.
Until 1964, the Ribble Valley Line used to host a Manchester-Glasgow express and now I believe it could have a HS2 service to and from London.
Manchester and its environs will get a much better rail system.
But I suspect it will be some years before Piccadilly gets Platforms 15/16
I picked up two reports on airports this week.
This report on the BBC is entitled Heathrow airport delay gutless, says business group and talks about a lot of the fallout from David Cameron’s decision not to decide on a new runway for the South-East.
In contrast, you have this report in the Manchester Evening News entitled New images shows possible high-tech future of Manchester Airport’s check-in after ‘Super Terminal’ transformation, which describes the airports expansion plans.
Expanding Heathrow seems to generate controversy in super-tanker loads, whereas Manchester doesn’t sem to attract anything like the same level, even when you take the different sizes into account.
Look at this Google Map of Heathrow.
Compare it with this one of Manchester Airport.
I don’t know for sure, but it would appear from these maps and larger ones, that Heathrow has used up much more of the available space around the runways, whereas Manchester hasn’t!
When Heathrow wanted to build Terminal 5, they had to move a sewage works, and another terminal would be difficult on the same site. Manchester has some space left.
So any expansion at Heathrow needs to expand the airport site, which is where a lot of the opposition comes from.
In my view the only way to expand Heathrow is to make better use of the current runways and the terminals. But that can only go on for so long!
And would the locals object to more landings and take-offs? You bet they would!
David Cameron is no fool and he knows that with the opposition of Boris Johnson and nearly all the candidates for the London Mayor against Heathrow, that it will never gain a third runway.
I hate to look backwards but the Roskill Commission of the 1960s and their eventual decision by a roundabout route was for an airport on Maplin Sands to the East of Southend.
But Harold Wilson’s government cancelled this airport, just as they did the Picc-Vic Tunnel in Manchester and improvement of the rail lines across the Pennines.
In my view as air traffic increases, Heathrow needs to expand to just survive, as there is competition all around.
- Schipol, Paris Charles de Gaulle and even Manchester competing for the interchange traffic.
- Trains to the Continent
- Birmingham, Gatwick, Luton, Southend, Stansted and others nibbling Heathrow’s markets.
- Passengers are increasingly savvy and go from any convenient airport, using an acceptable airline at the right time and price.
- Internet technology will guide people to the best and cheapest way to travel from say Cambridge to Boston. An expensive Heathrow could be its own worst enemy.
- Other airports will offer better car-friendly solutions.
So as it can’t expand, due to the politicians and local residents, Heathrow must accept that it can’t and it must prepare itself for downgrade to just an airport for London and those living locally.
It also means, the South East must eventually find another site for a new airport to replace Heathrow.
The only place is the Thames Estuary!
So why didn’t the Davies Airport Commission recommend the Boris Island?
Howard Davies is a man of the City Establishment, who are very conservative with a small c and love the convenience, which Crossrail will make better, of Heathrow. How many submissions were against the Boris Island because it would mean too much change in their business?
But a properly designed Thames Hub Airport, could also incorporate the new Thames Barrier and Lower Thames Crossing that London needs.
To many of London’s residents and a lot of their politicians, it is a no-brainer! But for the City, only an expanded Heathrow will do!
So how will Manchester Airport affect London’s Airport mess in the future.
I believe that Manchester Airport will start to dominate air transport in the North of England and Scotland, just as Heathrow used to dominate the South.
- It has space for new terminals and aircraft and car parking.
- A rail network is developing to bring passengers to the airport from all over the North and Scotland.
- HS2 and probably HS3 are coming to the Airport.
- When it needs to expand it decides to and does!
It could also be combined with Liverpool Airport using a very high speed train, if it needed more runway capacity. It’s just forty-four kilometres as a Maglev would fly at 200 kilometres per hour, up the Mersey. Manchester and Liverpool airports could work together, much better than Heathrow can work with either Gatwick, Luton or Stansted.
So will an expanded Manchester Airport take a big bite out of Heathrow’s traffic? You bet it will. Especially, if Heathrow continues to not expand.
I think we should start to plan a Thames Estuary Airport now, even if we don’t built it for twenty years.. If we don’t, then when we need to start building, we’ll take another fifty years to make a decision.
Or we could always do what we’re doing now and let market forces, various interests and passenger choice decide our airports policy?
And as ever, engineers and architects, will improve aircraft and airports, so that we find them acceptable.
The airports problem won’t be solved until perhaps in about 2060, when the Dutch get fed up with Schipol and we join with them and the Belgians to create an airport perhaps slightly east of the Thames Estuary connected to various countries by high speed rail lines. It could be called Canute International!
The only certainty, is that I won’t be here to see it built!
I’ve only been to Manchester Airport once and that was many years ago, when I flew my Piper Arrow into the then single-runway airport.
On my trip north today, I wanted to take a ride on one of the refurbished Class 319 trains running between the airport and Liverpool Lime Street, so as I got a good deal on tickets including a trip in First to Crewe, I went via the airport.
The pictures show the rail station at the airport, which has three platforms for trains and one for the Metrolink. A fourth rail platform is under construction.
Most of the pictures were taken looking towards the entry to the station, with the platforms being number 1, 2 3 and 4 for right to left (south to north).
If the Metrolink platform was given a number, it would be five.
This Google Earth image shows the station and the surrounding area.
Manchester Airport Station
Note the current three rail platforms with the Metrolink between them and the bus station. My Class 323 train from Crewe arrived on the southernmost platform, which is numbered one. Platforms two and three are either side of a long island and it would appear that the construction work between platform three and the Metrolink and the bus station will be the new platform four.
A station-man indicated that the lines into the station are a bit limited and expansion of the rail links out of the station might be something to upgrade in the future.
One difference between this airport station and most of the other ones I’ve visited was that it wasn’t buried deep in a dark claustrophobic pit under the airport. So I was able to walk up and down in the sun, whilst waiting for my train!
My only disappointment was that instead of getting a refurbished Class 319 train, I got a clean Class 156 train.