Preston railway station

Preston railway station

Infobox UK station
name = Preston

manager = Virgin Trains
locale = Preston
borough = Preston
code = PRE
platforms = 8
usage0405 = 3.085
usage0506 = 3.246
usage0607 = 3.418
latitude = 53.7560
longitude = -2.7072
years = 31 October 1838
events = Opened
years2 = 2 September 1850
events2 = East Lancashire platforms added
years3 = July 1880
events3 = Rebuilt
years4 = 1903
events4 = New platforms added to west side
years5 = 1913
events5 = New platforms added to east side
years7 = 1968
events7 = East Lancashire platforms closed

Preston railway station serves the city of Preston in Lancashire, England and is a major station on the West Coast Main Line.It is served by Northern Rail, Virgin Trains, and TransPennine Express services. Limited operations are carried out by London Midland and First ScotRail.

tation layout and amenities

The main entrance to the station is at the bottom of the station approach, a ramp off the bridge that carries Fishergate over the railway. The ticket office exists within the small concourse. This concourse gives direct access, down the ramp, to the intercity platforms 3 and 4. There are footbridges on either side of this ramp to all other platforms. The eastern footbridge ends at an alternative entrance to the station on Butler Street, giving closer access to Preston city centre and the station car park. There also exists a subway which provides step-free access to all eight platforms in use at the station and with platform 7, at the south end of which is another entrance serving the station car park.

The island forming platforms 3 and 4 is a very wide island platform with a long series of buildings. Inside these buildings are many services and amenities including a newsagents and several food outlets including a licensed restaurant. There are also toilets and a large waiting room. A small travel centre on platform 3, near the ramp, is operated by Virgin Trains staff to give information for passengers on the platform. In addition to these main amenities, there is a small fast food outlet on platform 4, as well as an additional shop on platforms 1 and 2.

Passenger information systems were updated during 2007 and now use dot matrix display screens. Preston retains a manual tannoy system, a rarity amongst the larger stations in the UK.

Usage and services

There are currently six through and two bay platforms in use at Preston, with two more available for emergency use.

*Platforms 1 and 2 are used by local services operated by Northern Rail. Destinations include Blackpool North, Blackpool South, Colne and Burnley. Longer distance services to Liverpool Lime Street and York also use these plarforms. Platform 2 is occasionally used by TransPennine Express services also destined for Blackpool.
*Platform 3 is the main intercity northbound platform for trains to the north and Scotland. Virgin West Coast services to Lancaster, Carlisle and Glasgow most often use this platform. TransPennine Express also use this platform for northbound services to their more northern destinations such as Windermere and Barrow-in-Furness.
*Platform 4 is the southbound equivalent of platform 3, although more local services also use platform 4, especially in off-peak hours. Virgin Trains services operate to many destinations on the West Coast Main Line, giving Preston links with Birmingham, London Euston, Crewe and Stafford. Southbound Transpennine Express and Northern Rail services also use this platform, usually destined for Manchester and Manchester Airport.
*Platforms 5 and 6 are used as an extension of platform 4, although due to their reversible nature, all three can accommodate northbound trains.
*Platforms 3c and 4c are bay platforms at the south end of the station, between platforms 3 and 4. Local services to Ormskirk often use these bay platforms. These are also used for stabling multiple units or locomotives.

*A through-line passes platform 7 which is situated on the eastern side of the station. It is rarely used as a passenger platform and contains bicycle racks and luggage lockers. The former platform 2 at Preston, which had long been closed to passengers and used as a mail terminal, was temporarily used for passenger services in 2004 due to engineering works on the eastern side of the station. It was numbered platform 0.

Virgin Trains operate one train per hour to both London Euston and Birmingham New Street, whilst services from Birmingham serve Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley station alternatively every hour, and services from Euston head to Lancaster, Carlisle, Glasgow or – once per day – Edinburgh.

TransPennine Express operate services as part of their "TransPennine North West" operations, running trains between Manchester Airport and Blackpool North, Barrow-in-Furness, Windermere or the Scottish terminii. Their role as semi-fast services mean that they often miss out smaller intermediate stations along their routes.

Northern Rail is the major user of Preston Station, with services to Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, York, Blackpool, the Cumbrian Coast and even destinations as far south as Buxton and Chester. Northern Rail also operate services along the Ormskirk branch line six days a week.

First ScotRail operate their "Highland" Caledonian Sleeper service with a call at Preston to and from the Scottish Highlands. Along with London Midland's single rush hour service from Birmingham New Street, which terminates at Preston, they are the only services through the station not operated by the three companies listed above.


In coaching days, Preston was an important centre for both passenger and postal traffic. This importance continued into the railway age, both as a major junction and as a stopping point about half way between London and Glasgow. [Lawrence, p.136]

Preston’s railways

The first rail lines in Preston were those of the Lancaster Canal Tramroad, a horse-drawn line connecting two parts of the Lancaster Canal. It opened in 1805, but never carried passengers and never converted to steam. It ceased operating in Preston in 1862.Greville & Holt 1, pp.97–98]

The first steam-hauled passenger railway in Preston was the North Union Railway (NUR). On 31 October 1838 it opened its line from Wigan to a station on the site of the present-day Preston Station. [Greville & Holt 1, p.95] This immediately linked the town to London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.

Each subsequent line was built by a different company. Rivalry often prevented any cooperation over shared facilities, and so almost every railway line into Preston used its own station. It was not until 1900 that all lines in Preston shared a single station, by which time all the companies had been taken over by one or both of just two companies.

The second passenger railway into Preston was the Preston and Longridge Railway, which opened as another horse-drawn tramway on 1 May 1840, to a terminus in stnlnk|Deepdale Street. [Greville & Holt 2, p.198] It converted to steam in 1848, but did not run its trains into the North Union station until 1885. [Greville & Holt 2, pp.200–201]

The Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway (L&PJR) was the third line, which opened on 25 June 1840,Greville & Holt 1, p.96] initially using the North Union station. However, relations between the NUR and L&PJR soured, and, from 1 January 1842, most L&PJR trains used, instead, Maxwell House railway station, a short distance to the north of the North Union station. A few trains passed through, but the NUR charged a toll of 6d per passenger. Most passengers refused to pay, preferring to alight at Maxwell House and walk the convert|200|yd|-2 to the North Union station, but the NUR refused to hold the train to allow passengers to walk and rebook. The NUR advised northbound passengers to travel by the Lancaster Canal rather than the L&PJR. On 1 January 1844, Maxwell House station came into the possession of the NUR, and lack of agreement led to several weeks when hapless L&PJR passengers had to alight on the trackside at nearby Dock Street (off Pitt Street). Lancaster trains were able to use the North Union station from 12 February.Greville & Holt 1, p.99]

Preston’s fourth railway was the Preston and Wyre Joint Railway to Fleetwood, opening, just a few weeks after the L&PJR, on 16 July 1840, to its own terminus at stnlnk|Maudlands in Leighton Street. After 12 February 1844, regular Preston and Wyre trains used the North Union station, along with the L&PJR, although Maudlands Station continued to be used for excursions for some decades to follow.

The fifth railway company to run trains into Preston was the Bolton and Preston Railway (BPR), from 22 June 1843. Its line joined the North Union’s at stnlnk|Euxton, 5½ miles (9 km) south of Preston, but the company used Maxwell House station instead of the North Union’s. However, the NUR charged 1s per passenger to BPR trains over its tracks, and eventually the BPR resorted to ferrying its passengers by road between Euxton and Preston. The BPR was driven into submission and was taken over by the NUR from 1 January 1844.

The sixth line into Preston was that of the Preston and Blackburn Railway, which opened on 1 June 1846, joining the North Union line immediately south of Farrington Station (respelt “Farington” from October 1857). The railway company was absorbed into the East Lancashire Railway (ELR) on 3 August 1846. [Greville & Holt 1, pp.99–100] Once again, the NUR charged high tolls for the use of its line which led the ELR to build its own line into Preston. The line was initially opposed by Preston Corporation, but was eventually permitted on condition that the embankment north of the Ribble (which later became the dividing line between Avenham and Miller Parks) be ornamentally laid out, and that a pedestrian path (still in use today) be provided on the river bridge. The line ran into new platforms built on the east side of the North Union station, which were managed and staffed by the ELR, and which had their own booking hall and entrance in Butler Street. The new platforms were effectively a separate station.Greville & Holt 1, p.101] Suggitt, p.59] The new line and station opened on 2 September 1850.Greville & Holt 2, p.197]

The seventh line in Preston was the North Union’s own Victoria Quay Branch to Victoria Quay on the River Ribble (later extended to Preston Docks in 1882). [Greville & Holt 2, p.203] The single-track goods line opened in October 1846 from a south-facing junction immediately south of Preston Station, through a tight curve into a tunnel with a gradient of 1 in 29, emerging north of Fishergate Hill near the riverside. [Greville & Holt 1, p.100]

The eighth line to Preston was the Liverpool, Ormskirk and Preston Railway, owned by the ELR and connected to its Blackburn line into Preston. It opened on 2 April 1849. From 1891, its trains used a new curve at Farington to enter Preston via the North Union line.

The ninth and final line into Preston was the West Lancashire Railway (WLR) from Southport. The railway arrived in Preston on 16 September 1882, by which time all the town’s other lines were owned by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) or the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR), or jointly by both. The independent WLR built its own Fishergate Hill station. It also built a connecting line to the former ELR (then LYR) line, via which the majority of Southport-to-Preston trains continued to stnlnk|Blackburn. The railway was not a success, and on 1 July 1897 it was taken over by the LYR. This resulted in the diversion of all passenger services to use the East Lancashire platforms of Preston Station from 16 July 1900. [Greville & Holt 2, pp.201–202]

The network of lines south of Preston allowed great flexibility in the routing of trains. A train approaching the town on any of the lines from the south (except the WLR from Southport) could be routed to enter the station via either the North Union or the East Lancashire line. It was even possible for trains from the north to perform an effective U-turn, a feat sometimes carried out by trains between Scotland and Blackpool that would otherwise have had to reverse.

Station development

When the station was first opened in 1838 by the North Union Railway, the line north of the station passed through a tunnel under the west end of Fishergate (then Preston’s major thoroughfare). It was on a slope so steep that sometimes station staff had to push trains out of the station. By 1846, the station was already very busy, handling trains from Wigan and the south, Bolton, Fleetwood, Blackpool, Lancaster and the north, and Blackburn. There were no footbridges; passengers had to cross the lines escorted by station staff. [Greville & Holt 3, pp.274–275] North of the station was a network of goods lines around the end of the Lancaster Canal. The coal yards and sidings here continued to operate long after the canal had fallen into commercial disuse.

The station’s first expansion came in 1850 when the new East Lancashire line used new platforms staffed and managed by the East Lancashire Railway, with their own entrance and booking office in Butler Street. From 1863, trains between London and Scotland, having no dining cars, were scheduled to allow 20 minutes at Preston for passengers to eat in the station’s dining room. [Greville & Holt 3, p.277] The pressure on catering staff was increased when northbound and southbound trains would often arrive about the same time. [Lawrence, p.142] The condition of the station deteriorated to the extent that on 18 August 1866 part of the roof on the East Lancashire side collapsed injuring three people, one seriously. By then, 150 trains a day passed through the station. [Greville & Holt 3, p.276]

Eventually the station was rebuilt, at a cost of a quarter of a million pounds, reopening in July 1880, with seven through platforms and four bay platforms. At this time, the Ribble bridge, and the line as far as Euxton, was widened from two tracks to four. Greville & Holt 3, p.276] [Gairns, p.337] A striking feature of the new station was its long and wide central island platform, 1225 feet (373 m) long and 110 feet (33 m) wide. It was larger than any of the London terminal station platforms, the longest being stnlnk|Kings Cross at 990 feet (302 m). Along the centre of the platform were refreshment rooms, offices, and waiting rooms. A booking hall at the north end of the station was accessed from the middle of a new bridge carrying Fishergate over the railway. A broad ramp led down to the main island platform, with footbridges to smaller platforms on either side. Further south, the platforms were also linked by a passenger subway and a separate subway for luggage, accessed via hoists. [Lawrence, p.139] At the south end of the main platform, a footbridge led to the nearby Park Hotel, a joint LYR/LNWR property, opened in 1883. [Gairns, p.342] [Suggitt, p.63]

On 13 July 1896 a serious accident occurred. A stnlnk|Euston to Glasgow train passed through the station at an estimated convert|45|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on|-1, despite a 10 mph (16 km/h) speed limit. It was derailed on a tight curve at the north end of the station, killing one person. [Lawrence, p.140] As a result of this, the tracks were realigned. Charles Street, to the west of the station, was demolished, as were more houses northwest of the station. Fishergate bridge was extended on its west side. This allowed more tracks and platforms to be built on the west side of the station, with gentler curves. The Ribble bridge was widened from four to six tracks. These enlargements were completed by 1903. [Lawrence, p.141] The east side of the station was also extended in 1913. [Rush, p.7]

By 1926, the lines and platforms were used as follows, from west to east:

* Southwest of the station was Christian Road Goods Station (previously known as Charles Street Goods Station before 1903).
* Next was the single-track goods line that curved west to enter the tunnel to the docks.
* North of the tunnel was a goods loading platform, added in 1903.
* Then were two through lines for non-stop traffic, added in 1903.
* Platforms 1 and 2 formed a large island platform, added in 1903, with station buildings, handling through traffic to and from Blackpool. Platform 2 was also used as a terminal platform for stnlnk|Longridge trains, and as a reversal platform for trains between stnlnk|Lancaster and Blackpool.
* Between platforms 2 and 3 was a centre line used as a run-around loop.
* Platforms 3 and 4 formed a narrow island platform without buildings. Platform 3 was used for terminal and reversal trains, as Platform 2. Platform 4 was a loop platform for Platform 5.
* Platforms 5 and 6 formed the main, wide island platform, with a full set of buildings along its centre. The platforms were used mainly for West Coast Main Line services, northbound and southbound respectively. At the south end were two bay platforms, between platforms 5 and 6, used for short trains and goods vans.
* Platforms 7 and 8 formed another narrow island platform, somewhat shorter than the other platforms. Platform 7 was a loop platform for Platform 6. Platform 8 was the northbound East Lancashire through platform.
* Platform 9 was the main southbound East Lancashire through platform, containing more buildings and linked to the Butler Street station entrance.
* Platform 10 was added in 1913, as another southbound East Lancashire through platform, which trains accessed via a short tunnel underneath a rebuilt Butler Street entrance.
* Platform 11 was a bay platform, set back at the south end of Platform 9, and curving sharply to the east.
* Platforms 12 and 13 were bay platforms, between Platforms 11 and 10, also curving east. All three bay platforms were for terminating services to and from Southport, Blackburn and Liverpool via Ormskirk. Platform 13 was added in 1913.
* To the east of the station was Butler Street Goods Station, with a large number of sidings and two warehouses. [Gairns, pp.342–343]

Later, platforms 11, 12, 13 and 10 were renumbered into the more logical sequence 10, 11, 12, 13.


A number of lines around Preston have closed, including the Longridge line in 1930 [Suggitt, p.52] [Greville & Holt 2, p.201] and the West Lancashire line in 1964. [Suggitt, p.115] The line towards Liverpool is now single-track, with Preston services terminating at stnlnk|Ormskirk. Most significant for Preston Station was the closure of the East Lancashire line, between Preston and stnlnk|Bamber Bridge, to passengers in 1968, and to goods four years later. The East Lancashire platforms 10 to 13 were demolished, along with the Butler Street Goods Yard. [Suggitt, p.60] Their site is now covered by car parks for the station and the adjacent Fishergate Shopping Centre, which was built in the 1980s. The building is partly over the north end of the former goods yard. Old platforms 1 and 2 have also closed to passengers, and the remaining platforms 3 to 9 have been renumbered 1 to 7.

Some of the station's heritage can still be seen:
* At the far north end of platform 4, some rolling stock is visible to the north. This is what remains of the Ladywell Sidings, most of which was swept away by the ring road built in the 1990s.
* At the north end of platform 3, a disused bay platform can be seen. It follows the original alignment of the main platform before the 1903 expansion.
* There is a tunnel between platforms 3 and 4, under the station approach. Locomotives and trains are occasionally stored there.
* At the north of platform 7 is the blocked up remains of the tunnel which took the platform 13 (originally number 10) through-line from the north, under the Butler Street entrance.
* At the southern end of platform 7, the platform edge curves away to the east but the line now turns westward to join the main line.
* The former platforms 1 and 2 are also still in existence, but closed to passengers, and used for Royal Mail services until recently. Old platform 1 and the lines to its west have been broken to form two bay platforms.

pecial features

A free buffet for servicemen was provided on the station during both World Wars. It served drinks and sandwiches free to anyone in uniform 24 hours a day for the duration of the First and Second World Wars. Seven hundred women working 12-hour shifts served over 3 million men between 1915 and 1919. 12 million cups of tea were served between 1939 and 1945. [Hunt, p.18] It was funded by subscription and had its own marked crockery. The station was on a major north-south route for troops. There is a commemorative plaque covering World War Two in the waiting room on platforms 3 and 4, the site of buffet.

One of the catenary stanchions on platform 4 is notably better kept than others, and carries a small plaque detailing the visit of Queen Elizabeth II on 7 May 1974, after the completion of electrification of tracks north of the point where it stands. This was significant because it marked the completion of the total electrification of the West Coast Main Line.



* Biddle, G. (1989) "The Railways Around Preston – A Historical Review", Scenes from the Past, 6, Foxline Publishing, ISBN 1-870119-05-3
* Buck, M. and Rawlinson, M. (2000) "Line By Line: The West Coast Main Line, London Euston to Glasgow Central", Freightmaster Publishing, ISBN 0-9537540-0-6
* Gairns, J.F. (1926) PDFlink| [ "Notable Railway Stations and their Traffic: Preston, L.M.S.R."] |2.80 MiB , "Railway Magazine", 58 (347: May), pp. 337–346
* Greville, M.D. and Holt, G.O. (1960) "Railway Development in Preston", "Railway Magazine", vol. 106, in three parts : PDFlink| [ part 1] |2.68 MiB , Feb. no. 706, pp. 94–112; PDFlink| [ part 2] |2.04 MiB , Mar. no. 707, pp. 197–204; PDFlink| [ part 3] |1.50 MiB , Apr. no. 708, pp. 274–277
* Hunt, D. (2003) "The Wharncliffe Companion to Preston — An A to Z of Local History", [ Wharncliffe Books, Barnsley] , ISBN 1-903425-79-4.
* Lawrence, J.L. (1903) PDFlink| [ "Notable Railway Stations: Preston"] |2.81 MiB , "Railway Magazine", 12 (February 1903), pp. 136–144
* Rush, R.W. (1983) "The East Lancashire Railway", Oakwood Press, ISBN 0 85361 295 1
* Shannon, P. and Hillmer, J. (2004) "West, East and North Lancashire", British Railways – Past and Present: 43, Past & Present Publishing, ISBN 1-85895-237-9, pp. 31–34
* Suggitt, G. (2003, revised 2004) "Lost Railways of Lancashire", [ Countryside Books, Newbury] , ISBN 1 85306 801 2
* Taylor, S. (1997) "Journeys by Excursion Train: Preston to Blackpool (Central)", Scenes from the Past: 26 (3), Foxline Publishing, ISBN 1-870119-51-7, pp. 14–35

External links

* [ Preston Station : Past & Present] Covers the history of the station and associated lines. Many photos, old and new.
* [ 1850s map of Preston] on Lancashire County Council's MARIO map system
* [ 1890s map of Preston] on Lancashire County Council's MARIO map system
* [ Modern-day map of Preston] on Lancashire County Council's MARIO map system


rail line
previous=Wigan North Western
route=London Midland
West Coast Main Line
rail line
route=TransPennine Express
TransPennine North West
rail line
next=stnlnk|Kirkham and Wesham
route=TransPennine Express
TransPennine North West
rail line
next=Blackpool North
route=Northern Rail
Blackpool-Liverpool Line
rail line
route=Northern Rail
Manchester-Preston Line
rail line
(limited stop)
previous=Lostock Hall
route=Northern Rail
East Lancashire Line
rail line
route=Northern Rail
Caldervale Line
rail line
route=Northern Rail
Ormskirk Branch Line
Mondays-Saturdays only
rail line two to one
previous1=Wigan North Western
previous2=Bolton (Limited Service)
route1=Virgin Trains
West Coast Main Line
route2=Virgin Trains
West Coast Main Line
rail line one to three
route1=First ScotRail
Highland Caledonian Sleeper
route2=First ScotRail
Highland Caledonian Sleeper
route3=First ScotRail
Highland Caledonian Sleeper
(to Inverness)
(to Aberdeen)
("The Deerstalker")
next3=Falkirk Grahamston
rail line
next=Lea Road
route=Preston and Wyre
Joint Railway

rail line
route=North Union Railway
rail line
next=Oxheys Cattle
route=Lancaster and Preston
Junction Railway

rail line
Cop Lane

route=West Lancashire Railway
rail line
route=Preston and
Longridge Railway

rail line
previous=stnlnk|Preston Junction
route=East Lancashire Railway
Blackburn and Preston Railway & L'pool, Ormskirk & Preston Rly

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