This station was one of a series of railway improvements made within Greater Manchester in the late 1980s. Situated 1⅔-miles west of Victoria station, upon the route linking the city with lines to Blackburn, Blackpool, and Wigan, Salford Crescent saw its first scheduled passenger trains on Monday, 11th May 1987. On the same day a second station, Hag Fold, opened in the town of Atherton, situated ten route-miles from Salford Crescent in the city’s western suburbs, upon the route to Wigan Wallgate and Southport.
An island platform comprising two faces of 430-foot length was commissioned adjacent to Salford University, linked to roads on either side of the railway by a concrete footbridge with metal railings. Single-storey red-brick platform buildings contained waiting rooms and a ticket office, situated underneath a 160-foot-long canopy.
An important double-track line, about half a mile in length, was brought into use in 1988 to link northern and southern suburban railway networks in Manchester. Known as the “Windsor Link”, after the area through which it passed, the line saw limited passenger services from 17th May of that year. It allowed trains serving routes in the north west, such as those from Wigan and Bolton that traditionally ran into Manchester Victoria, direct access to the city’s Piccadilly station. The Windsor Link, which was reported in The Railway Magazine as costing £12.7 million, saw a full passenger timetable from 1989 and formed part of a scheme to make Piccadilly the city’s main station; Victoria was to become the hub for suburban and local services.
In summer 1998, "Railtrack" commissioned a signal panel adjacent to Salford Crescent, on the eastern side of the railway. To the untrained eye, the structure housing the panel looked like a large garden shed, being a single-storey timber building. Known as "Manchester North Signalling Centre", the panel did not control the line passing through Salford Crescent; this instead came within the remit of "Piccadilly Signalling Centre". Manchester North controlled those lines through Victoria station, until its functions were taken over by the "Manchester Rail Operating Centre" (ROC) in April 2015, the latter located adjacent to Ashburys station to the east of the city centre.
In Network Rail’s (NR) 2009/2010 "Annual Return" report, the "Salford Crescent Station Redevelopment Programme" was announced. Noted as being in the pre-feasibility stage at that time, the scheme aimed to upgrade the station to accommodate six-carriage passenger trains and improve circulation upon the platform. The study reviewed the possibility of extending and widening the existing island, provision of a third platform face to relieve overcrowding, in addition to remodelling the layout of existing station buildings. Improvement of interchange facilities with other transport methods was sought, and the upgrade programme had a target date of being completed by December 2014.
On 15th October 2012, it was reported in Rail Technology Magazine that the £12 million programme to upgrade Salford Crescent had commenced. The major part of these works included the construction of a new “high-level” station building, southeast of the platform, to replace the existing small ticket office and waiting room on the island. The new building was based on a standard modular design, as used at the likes of Greenhithe and East Grinstead stations, supported upon a purpose-built bridge to carry it over a road. A covered footbridge was built to link the new building with the island platform, incorporating both stairs and a lift. The original footbridge across the tracks was retained, but the staircase linking it to the platform was removed. Both platform faces were lengthened to 500-feet and the original canopy taken down. The latter was replaced by two sections of new canopy, one about 285-feet long and the other 50-feet long, separated by the footbridge of 1987. NR announced the completion of the station’s rebuilding on 15th October 2013, construction having been undertaken by contractor "Buckingham Group" at a cost of £8 million. Electrical work was subcontracted by Buckingham Group to the "Picow Engineering Group".
As part of NR’s £400 million "North West Electrification Programme", which was announced in November 2011, the line between Manchester Victoria and Euxton Junction (the latter on the West Coast Main Line, 5⅓-miles south of Preston) via Salford Crescent was electrified on the standard 25kV overhead wire system. Electrification works on the route began in May 2015, for completion by December of the following year; however, delays caused by Network Rail’s original contractor leaving the project in August 2015 pushed this back by over two years. The first scheduled public electric services between Manchester Victoria and Preston commenced on 11th February 2019, using Class 319 stock cascaded from London’s Thameslink network.
What of a third platform at Salford Crescent, which was mentioned in NR’s 2009/2010 Annual Return report? According to NR’s “Route Specifications” report for the North West and Central region from July 2021, this is due to be delivered by the end of 2024 as part of the “Manchester and North West Transformation Programme”, and at the time of its publishing was in the design phase.
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© David Glasspool
A rather full Class 142 "Pacer", No. 142038, is seen wearing BR's early "Provincial Railways" livery whilst alongside Salford Crescent's platform 1. Next stop: Manchester Victoria. In the centre background are the buildings of Salford University, whilst the large red brick structure in the distance to the top right of the picture – which looks like a large railway goods shed – was in fact once a power station.
© David Glasspool