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Manchester —> Chester: need help with detailed directions

Hello!

First time visitor to England (so excited)… I live in a small farming community and no experience with trains/trams/buses in a big city. I’m feeling weirdly insecure about finding my way around.

Can someone help me with (very) detailed directions on how to get from Manchester (probably not the airport since we’ll be sightseeing) to Chester on the morning of Sunday, March 19th.

  • Do I take the train (I know about the strike. I moved my plans around to leave on Sunday instead of Saturday). 🚆

  • Do I pre-buy tickets online? Or wait until that day? 🎟

I HAVEN’T booked a hotel in Manchester yet and am willing to book a hotel that would be most convenient to whatever transportation I need to take to get to Chester. 🏨

Thank you so much!

Posted by
6434 posts

All trains leave from Manchester Piccadilly station.
So at that time on a Sunday you want to be as close as you can be, not messing around with trams.
The first direct train is at 0906, arriving Chester at 1037- it departs from Platform 4. operated by Northern Rail.
The next one is at 0948 and then at 1052, arriving at 1052 and 1155 respectively, from Platform 13 or 14 operated by Arriva Trains Wales on a different route. (we'll come back to that shortly- they should go from 14 but the system currently has them on 13- the wrong side of the island platform).
The 0906 costs £6.30 if booked in advance, the two later ones you can book on the day and cost £20.80, so the choice is obvious.
The booking website is https://www.buytickets.northernrailway.co.uk/book/results?journeySearchType=single&origin=fd893606a110670c1fc0a692fdca7ff8&destination=cb01be9f1d7868bc8f632d8c7a4b1b73&outwardDateType=departAfter&outwardDate=2023-03-19T08%3A00%3A00&passengers%5B%5D=1993-03-05&directSearch=false&selectedCarrierFilterTab=ALL_TRAINS&referrer=MKT&selectedOutward=eFrnU1vuOrA%3D%3AV5ulXiqukyc%3D&temporalDirection=previous&transitDefinitionDirection=outward&paginationPriceDisplayed=false&searchId=be2dbb78-f508-412e-97eb-2396c72b9aee

But for completeness Platforms 13 and 14 are in a separate building to the side of the station. You follow the signs in the main station entrance, which will take you to Platforms 9 and 10. Then along the travelator, and up escalators to a higher level. Then follow the signs back down stairs or escalator to Platform 13/14. It is really simple and well signed. Writing directions makes it sound far more complicated.

Posted by
6434 posts

So- a Hotel. Because it is a Saturday night and a strike weekend rooms are scarce and expensive on the night of 18 to 19 March. In your circumstances it is not going to pay to be clever in finding a cheaper room.
So I would go for either a Premier Inn or a Travelodge-
At Premier Inn choose between the Portland Street, Princess Street, Manchester Central or Manchester City (Piccadilly) hotels- here-
https://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/search.html?searchModel.searchTerm=Manchester%20Piccadilly,%20Manchester,%20UK&PLACEID=ChIJOQYQc7-xe0gRJVrMCuEAoWc&ARRdd=18&ARRmm=3&ARRyyyy=2023&NIGHTS=1&ROOMS=1&ADULT1=1&CHILD1=0&COT1=0&INTTYP1=DB&BOOKINGCHANNEL=WEB&SORT=1&VIEW=2
At Travelodge choose between the Piccadilly, Ancoats, Central and Central Arena branches- here- https://www.travelodge.co.uk/search/results?location=Manchester&lat=&long=&action=search&source=l&checkIn=18%2F03%2F23&checkOut=19%2F03%2F23&rooms%5B0%5D%5Badults%5D=1&rooms%5B0%5D%5Bchildren%5D=0&sb=0
(most people on this forum, at a broadly similar price, prefer PI, these prices are eye watering for PI in the north of England, but it is what it is).
Once you have a hotel the specific directions can be firmed up.

On a Sunday the free rail link bus from Chester Station does not run, but it is only a short, very well signposted walk straight ahead out of the station.

Posted by
15545 posts

Don't worry about which track your train in on. The entrances to all the tracks are next to each other. The only difference is that the tracks for 13 and 14 are a couple of minutes walk from the entrance. You can't get lost or make a mistake. Just follow the signs--or the crowds.

I've lost count how many times I've used the tracks.

There are plenty of hotels near Manchester Piccadilly. However, don't wait much longer to make a reservation. Both Manchester football teams (soccer) have home matches that weekend and there is a concert that Saturday night at the Manchester Arena.

If you are arriving into Manchester Airport and taking the train into Manchester, it will probably arrive at Platform 14 so you will be a pro by the time you leave.

When you arrive at Manchester Piccadilly, go to the central part of the station and you'll see a big board with train information. Look for your train, confirm the platform, and go to the entrance of that platform. You will be asked to show your ticket at the entrance, and then you proceed to the track. Once you get to the platform, and the train arrives, look for your car, and get on. There will be train employees on the track and you can ask them where your car will be. It's not difficult.

There is no security and you are responsible for your own bags.

Posted by
7 posts

The first direct train is at 0906, arriving Chester at 1037- it departs from Platform 4. operated by Northern Rail.
The next one is at 0948 and then at 1052, arriving at 1052 and 1155 respectively, from Platform 13 or 14 operated by Arriva Trains Wales on a different route. (we'll come back to that shortly- they should go from 14 but the system currently has them on 13- the wrong side of the island platform).
The 0906 costs £6.30 if booked in advance, the two later ones you can book on the day and cost £20.80, so the choice is obvious.
The booking website is https://www.buytickets.northernrailway.co.uk/book/results?journeySearchType=single&origin=fd893606a110670c1fc0a692fdca7ff8&destination=cb01be9f1d7868bc8f632d8c7a4b1b73&outwardDateType=departAfter&outwardDate=2023-03-19T08%3A00%3A00&passengers%5B%5D=1993-03-05&directSearch=false&selectedCarrierFilterTab=ALL_TRAINS&referrer=MKT&selectedOutward=eFrnU1vuOrA%3D%3AV5ulXiqukyc%3D&temporalDirection=previous&transitDefinitionDirection=outward&paginationPriceDisplayed=false&searchId=be2dbb78-f508-412e-97eb-2396c72b9aee

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! The detailed instructions, times, links and hotel info are so incredibly helpful!!! I appreciate it so much!!

Ps. Thank you for not making me feel stupid. This is my first time trying to get around a different country and I’ve been so stressed about it. Blessings to you ❤️

Posted by
4290 posts

I will add that if the Motel One at Piccadilly is available, it is just across the street from the station and very easy to reach.

Posted by
6434 posts

What I am adding is that Transport for Wales are NOT on strike on 18 March, so it might be worth catching an evening train to Chester on 18 March and staying in Chester overnight then you are there ready in the morning.
The easiest option is the Premier Inn Chester (Railway Station). This is on the left hand side of City Road, less than 5 minutes walk out of the Station, and a far more sensible price. But plenty of other hotels, including on that road.

EDIT- The train planning systems for 18 March are still showing the Northern Rail trains as operating. Those have not yet been cancelled (and won't be until next week), but if the strike goes ahead, will not run, only the TfW trains will run..
On strike days Northern run a handful of routes- Manchester to Chester is not one of those.

Posted by
7 posts

When you arrive at Manchester Piccadilly, go to the central part of the station and you'll see a big board with train information. Look for your train, confirm the platform, and go to the entrance of that platform. You will be asked to show your ticket at the entrance, and then you proceed to the track. Once you get to the platform, and the train arrives, look for your car, and get on. There will be train employees on the track and you can ask them where your car will be. It's not difficult.
There is no security and you are responsible for your own bags.

Thank you so much for your help!!

Posted by
15545 posts

The following hotels are within a five minute walk to Manchester Piccadilly:

Premier Inn Manchester City (Piccadilly)

Motel One

Staycity Manchester Piccadilly

Holiday Inn Manchester Central

Doubletree Manchester Piccadilly

Malmaison Manchester Hotel.

If you aren't aware, there are three free bus services around Manchester that go past the major sights. They all start from outside the train station.

https://tfgm.com/public-transport/bus/free-bus

This website also has some excellent information on train travel in Europe:

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains

It may seem scary but it's not that difficult. You'll be a pro in no time.

One last thing, track information is usually not posted until about 20 minutes before departure. Don't worry about that as the furthest track is no more than a five minute walk.

Posted by
6434 posts

@ Sunbeam Road- I wasn't meaning you in my earlier comment.

Looking at the RS reference-

A few countries publish track numbers in their train schedules, but in most places you'll need to look for your platform information once you get to the station. Upcoming departures are displayed on large boards; track information is usually posted about a half-hour before the train departs.

This confuses the matter. In this country you are looking for signs to "Platforms", not "Tracks". "Tracks" is a North American word for where the trains stop.

Also

The configuration of many major trains is charted in display cases on the platform. As you wait, study the display to note where the first-class, second-class, restaurant, and sleeping cars are, and which cars are going where. First-class cars are always marked with a big "1" on the outside, second-class cars with a "2."

Those charts happen in Continental Europe- not in the UK. Here that detail is on the overhead monitors. Here we have first and standard (not 2nd class)- the train you will be using does not have first class. Also it barely matters to you as your train will only be between 2 and 4 coaches long.

Also-

Never assume the entire train is going where you are. For long hauls, each car is labeled separately, because cars are usually added and dropped here and there along the journey. I'll never forget one hot afternoon in the center of Spain. My train stopped in the middle of nowhere. There was some mechanical rattling. Then the train pulled away leaving me alone in my car — in La Mancha. Ten minutes later, another train came along, picked up my car, and I was on my way. To survive all this juggling without any panic, be sure that the city on your car's nameplate is your destination. The nameplate lists the final stop and some (but not all) of the stops in between.

Dividing en route is very rare in the UK. Don't worry about that. We don't use external name plates on the carriages [not cars here]. We use either paper signs in the door, or more often, electronic displays on the doors of the carriages of long distance trains. That is irrelevant to the trains you are using- you will see no external signage on the carriages as it is not needed.

I know all of this is old hat to many forum users, but you are a newbie.

Posted by
33124 posts

I have nothing to add. It has all been covered well.

Posted by
233 posts

"All trains leave from Manchester Piccadilly station."

There are direct trains from Manchester Oxford Road too.

If the OP is nervous about navigating large transport hubs, this is the better option as it is a lot smaller station than the very large and possibly intimdating Manc Picc. Most Transpeninne Express trains from Manchester Airport Station call at Oxford Road. At the very worse, it is just moving a few metres from one platform edge to the other, or quite possibly staying on the same platform for the Chester train.

Posted by
6434 posts

The Northern Rail trains to Chester do NOT go through Oxford Road, only the TfW ones- the Northern Rail ones take the southbound Stockport/Altrincham route- like the 0906 first train which I have recommended.
Not all Airport trains extend to Oxford Road- some Northern Rail ones terminate at Picc.
She has specifically said she wants to stay the previous night in Manchester City Centre, not the airport.
Assuming the OP is arriving originally at Manchester Airport (and I'm not sure she is) on a previous day all she wants is a train to Manchester Picc , not worry if it's going to Oxford Road (or Deansgate, or Victoria) or which company is running it or it's final destination, as well. Any train from the Airport will do that unless it's a southbound one for Crewe or Alderley Edge.

Posted by
233 posts

"The Northern Rail trains to Chester do NOT go through Oxford Road, only the TfW ones"

I didn't say they did, what however I did say was trains go direct from Oxford Rd to Chester, which they do. Depending where one is staying in Manc its just as easy to get to Oxford Rd and far less confusing and duanting for someone unfamilair with Manc and train travel in Blighty, I always use Oxford Rd in preference to Picc when I can. What is wrong with suggesting that?

Posted by
972 posts

Using Oxford Road station opens up a lot more hotel options and is smaller so much easier to navigate than Piccadilly, although as said above some direct trains don’t go that way.
If you want a high end option you can’t go better than the iconic Midland Hotel, where Mr Rolls met Mr Royce. But there are budget options including Premier Inns near too.
But given both Manchester City and Manchester United are at home and with a concert at the arena hotel beds are going to be scarce or very expensive at this stage anywhere in the city.

Posted by
233 posts

"Using Oxford Road station opens up a lot more hotel options and is smaller so much easier to navigate than Piccadilly"

Indeed there are, in fact there is PI right next to the station closer than any hotel is to Picc.

Posted by
6434 posts

For the record the OP went into DM's with me on the general trip, and a side trip. As I understand it the airport transfer was eventually by Uber. As I am thoughtful to someone particularly unused to transit I did actually monitor the particular rail services in case the industrial action had an ongoing impact on the Sunday, postponing something else I was meant to do on Sunday morning.