Opened in 1848, Chester General station was a joint station between the Chester and Holyhead Railway, the Chester and Crewe Railway and the Birkenhead Railway. Later these became the London and North Western Railway (which took over the Chester and Holyhead and the Chester and Crewe) and the Great Western Railway (GWR) (which ran the line to Wrexham and Shrewsbury) These companies owned the Birkenhead Railway jointly. Architecturally the station has an Italianate frontage designed by Francis Thompson. The station also has carved wooden owls at some strategic locations high in the roof beams to help deter feral pigeons. GWR and latterly BR Western Region express passenger trains operated from Birkenhead Woodside via Chester, Wrexham, Ruabon, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Wellington (Salop), Wolverhampton, Birmingham Snow Hill, Leamington Spa and Banbury to London Paddington station until 1967. From 1875, Chester was also served by Chester Northgate station (owned by the Cheshire Lines Committee); however, that station was closed in 1969 and is now the site of a leisure centre. In 1993, a line extension of the Wirral Line of the Merseyrail network was accomplished through the use of third rail electrification. The line ended at the station, and became the terminus of a branch of the Wirral Line, and providing frequent rapid access along the Wirral to Birkenhead and all four underground stations in central Liverpool. The historic Chester and Birkenhead Railway, the first railway to serve Chester then became a part of Merseyrail's Wirral Line.
The station was built between 1847 and 1848, designed by Francis Thompson, and built by the railway contractor Thomas Brassey. Also involved in the design and construction were the engineer C. H. Wild. who designed the train shed, and Robert Stephenson. It is built in Staffordshire blue brick and pale grey Storeton sandstone with slate roofs. Its architectural style is Italianate. It has a very long two-storey façade, with a 15-bay central section, and five-bay lateral projecting pavilions, each containing a pair of towers. The middle seven bays of the central section contain carvings by John Thomas. The station building is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building. A small plaque commemorating Thomas Brassey, one of the world's greatest railway building contractors in the early to mid-19th century, can be seen on the wall opposite the new booking office. Brassey was born at Buerton, on what is now the Eaton Estate, some 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Chester; the house is no longer standing.
Normal scheduled departures from Chester Station are: a quarter-hourly Merseyrail electric service on the Wirral Line to Liverpool, half-hourly in the evenings and on Sundays; frequent services on the North Wales Coast Line (thereby connecting with Holyhead for ferries to Dublin); Virgin Trains (West Coast) to London Euston via Crewe and to Holyhead; Arriva Trains Wales to Manchester Airport via Warrington Bank Quay and Cardiff Central/Birmingham New Street via Wrexham General as well as North Wales Coast Line trains to Crewe, Llandudno Junction, Llandudno, Holyhead; and Northern to Manchester Piccadilly via Northwich. From December 2017, there will also be an hourly train to Leeds stopping at Warrington Bank Quay, Newton-le-Willows Manchester Victoria, Bradford and Leeds.
Chester station has full disabled access. Platforms are accessible via lifts. There is an induction loop and help points. The station is has a booking office and is staffed 15 minutes before and after the first and last train. There is a payphone, vending machine, booking office and live departure and arrival screens, for passenger information. The station has lifts and is fully accessible for disabled users. There is a car park with 83 spaces and cycle racks for 68 cycles. The station has seven platforms. Platform 1 is a bay platform located at the east end (a second one alongside it is no longer utilised for passenger traffic but can be used for stock stabling). Platform 2 at the western end is another bay platform. Platform 3 is a through bi-directional platform and is closest to the concourse; it is split into sections 3a and 3b although on occasions a train will use the middle of the platform. Over the bridge – or by way of lifts – is the island platform. Opposite Platform 3 is Platform 4, another through bi-directional platform, with sections designated as 4a and 4b. There are two east facing bays (Platforms 5 and 6). Platform 7 is an additional through platform, the only one with third-rail electrification; it is split into 'a' (eastern) and 'b' (western) sections and thus capable of accommodating two trains at once. Bus Connection Timetable or see Connections below.
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