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Picc-Vic Tunnel

An artist's impression of the Picc-Vic line (1971)[1]
Type Commuter rail
System Greater Manchester Transport/British Rail
Status Abandoned proposal
Locale Manchester, England, UK
Termini Manchester Victoria
Manchester Piccadilly
Stations 5
Services 1
Opened 1977 (planned)
Line length 2.75 mi (4.43 km)
Track length 2.75 mi (4.43 km)
Highest elevation Underground

"Picc-Vic" was the name given to a proposal to connect two major mainline railway terminals in central Manchester, England, in the early 1970s. The name Picc-Vic was a contraction of the two station names, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria. The proposal envisaged the construction of an underground tunnel across the city. The scheme was eventually abandoned while still at the proposal stage due to costs.



A 1910 map of Manchester's railways

The railway network built in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by numerous railway companies had created a number of railway termini around the periphery of Manchester City Centre. Unlike London, which had linked its stations with the London Underground, Manchester had a large central area which was not served by rail transport.

For many years there had been plans to connect Manchester's two main railway stations, Piccadilly and Victoria. The Picc-Vic proposal envisaged joining the two halves of the rail network by constructing new tunnels under the city centre. This new underground railway would be served by three new underground stations, joining together the regional, national and local rail networks with an underground railway system for Manchester.[1] The proposal was abandoned because of excessive cost.

Proposals & objectives

Map of the Picc-Vic route under Manchester[1]

The scheme was put forward by SELNEC PTE (South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire Public Transport Executive), the local transport authority which later became GMPTE when the Metropolitan County of Greater Manchester was formed from the SELNEC area in 1974.

The objectives of the Picc-Vic tunnel were threefold:

  1. To improve the distribution arrangements from the existing railway stations which are on the periphery of the central core
  2. To link the separated northern and southern railway systems
  3. To improve passenger movement within the central area.

It formed part of a four-phase, Long Term Strategy for the PTE over 25 years, which included bus priority, an East-West railway network, as well as a light rapid transport system.


The Picc-Vic scheme was eventually abandoned in 1977 owing to excessive cost. An underground excavation and construction project required a large initial outlay of public funds, and when Greater Manchester Council took on the project, it was unable to secure the necessary funding from central government.[2]

Although the Picc-Vic scheme was not successful, it later evolved into the Metrolink light rail system that operates in the city today. In the city centre, Metrolink operates along on-street tram lines, a much cheaper alternative to constructing underground rail tunnels.

In 2008, over 30 years after the project was cancelled, prospects of an underground rail link under Manchester were revived by Transport Secretary and MP for Bolton West, Ruth Kelly, who announced a Department for Transport study of rail provision.[3]


Picc-Vicc tunnel, Manchester
(abandoned proposal)
to Bolton 
Continuation backward Continuation backward
 to Bury
Track turning left Unknown route-map component "ABZlr" Track turning right
Enter tunnel
Unknown route-map component "tINT"
 Victoria Low Level National Rail
Unknown route-map component "etHST"
 Market Street
Unknown route-map component "tSTR"
travelator icon Travelator to  
Unknown route-map component "etHST"
 Albert Sq./St. Peter's Sq
National Rail Oxford Road  
Unknown route-map component "tSTR"
Unknown route-map component "tSTR"
Unknown route-map component "etHST"
 Princess Street
travelator icon Travelator to  
Unknown route-map component "tINT"
 Piccadilly Low Level National Rail
Piccadilly Gardens  
Unknown route-map component "tSTR"
Exit tunnel
Track turning from left Unknown route-map component "ABZrl" Track turning from right
to Macclesfield 
Continuation forward Continuation forward
 to Hazel Grove
&Alderley Edge 
A prototype SELNEC interactive display board, now on display at the Manchester Museum of Transport

The proposed new link would have been 2.75 miles (4.43 km) long, and run from Ardwick Junction, a mile south of Piccadilly Station, to Queens Road Junction on the Bury line, about three-quarters of a mile north of Victoria. Just over 2 miles (3.2 km) of the new line would have been in tunnel, most of which would be 60-70 feet beneath the centre of Manchester. The southern approach ramp would have been built on the surface and in a shallow tunnel.

There would be two separate tracks, each electrified on the 25kV AC system. In the deep tunnel section there would be separate bores for each track. The track would consist of continuous welded rails on concrete foundations - 'slab track'. The tunnel would be controlled by BR's standard three-aspect colourlight system together with their automatic warning system (AWS). This would permit train frequencies of 90 seconds, although initial proposals envisaged a 2.5 minute headway.


Five new central area stations were planned on the Picc-Vic line, including two low-level platforms at Piccadilly and Victoria stations.[1] Each would have been built on a straight section of track and would have taken trains of up to 8-cars. There would have been escalators to the surface level, and lifts for the disabled. CIS and PA systems would be installed, along with CCTV to make high staffing levels unnecessary.

Piccadilly Low Level would be a side-platform station, built in a 'cut-and-cover' section, with a mezzanine level concourse. Escalators would take passengers to both the Picc-Vic and East-West platforms, along with a subway-escalator link to the mainline station concourse, and a direct link to a new 12-stand bus station, next to the new station. Victory House, a planned development by UMIST (now the University of Manchester), would also be served by the station.

Princess Street (or Whitworth) would have been built on the site of the present Whitworth House, with a direct link to the proposed major development north and east of the station, as well as serving the Manchester College site (formerly City College Manchester, previously Sheena Simon College, and before that the Mather College of Education), UMIST, as well as other developments.

Albert Square/St. Peter's Square (or Central), serving the administrative and entertainment parts of the city, would have six entrances in St Peter's Square, together with a bus lay-by, part of a re-designed square. Albert Square would also be redesigned, with a concourse beneath the square, along with a direct link into the Heron House development and a travelator link to Oxford Road railway station.

Market Street (or Royal Exchange) would have lain beneath the junction of Corporation Street, Cross Street, and Market Street, directly linking into the Royal Exchange, Marks & Spencer, as well as the Arndale Centre.

Victoria Low Level would have a concourse below Long Millgate, serving the Co-Operative HQ and the Corn Exchange. Development of the Picc-Vic would also allow the main line station to be rationalised and redeveloped, along with a proposed new bus station.

A schematic map of proposed passenger rail services across Manchester via the Picc-Vic line[1]

Infrastructure works completed

Projects at Bury Interchange, Altrincham Interchange, and Hazel Grove Branch electrification/improvement were completed, despite the overall scheme being abandoned.

External links

Further reading

  • Picc-Vic Project, G.M.C., 1975, ISBN 500005528


  1. ^ a b c d e SELNEC PTE (October 1971), SELNEC Picc-Vic Line, SELNEC PTE   publicity brochure
  2. ^ English Structure Planning. Routledge. 1983. pp. 45. ISBN 0-85086-094-6.  
  3. ^ Slater, Alan (2008-02-12). "Rail tunnel vision revived". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2009-03-08.  


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