How to travel by train from Edinburgh to Manchester

Edinburgh to Manchester by train

How to travel from Edinburgh to Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations in Manchester

Pre-pandemic the train operator TransPennine Express had been offering trains on two different routes from Edinburgh to Manchester:
1: Faster services via the West Cost railway, which arrived at Manchester's Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations.
2: Slower, but more frequent services, which travelled on the East Coast railway and arrived at Manchester Victoria station.
However, the service on this second route has been suspended on the temporary revised timetable.

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Routes

Option 1: taking the faster route

Travel Information

TransPennine Express (TPE) now operates trains on two different routes between Edinburgh and Manchester

(1) The trains on this route via Preston are faster, but less frequent, as they are usually scheduled to depart every other hour, typically in even hours, but on Saturdays the final departure of the day is sooner at around 18:11.

In Manchester these trains arrive at Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations - and they travel beyond the city centre to arrive at Manchester Airport.

(2) The alternative currently suspended trains which usually depart hourly are slower, because the route taken via Newcastle and Leeds is longer.
However, in Manchester they use a different station to the trains on this route, as they call at Manchester Victoria.

Final Destination: Manchester Airport

All trains also call at: Penrith - North Lakes; Oxenholme - The Lake District and Preston.

Monday to Friday = 8 x trains per day
Saturday = 7 x trains
Sunday = 6 x trains

Tickets

Book Early and Save: Yes

Online Bookings Usually Open: from up to 24 weeks ahead of the travel date (usually); TransPennnine Express (TPE) places its ticket on sale sooner than other UK train operating companies.

Saving money:

If you want to travel at the cheapest possible price, look for the 'Advance tickets', though the four key things worth knowing about booking and using 'Advance' tickets in usual circumstances on this route are:
(1) The ticket(s) will be valid for the specific departure you select when making a booking.
(2) The ticket(s) cannot either be refunded, if you subsequently change your plans or miss the train due to any circumstances not attributable to the train operator.
(3) They can be exchanged to another departure on this route prior to the departure you have booked - but the price difference with the new ticket (the price will likely have risen since your original booking will need to be paid.
(4) TPE doesn't take Advance tickets off sale until 15 mins prior to departure.

Reservations:

All types of ticket booked at least 15 minutes ahead of travel for TPE trains have complimentary seat reservation.

If you book and Advance ticket(s) you have to travel on the train shown on the reservation, which will be the specific departure you selected when making a booking.
Though on boarding, you won't have to occupy the seat(s) you have been assigned for your ticket to be valid.

If you book Anytime or Off-Peak tickets you will be provided with a reservation(s) on the departure you selected when making a booking, but are able to transfer the reservation to any other valid departure on your travel date.
You can do this by contacting the TPE social media team, or at a station ticket desk.

What is unusual about travelling with TPE is that these reservations can be arranged up to around 15 minutes prior to departure - which is a much shorter time limit than the norm.

Travelling on Saturday-Sunday

Tickets are usually available 12 weeks ahead of the travel date, but maintenance work on the route is periodically undertaken at weekends and if it is scheduled on your travel date, it can affect when tickets will be released for sale.

If you're looking up a journey less than 12 weeks ahead and Advance tickets aren't available, it can be a good indication that works will be impacting on your travel date.
It can be worth checking this on the National Rail website - enter TransPennine Express as the operator.

Booking at the station

As TPE doesn't take Advance tickets off sale until 15 mins prior to departure, if you will be booking walk-up tickets at the station try to avoid booking at the last minute.

Offers and deals:

TPE offers a group deal for when groups of 3 - 9 adults are travelling together and Advance tickets are booked online - make sure you see the 'G' symbol which indicates that the discount has been applied.
You can save 33% of the total costs of the tickets and no Railcard is required.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
TPE *

TPE Guide

TPE offers three unconventional means of booking and using tickets for travel by the trains it operates:

  • Advance tickets can be booked online up to 15 mins before departure
  • Seats are assigned on TPE trains when booking up to an hour prior to departure
  • There is no charge for transferring Advance tickets to an alternative departure, on the route originally booked.

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesMountain views

Good to Know

Departing from Edinburgh

If the starting point of your journey is at the western end of the city centre, you can save time by heading to Edinburgh Haymarket station rather than Edinburgh Waverley, in order to board these trains.
The trains on the alternative route only depart from Edinburgh Waverley station.

Arriving in Manchester

It can be worth looking up the location of your final destination in Manchester before booking a journey; these trains arrive at stations to the south of the city centre, but the trains on the alternative route arrive at the station to its north.

If you'll be ultimately heading to the area around Oxford Road or Piccadilly stations, or will be happy to take a taxi, then taking the trains on this route become a logical choice; you'll get to your final destination faster.

Similarly if your end destination is adjacent to Victoria station, then the balance tips towards taking those trains on the currently suspended alternative route, as they arrive at that station.

The journey time to Manchester on that alternative route will be 35 - 40 minutes longer, but walking to Victoria from Oxford Road will take 20 - 30 minutes; and the transfer by tram from Piccadilly to Victoria will typically take 15 - 20 mins.

If you'll be happy to walk into the city centre, leave these trains at Oxford Road station.
It's the first station in the city that these trains will call at and exiting Oxford Road station will take under a minute; these trains will arrive on a platform (track) which is adjacent to the main station building.
In contrast, at Piccadilly station, these trains use a part of the station which is at the opposite end of the building to its main exit.
So when walking to the city centre alighting at Oxford Road will save time and is more straightforward.

If you will be taking a tram on to a destination outside the city centre the tram routes from Piccaddilly station go to Etihad Campus and Media City, but Victoria station has direct trams to Chorlton and Bury.
The trams don't serve Oxford Road station.

Making a connection between tram routes at the city centre stops is straightforward, but the transfer to the trams is easier and quicker at Victoria station than it is at Piccadilly station.

Heading south from Carstairs Heading south from Carstairs
Approaching the Scottish Uplands Approaching the Scottish Uplands
Passing through the Scottish Uplands Passing through the Scottish Uplands
Between Lockerbie and Carlisle Between Lockerbie and Carlisle
Travelling towards Penrith from Carlisle Travelling towards Penrith from Carlisle
Looking from the right towards the Lake District in the distance Looking from the right towards the Lake District in the distance
Through the Lune Gorge between Penrith and Oxenholme Through the Lune Gorge between Penrith and Oxenholme
Approaching Oxenholme station on the left look out for Low Gill viaduct Approaching Oxenholme station on the left look out for Low Gill viaduct
South of Oxenholme heading towards Carnforth South of Oxenholme heading towards Carnforth
Look out on the right for the glimpse of Morecambe Bay Look out on the right for the glimpse of Morecambe Bay

For the majority of this journey the train will travel through a majestic landscape.

South of Carstairs the railway follows a route through the beautiful Southern Uplands.

Before the train has passed through Lockerbie station, the views as the railway climbs and then descends over Beattock summit, are particularly special.

Between Carlisle and Lancaster the railway takes a route between The Lake District to the west and the Pennines to the east;so there are great views to be enjoyed from both sides of the train towards distant mountains.

Approximately 10 minutes north of Oxenholme comes one of the highlights of the journey when the railway travels through the Lune Gorge - though here the best views are from the left (when facing the direction of travel).

A beautiful landmark to look out for on the left, just after the train enters the gorge, is the spectacular sight of Low Gill Viaduct, on a now abandoned railway.

Around five minutes north of Lancaster, the West Coast Main Line, briefly lives up to its name with a fleeting glimpse of Morecambe Bay, the only sea view on the journey.

Option 2: the more frequent route (currently suspended)

Travel Information

TransPennine Express (TPE) now operates trains on two different routes between Edinburgh and Manchester

(1) These trains which usually depart hourly are slower, because the route taken via Newcastle and Leeds is longer.
In Manchester they arrive at Victoria station.

(2) The trains on the alternative route via Preston are faster, but less frequent, as they are usually scheduled to depart every other hour.
In Manchester those trains arrive at Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations; and they travel beyond the city centre to arrive at Manchester Airport.

Final Destination: Liverpool Lime Street

All trains also call at: Leeds and Huddersfield

1 x train per hour

Tickets

Book Early and Save: Yes

Online Bookings Usually Open: from up to 24 weeks ahead of the travel date (usually) - TransPennnine Express (TPE) places its ticket on sale sooner than other UK train operating companies.

Saving money:

If you want to travel at the cheapest possible price, look for the 'Advance tickets', though the three key things worth knowing about booking and using 'Advance' tickets on this route are:
(1) The ticket(s) will be valid for the specific departure you select when making a booking.
(2) The ticket(s) cannot either be refunded, if you subsequently change your plans or miss the train due to any circumstances not attributable to the train operator.
(3) They can be exchanged to another departure on this route prior to the departure you have booked; but the price difference with the new ticket (the price will likely have risen since your original booking will need to be paid.

Reservations:

All types of ticket booked at least 15 minutes ahead of travel for TPE trains have complimentary seat reservation.

If you book and Advance ticket(s) you have to travel on the train shown on the reservation - which will be the specific departure you selected when making a booking.
Though on boarding, you won't have to occupy the seat(s) you have been assigned for your ticket to be valid.

If you book Anytime or Off-Peak tickets you will be provided with a reservation(s) on the departure you selected when making a booking, but are able to transfer the reservation to any other valid departure on your travel date.
You can do this by contacting the TPE social media team, or at a station ticket desk.

What is unusual about travelling with TPE is that these reservations can be arranged up to around 15 minutes prior to departure - which is a much shorter time limit than the norm.

Travelling on Saturday-Sunday

Tickets are usually available 12 weeks ahead of the travel date, but maintenance work on the route is periodically undertaken at weekends and if it is scheduled on your travel date, it can affect when tickets will be released for sale.

If you're looking up a journey less than 12 weeks ahead and Advance tickets aren't available, it can be a good indication that works will be impacting on your travel date.
It can be worth checking this on the National Rail website - enter TransPennine Express as the operator.

Booking at the station

If you will be booking at the station less than a couple of hours prior to departure, you will have to purchase non-discounted Off-Peak or Anytime tickets - with Anytime tickets being the most expensive of all.

Offers and deals:

TPE offers a group deal for when groups of 3 - 9 adults are travelling together and Advance tickets are booked online - make sure you see the 'G' symbol which indicates that the discount has been applied.
You can save 33% of the total costs of the tickets and no Railcard is required.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
TPE *

TPE Guide

TPE offers three unconventional means of booking and using tickets for travel by the trains it operates:

  • Advance tickets can be booked online up to 15 mins before departure
  • Seats are assigned on TPE trains when booking up to an hour prior to departure
  • There is no charge for transferring Advance tickets to an alternative departure, on the route originally booked.

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesCoastal views

Good to Know

Arriving in Manchester

It can be worth looking up the location of your final destination in Manchester before booking a journey - these trains arrive at a station to the north of the city centre, but the trains on the alternative route arrive at stations on the opposite side of the city.

If you'll be ultimately heading to the area around Oxford Road or Piccadilly stations, or will be happy to take a taxi, then taking the trains on that other route becomes a logical choice; you'll get to your final destination faster.

However, if your end destination is adjacent to Victoria station, then the balance tips towards taking these trains as they arrive at that station.
The journey time to Manchester on this route via Leeds will be 35 - 40 minutes longer than taking those alternative trains, but walking to Victoria from Oxford Road will take 20 - 30 minutes; and the transfer by tram from Piccadilly to Victoria will typically take 15 - 20 mins.

At Piccadilly station those other trains from Edinburgh use a part of the station which is at the opposite end of the building to its main exit, but at Victoria station, these trains usually arrive at an area of the station, which is just steps away from its concourse and exits.

If you will be taking a tram on to a destination outside the city centre the tram routes from Piccadilly station go to Etihad Campus and Media City, but Victoria station has direct trams to Chorlton and Bury.
The trams don't serve Oxford Road station.

Making a connection between tram routes at the city centre stops is straightforward, but the transfer to the trams is easier and quicker at Victoria station than it is at Piccadilly station

Sadly there is  no guarantee of rainbows as the train leaves Edinburgh behind Sadly there is no guarantee of rainbows as the train leaves Edinburgh behind
Look out on the left for the view of the Bass Rock Look out on the left for the view of the Bass Rock
By the coast to the south of Dunbar By the coast to the south of Dunbar
An attempt to capture the ride across the clifftops north of Berwick An attempt to capture the ride across the clifftops north of Berwick
Passing by the town of Alnmouth Passing by the town of Alnmouth
Looking down on the River Tyne as the train departs Newcastle Looking down on the River Tyne as the train departs Newcastle
The stunning view over the city of Durham The stunning view over the city of Durham
Looking towards the Pennines as the train nears Manchester Looking towards the Pennines as the train nears Manchester

This is a journey with five distinct phases - most of which have multiple highlights.

(1) Most of the journey between Edinburgh and Alnmouth is beside the coast

The sea views kick in before the train has even left Edinburgh behind; and they initially continue until south of Dunbar.

To the north of Berwick-upon-Tweed the train will travel across the clifftops as it crosses the border into England - these are the most dramatic coastal views on the journey (though they are tricky to photograph).

Minutes after the train has passed through Berwick-upon-Tweed, the next highlight is the view from the majestic Royal Border Bridge.
Between there and Alnmouth there are views on the left over the dramatic Northumberland coast.

(2) Between Alnmouth and Darlington the railway snakes its way through the towns and cities of north-east England, and just before Newcastle station  on the left there are views of the city's iconic Tyne Bridge

The next highlight of the journey is the passage over the River Tyne, as the train departs from Newcastle Central station and heads over the King Edward VII Bridge.
Looking to the left, five other bridges that span the river can be seen.

Around 15 mins after leaving Newcastle comes the final highlight of the journey - the stunning views over the city of Durham.
Over on the left before and after the station, the town's stunning castle and cathedral can be clearly seen in all their glory.

(3) The train will attain the highest speeds of the journey as it races across the flat landscape between Darlington and York.

(4) From York to Huddersfield the train will pass through a series of towns and the city of Leeds

(5) West of Huddersfield the railway travels through the Pennine hills and there are some occasional views over the dramatic landscape from both sides of the train.

If when you board, you discover that your assigned seat(s) are on the right-hand side of the train, when facing the direction of travel, see if you can find available seats on the left of the train.
If you move to a different seat(s) it won't affect the validity of your ticket.

The sea views on this journey are on the left.
If your ticket(s) don't include reserved seats, then try to choose seats on the left; when facing the direction of travel.

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