Atherton railway station
Atherton railway station in 2010
|Number of platforms||2|
|Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections|
from National Rail Enquiries
|Annual rail passenger usage*|
|Passenger Transport Executive|
|1 July 1888||Station opens as Atherton Central|
|1954||Station renamed Atherton|
|National Rail – UK railway stations|
|* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Atherton from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.|
|UK railways portal|
Atherton railway station serves the town of Atherton, Greater Manchester, England, and is the main station on the line between Wigan and Manchester on the Manchester to Southport Line, and according to Strategic Rail Authority figures is the busiest station on the line (excluding Wigan and Manchester; Salford Crescent is technically not on the line).
Atherton is the nearest station to Leigh, one of the largest towns in Britain without its own railway station. The 582 bus service provides a frequent service to Leigh and Bolton, a connection not overly promoted by Transport for Greater Manchester.
Although it lies some distance from the centre of the town, the present Atherton station was originally named Atherton Central to differentiate it from Atherton Bag Lane (on the line from Bolton Great Moor Street to Kenyon Junction) which was closed in 1954 and Howe Bridge on the line between Wigan North Western and Manchester Exchange.
The station dates from 1888, when the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway opened a direct line between Windsor Bridge Junction and Crow Nest Junction (near Hindley) to shorten its main line between Manchester and Liverpool and avoid the congested Bolton area. It was well used from the beginning and was subsequently quadrupled shortly after the turn of the century, later carrying through expresses from Manchester to Blackpool, Windermere and Glasgow (again to avoid Bolton) in addition to Liverpool workings.
The cutbacks of the mid to late 1960s saw all the long distance services diverted via other routes, rendering the additional ('fast line') tracks obsolete and they were taken out of use on 21 November 1965. The inner tracks and platform faces on each side were retained to serve the two remaining lines to begin with (even though the tracks had previously been arranged with fast lines serving one island platform and the slows the other), but in the late 1980s the surviving tracks were realigned so as to serve just one of the two island platforms (the one used by the old fast lines) in order to allow the other to be abandoned. It was subsequently demolished and the former site is now heavily overgrown.
During the early to middle 1970s, the station had a sparse service outside weekday peak periods (see British Railways timetable 95, 1974) but in more recent times, the frequency levels have improved considerably with financial support from GMPTE, with a resultant increase in patronage.
When Sectorisation was introduced in the 1980s, the station was served by Regional Railways with support from the PTE, an arrangement that continued after the Privatisation of British Railways with co-operation from the current operating company.
The station has a ticket office, which is manned throughout the hours of service on weekdays and Saturdays (06:10 - 23:45) but closed on Sundays; a self-service ticket machine is also available in the booking hall. There is a waiting room at platform level, along with digital information screens, timetable posters and a P.A system to offer automated train running announcements. Step-free access to the platform from the ticket office is via a lift, but this is not available when the ticket office is closed.
Monday to Saturday daytimes, there are three departures each hour to Manchester Victoria (one of which continues through to Blackburn via Todmorden and the other to Leeds) and three per hour towards Wigan Wallgate - these continue onwards to either Southport or Kirkby northbound.
In the evening there is an hourly service in each direction to Manchester Victoria and Wigan.
Recent timetables provide a convenient connection (although a platform change must be made which is not possible for wheelchair users) at Hindley for services to Bolton.
On 23 May 2010 a Sunday service was introduced as a 12-month trial by GMPTE, providing an hourly service until the early evening. Previously no trains had called at the station on Sundays since the summer of 1966. This service remains in operation in the current 2017 timetable.
Atherton railway station gained notability when it was the scene of a filmed arrest. Frank Garnett, of Ancoats, arranged to meet up with what he thought was a 14-year-old girl but was instead approached by vigilante group Nonces Not Welcome. The group had stung Garnett, who was filmed being arrested and handcuffed when police arrived. Garnett, in his defense, claimed he was "just having a bit of online fun" and that that he "probably just would have kissed her". 
- Atherton Bag Lane Archived 5 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- Atherton station in 1977 Whatley, Peter Geograph.org; Retrieved 20 December 2016
- Atherton station facilities Archived 4 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine National Rail Enquiries; Retrieved 20 December 2016
- New Sunday services for rail line BBC News article 20 December 2009; Retrieved 9 August 2017
- Friends of Walkden Station Weblog Archived 10 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2010-02-25
- Table 82 National Rail timetable, May 2017 (Network Rail)
- "Man trapped by 'paedophile hunter'". The Bolton News.
- StoicVampire Pig (22 February 2017), Frank Garnett caught by Nonces Not Welcome meeting 14 year old girl for sex, retrieved 10 April 2019
- Butt, R. V. J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199.
- Jowett, Alan (2000). Jowett's Nationalised Railway Atlas (1st ed.). Penryn, Cornwall: Atlantic Transport Publishers. ISBN 978-0-906899-99-1. OCLC 228266687.
- Jowett, Alan (March 1989). Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland: From Pre-Grouping to the Present Day (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-086-0. OCLC 22311137.
- Atherton station on navigable O.S. map
- New Sunday services for rail line
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|Preceding station||National Rail||Following station|
|Daisy Hill or