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How to travel from Manchester to Liverpool by bus, train, car or boat

I often travel between Manchester and Liverpool to run my photo walks, visit friends or just explore the city. So what's the cheapest way to do the journey? And what's the quickest way? There are lots of options: road, rail, canal, footpath. And is it possible to fly? Read on to find out more.

Liverpool and Manchester are the two biggest cities in North West England. They are approximately 35 miles apart apart and I have made the journey between them many times. People often ask me for information so I decided to write this article.

National Express coach, still the cheapest transport method between Liverpool and Manchester, but only just!
The National Express bus offers the cheapest fare between Manchester and Liverpool, but after the fare increase of April 2015, it is only slightly cheaper than the train. The service runs approximately every hour during the day, less frequently in the evening. To book, go to the National Express website and look for the cheapest fare. You can also buy your ticket at the coach station or (with some restrictions) from the driver.

The day return economy fare between Manchester and Liverpool was 7.60 but in 2015 it was increased to 11. It may be possible to obtain cheaper fares - Funfares - by booking well in advance. Always visit the website to find the most up to date information and the lowest fares.

National Express coaches use National Express coach stations, Manchester Central Coach Station is located on Chorlton St, close to Piccadilly Gardens and Piccadilly station (postcode: M1 3JF). Liverpool Norton St Coach Station is located about 10 minutes walk from Lime St Station (postcode:L1 1JD). If there are no delays, the coach journey between Liverpool and Manchester takes just under one hour.

If you're going to or from Liverpool John Lennon Airport then you can take the coach shuttle bus service operated by Terravision. It runs hourly from very early morning until after midnight. It operates from Manchester's Shudehill Transport Interchange and arrives outside the terminal building at Liverpool John Lennon Airport next to the Yellow Submarine artwork some 50 minutes later. The journey in the other direction is about the same.

Northern Train crossing the M60 near Eccles with bus and lorry
Northern Train crossing the M60 near Eccles with bus and lorry

Manchester to Liverpool by rail: second cheapest and also the quickest
The rail fare between Manchester and Liverpool is slightly more than the bus. In early to mid-2015, the off peak day return between both cities in either direction is 12.30. You have a choice between Manchester Piccadilly on southern edge of the city centre or Manchester Victoria Station on the northern side. Journey times range from just over three quarters of an hour to over one and three quarter hours. For full details and to book tickets go to www.thetrainline.com or any of the train operator websites such as www.northernrail.org.

Historical note: Manchester and Liverpool are pioneer cities in rail travel. The first passenger railway service began in 1830. The original station building still exists. It's part of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. Travelling at 14 mph, I calculate that the journey must have taken around three hours. In the mid-20th century steam era, the journey between Manchester and Liverpool was faster and more frequent than today.

Liverpool Lime Street Station

Services from Liverpool Lime St to Manchester Victoria run mostly along the original 1830 route. In mid 2015 the last train from Liverpool Lime St to Manchester leaves Lime St at 23.38. In the other direction it's at 23.37 from Oxford Road. But please always check up to date schedules before booking or travelling.

M62 motorway near Glazebrook between Manchester and Liverpool

Drive along the M62 between Manchester and Liverpool or maybe the M56
The most convenient, and maybe the fastest method if you break the speed limit: not a good idea! is to drive by car between Manchester and Liverpool, probably along the M62, but if you're going to and/or from the southern parts of both cities, you could also take the M56, or a combination of M62 and M56. If you're going from the north of Greater Manchester towards the north of Merseyside and Liverpool, it might be worth taking the A580 East Lancs Road.

Historical note: The A580 East Lancs Road was the UK's first purpose-built road constructed to link two cities. It was completed in 1934 and has since been widened and adapted. The section of the M62 Transpennine motorway that runs between Manchester and Liverpool was completed in the 1970s.

The distance from the eastern end of the M602 motorway at Cross Lane, Salford to the western end of the M62 at Queens Drive, Broadgreen, Liverpool is 27.8 miles (44.5 kilometres). I can cover this distance at quiet times in less than 30 minutes. If you add on the journey along busy urban roads at either end, the total journey time will be around one hour, at rush hour times considerably longer. For the return journey I generally use around two gallons of petrol (c9 litres) costing around 10. (mid-2015 prices).

By boat, bike, horse and on foot
Believe it or not, it is possible to travel by ship from Manchester to Liverpool. You can do this on the Manchester Ship Canal Cruise, operated by Mersey Ferries in the summer months using one of their celebrated river ferries. The journey takes around 6 hours. You can sit or stand on deck or watch the landscape pass by. Over the PA, there is a commentary from a tour guide as the ferry makes its way along this impressive waterway, which was opened in 1894. It's a wonderful experience, I highly recommend it.

Mersey Ferry on the Manchester Ship Canal Cruise at Irlam

You can cycle, horse ride or walk from Manchester to Liverpool or vice versa along the Transpennine Trail, a continuous footpath that runs across northern England from coast to coast.

To my knowledge, there is no air service between Manchester and Liverpool. It might be possible to take a balloon from somewhere near Liverpool to somewhere in the Manchester area and it might be possible to fly by microlight from Barton Aerodrome (rebranded as 'Manchester City Airport') coming down in a field somewhere not too far from Liverpool, but to the best of my knowledge, all scheduled transport services operate at ground level!

Happy travelling between our two great North Western cities of Liverpool and Manchester!

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2015-05-06

You are looking at a page on the legacy site of Aidan O'Rourke Photographer, Videomaker, Coach in Languages and Photography. This is an archived page and is no longer updated. Some information may now be out of date / inaccurate. Please go to the home page www.aidan.co.uk for up to date information. Thank you, Aidan O'Rourke

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