Piccadilly is one of the busiest major stations in England outside London for passenger usage, and was the busiest in 2006. It is the fourth busiest station in the United Kingdom outside London for footfall (visitor numbers). It is one of 18 British railway stations managed by Network Rail. According to an independent poll carried out in 2007, Manchester Piccadilly has the highest customer satisfaction level of any UK station, with 92% of passengers satisfied with the station; the national average was 60%.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, London Road station was served by the London & North Western Railway, the Great Central Railway and through running powers, the North Staffordshire Railway. Following the 1923 railway grouping, the station was served by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway. Even after nationalisation in 1948, London Road station was operated as two independent sides, separated by formidable iron railings located where platform 5 now is. On one side was the London Midland Region of British Railways; on the other was the Eastern Region.
In 1910 a second nearby terminus, Mayfield station, was opened to cope with the huge volume of passengers. It was closed generally to passenger trains by 1952 but remained in use until August 1960 for "overflow" local services and also for one major passenger train, the Pines Express from Bournemouth to Manchester. It reopened as a parcels depot in 1970 but closed again. The long-disused building is visible across Fairfield Street from platforms 13 and 14.
London Road station was renamed to its present name of Manchester Piccadilly when it was rebuilt and reopened on 12 September 1960 for the new London Midland Region electric train services to London. The MSJAR platforms and the bridges over Fairfield Street were replaced again at this time. The island platforms were built on top of a new pre-stressed concrete slab bridge with cantilevered sides for the tracks. The MSJAR platforms were further rebuilt and lengthened in 1988 in connection with the opening of the Windsor Link. The glass roof over the terminal platforms was completely replaced in the late 1990s. The train shed is a Grade II listed building. In 2001-2002, as part of preparations for the 2002 Commonwealth Games the remainder of the station was rebuilt, to designs by BDP, greatly increasing the size of the station concourse and improving access for road traffic.
The station undercroft (two levels below the main rail platforms) has been converted to provide two platforms for the Manchester Metrolink tram system, which opened in 1992.
The Fairfield Street entrance, at basement level, serves the car park, taxi rank, and the Manchester Metrolink station. Above, at track level, is a large modern concourse into which the main entrance from Piccadilly Approach feeds. It contains ticket offices, information points, seating, modern timetables, public toilets, shops (including, but not limited to, Sainsbury's, WH Smiths and Thorntons) and food/drink outlets (including, but not limited to, Millies Cookies, The Upper Crust, Burger King and Starbucks). Above the concourse is a second level of food outlets (including KFC) and bars, as well as the Virgin Trains First Class Lounge.
On the main concourse, glass doors within a large glass wall lead to platforms 1 to 12 in the main trainshed. A travelator leads to the upper concourse linked by footbridge, steps and lift to platforms 13 and 14. This island lounge contains a WH Smiths and Costa Coffee bar, as well as customer toilets and a 'departure lounge' with seating. There are also vending machines and two waiting areas/snack bars on platforms 13/14.
Manchester Piccadilly is fully accessible for disabled people, including (as well as static stairs), escalators and lifts to all levels, wide access doors and gates, Braille, and hearing loops throughout, as well as disabled toilet facilities.
Manchester Piccadilly handles about 1,000 train movements daily.
The Piccadilly Metrolink station is currently closed as part of a major tram track upgrade programme in the city centre of Manchester.
Manchester Piccadilly is currently served by six train operating companies.
Northern Rail provide the majority of local train services to stations in the Manchester area, primarily to destinations to the south and east of the city. These include Buxton, Crewe, Chester, Glossop, Hazel Grove, Macclesfield, Manchester Airport, Marple, Sheffield, Stockport, and Wilmslow.
Arriva Trains Wales provide hourly services to both North and South Wales. North Wales services run via Chester and the North Wales Coast Line to destinations such as Llandudno and Holyhead. South Wales services run via Shrewsbury and the Welsh Marches Line to Cardiff Central, with many services continuing to Carmarthen or Milford Haven. Class 175 Coradia units operate almost all of Arriva Trains Wales' services out of Manchester, with Class 158 units occasionally substituting.
CrossCountry provide a half-hourly service to Birmingham New Street. An hourly service continues beyond Birmingham to Reading, with selected services continuing to Southampton Central, Bournemouth, Gatwick Airport, Brighton, and Guildford. There is also a two-hourly service to Plymouth, with some services continuing to Penzance, and a summer service beyond Plymouth to Newquay, usually on a hired High Speed Train.
East Midlands Trains provide an hourly service from Liverpool Lime Street via Piccadilly to Sheffield and Nottingham, with most trains continuing to Norwich. Class 158 Express units are used for these services.
First Transpennine Express operate services on three routes.
The North TransPennine route sees a quarter-hourly service to Leeds via Huddersfield, with one train per hour continuing to each of Hull, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Scarborough. In the opposite direction, one train per hour continues from Piccadilly to each of Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport. A two-hourly service to Leeds and York operates after midnight, providing a 24-hour service.
The TransPennine North West services run from Manchester Airport via Piccadilly to Preston via Bolton and Chorley every half hour, with trains continuing to Blackpool North every hour, and each of Barrow-in-Furness and Windermere every two hours, as well as continuing to Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central, some of which are combined with services to Windermere, Blackpool North and Barrow-in-Furness.
Class 185 Desiro units now work the majority of services, replacing the class 158s on the North and South services, and the class 175s on the North West services. Most of the Manchester-Hull services are operated by Class 170 Turbostar units.
Virgin Trains run a half hourly service to London Euston via Stoke-on-Trent, as part of their West Coast franchise. These services are operated using Pendolino trains. Virgin also operate a service northwards to Glasgow, an early morning departure to Glasgow, and a late evening return from Glasgow, both of which call at Carstairs.