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The Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) was the second largest joint railway in Great Britain.
Despite its name 143 route miles were in Lancashire. In its publicity material it was often styled as the Cheshire Lines Railway. It served the cities and towns of Liverpool, Manchester, Stockport, Warrington, Widnes, Northwich, Winsford, Knutsford, Birkenhead, Chester and Southport.
Initially the Cheshire Lines group had been formed by a joint committee of the Great Northern Railway and the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR) in 1862 to regulate traffic on four proposed lines in Cheshire. This was made official by the Great Northern (Cheshire Lines) Act of 1863. The Midland Railway became an equal partner under the Cheshire Lines Transfer Act of 1865. Under the Cheshire Lines Act of 1867 it became a wholly independent company, although its management consisted of three directors of the three companies. Its purpose was to gain control of lines in Lancashire and Cheshire, an area which was dominated by the LNWR. In its early years the driving force behind the expansion of the railway was Sir Edward Watkin.
It was granted the powers to build a line to Liverpool, which opened 1873, from a temporary station in Manchester, and totaled 34 miles in length. The section from Liverpool was on the Garston and Liverpool Railway which had been absorbed on 5 July 1865.
From 1874 the CLC was headquartered at Liverpool Central station.
It was necessary to bring the various operations into a single terminus. The Midland and the MS&LR were using London Road (now Piccadilly) which the latter shared with the LNWR. Accordingly Manchester Central was built and fully opened in 1880.
In 1923 the Midland Railway, along with the LNWR, was grouped into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, while the MS&LR (by then the Great Central Railway) became part of the London and North Eastern Railway. On nationalisation in 1948, both parent companies became part of British Railways.