An electric train has travelled to and from Blackpool for the first time, as infrastructure was last night tested along the 17-mile route between the seaside town and Preston.
The Blakcpool North-Preston programme has been a key part of the £1bn Great North Rail Project, with ten weekend closures early in 2017 to improve drainage and realign tracks, before 84 signals were replaced and the route fully electrified. Works have also included a platform reduction at Blackpool North and a new platform at Kirkham & Wesham.
The successful testing will come as a relief to Government as well as the rail operators, with the Department for Transport continuing to face heavy criticism for delays elsewhere in the electrification programme. In particular there is resentment that the Manchester-Preston via Bolton works are not now expected to offer passengers the benefits of additional services until December.
In the 18 month Blakcpool-Preston programme more than 1,000 steel structures have been installed as every moving part on the railway has been replaced.
The Pendolino train travelled from Preston to Blackpool North and back under the supervision of Network Rail’s Team Orange engineers. Services are to run to a new timetable from Sunday.
Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “The successful testing of the newly electrified railway is the latest step to provide customers with a better, more reliable railway.
“The Great North Rail Project is transforming rail travel across the north of England and passengers are now in touching distance of better journeys between Preston and Blackpool.”
Michael Stewart, general manager at Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “We’re really excited to have reached this landmark by welcoming our Pendolino train to Blackpool North. This will allow us to test the infrastructure, as we prepare to launch our new electric services to and from the resort next Monday.”