Manchester to Preston rail electrification hit by delay

Charlie Schouten

Electrification of rail lines between Manchester and Preston has been hit by a delay, with works not due to complete until after its original end date of December 2017, according to a Greater Manchester Combined Authority report.

Carillion took over the Phase Four electrification contract from Balfour Beatty in 2015, which covers the route from Preston via Lostock and Bolton to Manchester. At the time, Balfour Beatty said it could no longer deliver the project “on time and on budget”.

Electrification of the Manchester to Preston line was originally due to finish by December this year, but will now complete “after December”, according to the GMCA’s Metrolink & Rail Networks sub-committee, which is due to meet next Friday. Network Rail blamed ground conditions for the delays to the work.

The combined authority had originally planned to start a revised train services timetable in December, including new services from Victoria, Oxford Road, Piccadilly, and Manchester Airport via the Ordsall Chord, which is also due to complete by the end of the year. A Skanska/Bam Nuttall joint venture is the main contractor for the Chord.

The new timetable was due to “realise the benefits of electrification through deployment of quieter, faster electric trains”.

However, due to the delays to construction work, the timetable has been changed and a number of planned timetable improvements and services will no longer be possible.

These include services from Manchester Airport to York, and from Manchester to Airport to Newcastle running via the Ordsall Chord. These services will continue to operate on existing routes “until the electric timetable is operational”, said the GMCA.

The GMCA added: “It may be possible to reinstate these services when electrification work is complete,” but also said it was unlikely to take place before May 2018.

“Work continues to ensure that the [electrification project] is completed as soon as possible.”

In a statement to Place North West, Network Rail blamed the delays to the construction work on “poor ground conditions” caused by “old, known and unknown underground mine workings”.

“The high presence of mines and poor ground conditions have resulted in our engineers working hard to design bespoke and innovative solutions to this problem,” said a spokesperson.

“All this adds more time to the job.

“Having recognised early that we won’t have all the new infrastructure fully completed by December 2017, working with the rail industry, we took the decision to maintain the diesel timetable.

“Train services will still run for customers. All existing journeys will still be available. Next year, these journeys will take place initially on diesel trains and then, as we complete our work, electric trains will be introduced along the Manchester to Blackpool North via Preston, Chorley and Bolton, corridor.”

 

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