Fylde passengers will have to wait a little longer for a faster service after it was revealed the electrification of the tracks to Blackpool has been delayed.
The lines from Preston to Blackpool North were due to be fully converted to allow electric trains to run by May 2016 but Network Rail has now said it will not be ready until March 2017.
The news came as speculation increased that Blackpool North may be closed for up to three months to allow work to be carried out so the station can take longer and faster trains, such as those for direct services to London due to start in December.
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “Electrification between Preston and Blackpool has been rescheduled to take place between December 2016 and March 2017.
“This will allow work to take place at the same time as the line is re-signalled and the track layout in the station is upgraded, meaning just one period of closure rather than two and less disruption for passengers. The electrified and re-signalled line will provide a more reliable, regular and efficient railway, with increased capacity to accommodate the increasing number of passengers travelling by train.
Paul Nettleton, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users Association, said: “This delay was not totally unexpected. When you look at the platforms at Blackpool North they have a dog leg and are not straight.
“They will have to renew the track work leading into the station and the signal box will have to be demolished.
“The new signalling will all be controlled from Manchester, replacing the existing mechanical signalling which is more than 100 years old. It is not a disaster to wait another few months, it’s a case of no pain no gain. The commuters don’t yet realise how much better it is going to be.
“Instead of two carriage sets we will have four carriages, so there will be no overcrowding.
The Network Rail spokesman said no details had yet been settled on for work at Blackpool North, so he could not comment on any closure, but he added: “We are currently working on plans to determine how we will implement the upgrades at the station.Details will be released once these have been confirmed.”
He also confirmed they were looking at removing the 30mph speed restrictions either side of Kirkham station to further speed up services.
Stephen Brookes, chairman of the Blackpool Passenger User Group, said they had been told the station would have to close temporarily. He said: “They said Blackpool North is to close for three months from January 2015 in order that electrification work can be completed. This will include demolishing platforms one and eight and lengthening the other platforms for the longer trains to cater for the increase in passengers from April 2015. There will be a shuttle service from Poulton-le-Fylde.”