Rail electrification plan still on track

Blackpool North Rail Station, Blackpool.

Blackpool North Rail Station, Blackpool.

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Plans to electrify Blackpool’s railway line are on track, according to transport chiefs.

Concerns about the North West proposals to fund a rail modernisation scheme were raised after a similar scheme covering Manchester, Leeds and York was placed in doubt.

The Government’s Transport Select Committee said there was “all kinds of question marks” surrounding the Transpennine route.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT) claims that despite promises from the Government, the scheme due to be completed by the end of 2018, will not now be completed until March next year, and the programme will have to be reconsidered if budgets are not maintained.

However, it was confirmed today that no such problems exist with the North West electrification scheme, which will be completed in December 2016.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “The North West Electrification Programme is being delivered in five phases between now and December 2016 and will see 352km of track electrified across the north west of England.

“Work is already being implemented to achieve this, and we remain on target to meet this delivery date.”

But Stephen Brookes, chairman of the Blackpool Passenger User Panel, says his group has received mixed messages about the scheme.

He added: “It’s a bit of a mess.

“Northern Rail has offered to speak at our next meeting in September because people don’t know what’s going on.

“We are being told by various clients from Northern Rail and Virgin that it’s not ready, and nobody seems to know what’s going on.”

The first phase of the electrification was commissioned in December last year when trains ran through junctions outside Manchester 
Piccadilly.

From July 5 to July 13, Network Rail will be upgrading the railway around St Helens, as the £1bn scheme gathers pace.