Bad weather blamed for three week delay on rail upgrade between Blackpool North and Preston
Work to upgrade Blackpool's main railway line has been delayed by three weeks meaning there will be no trains into Blackpool North Station over Easter.
Network Rail has blamed bad weather and the breakdown of its own engineering train for the delay which means services will not resume until April 16.
Services had been due to recommence on Monday March 26 after being suspended on November 11 last year for work to electrify the line between Blackpool North and Preston.
A rail replacement bus service which has been running since then will continue, and trains are running on the Blackpool South line.
There will be some further work on the railway after April 16, but this is not expected to disrupt train services.
Andrew Morgan, senior sponsor for Network Rail, said: “While we’ve made fantastic progress in upgrading the line over the last six months, the recent bad weather and unexpected maintenance of critical machinery has hampered us slotting in final pieces of this important jigsaw, at one of the busiest times of the closure.
“We continue to thank Northern and their customers for bearing with us. We are working around the clock to get train services back moving again from April 16.”
Sharon Keith, Northern regional director, said: “It’s disappointing to experience delays to the engineering work at Blackpool, but we continue to work in partnership with our colleagues in Network Rail to deliver the upgrades our customers want and deserve.
“We look forward to being able to run train services again between Preston and Blackpool North, strengthening the connections between the city and the country’s most popular seaside destination.”
Rail users and tourism leaders said the delay was a blow to the town.
Paul Nettleton, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users Association, said: “This will be a big disappointment because it was intended the work should be finished before Easter.
“The excuses for the delay are a bit feeble.
“There has been bad weather but we haven’t had it as bad as other parts of the country, and I’m sure they have more than one engineering train.
“It is a pain for commuters and visitors to have get off a train and onto a bus to reach Blackpool, but people can still travel via Blackpool South.”
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said: “It is a huge disappointment but the bus replacement service is working well.
“I’ve not had complaints from guests although it does extend the journey time.
“We’re all just going to have to do some damage limitation by saying to people, we’re sorry for this but it’s going to be better next time.”
The extensive upgrade of the Preston to Blackpool North line forms part of the rail industry’s Great North Rail Project to transform travel for customers across the North of England.
This line upgrade has involved rebuilding 11 bridges, remodelling 11 station platforms, replacing 11km of track, upgrading railway drainage and installing 84 new modern signals.