Blackpool electric train services announcement is welcomed

One of the new trains being built for Northern and which could be on our tracks in December
One of the new trains being built for Northern and which could be on our tracks in December

Blackpool rail watchers have welcomed the introduction of new electric train services to North Station.

Trains operator Northern has announced that the upgraded line will see hourly electric services to Manchester and Liverpool every day in May.

Stephen Brookes

Stephen Brookes

It means four-car trains will run to Blackpool North station, doubling the number of seats on the services and making the journey quicker.

However, Blackpool's York service has been hit by the delays in the work on the line between Manchester and Preston due to poor foundations for the stanchions for the overhead electric wires.

Northern said: "The existing service between Blackpool North and York will be curtailed with customers being asked to change at Preston and Leeds onto connecting services."

But rail users in Blackpool have welcomed the announcement of the new timetable starting on May 20.

Two services an hour will operate between Blackpool North and Manchester Piccadilly, one of which will be an electric service to Manchester Airport via Wigan with the second operating via Bolton.

Northern will continue to run four trains per hour between Blackpool North and Preston and will also introduce a regular hourly weekday service between Preston and Ormskirk for the first time.

The Blackpool South to Preston then Colne service will be split, with hourly Blackpool South to Preston and hourly Preston to Colne services

Blackpool-based Stephen Brookes, who has been appointed Sector Champion for Rail, and campaigns for better transport for disabled people, said the changes were welcome.

He said: "The service from Liverpool to Blackpool is great news and the service to Piccadilly via Wigan will be a fast one. The good news is that Northern are now committed to those services in the timetable and hopefully there will be no more hold-ups from Network Rail on the upgrade work to delay things further.

"It was a great disappointment that the Blackpool North line's re-opening was being delayed to April 16. People who have bought tickets expecting the trains to be running will have to make alternative arragements.

"Why the delays on the line between Manchester and Bolton should affect the Blackpool to York service is unclear, but could be due to the cascade effect in transferring rolling stock around the network.

"It is great news that on two key services Manchester and Liverpool, disabled people will get a much better journey in the faster trains and that the four coach trains will immediately double the number of seats we were used to."

The enhanced services form part of Northern’s improvements and getting the network ready for the arrival of Northern’s fully refurbished trains later in the year.

Sharon Keith, Northern’s Regional Director, said: “Whilst we have been able to offer some notable improvements in our May timetable for customers travelling to and from Blackpool, it’s disappointing that we have had to alter the through services to York.

“Our proposed timetable for May 18 was dependent on the successful delivery by Network Rail of the Manchester to Preston Electrification Project, which has been significantly delayed.

“This means some of our proposed routes have been rescheduled and will now be arriving later than planned.”

She added: “The delay to some of our service improvements will not, however, delay our overall modernisation plans.

"By 2020 we will provide 2,000 extra services across the Northern network each week, will have introduced 98 brand new trains, will have fully refurbished our fleet and removed all Pacers from the line. We are absolutely committed to transforming the journey experience for our customers.”

Northern is investing nearly £500m in 98 new trains. The electric and diesel trains are now being built at the CAF plant in Zaragoza, Spain. The first could be in service calling at Lancashire stations by December.