Rail upgrade work on track to finish on time

A drone photograph by railway YouTube vlogger Gordon Head
A drone photograph by railway YouTube vlogger Gordon Head

Blackpool is all set to be “energised” around April 14 as upgrades to its railway system remain on track.

Network Rail has said work is progressing well with installing the overhead wires which will power modern electric trains on the 17-mile run between Blackpool and Preston.

Aphotograph by railway YouTube vlogger Gordon Head

Aphotograph by railway YouTube vlogger Gordon Head

Work on the platforms at Blackpool North is moving along, as these photographs from railway vlogger Gordon Head show, and rail bosses expect diesel trains to be back running on the line from March 26, meaning an end to the replacement buses passengers have had to endure since November.

The station is getting new longer platforms for the London-bound Pendolino trains and is set to get improved toilets including disabled and baby change facilities.

Noel Connolly, head of programme management for Network Rail, said: “Work to transform Blackpool’s railway continues to progress at pace.

“The Preston to Blackpool route upgrade forms part of the multibillion pound Great North Rail Project and will deliver greener, quieter and more reliable services for passengers in the north.”

A photograph by railway YouTube vlogger Gordon Head

A photograph by railway YouTube vlogger Gordon Head

The project has seen new drainage, modern signalling and station upgrades along the line and upgrades on others across the region.

When the power to the overhead lines between Blackpool and Preston is switched on in April, passengers will still have to wait until the timetable change the following month to use the four carriage electric sets which are earmarked for the line.

The new to the line electric trains are due to appear in December.

Full electric running all the way to Manchester is set to return in July after problems in the Bolton area with the foundations of the gantries supporting the wires.

The 25-mile Manchester-Preston stretch had been hit by ‘unexpected running sand and hard rock in the vicinity of old uncharted shallow mine workings’.

Trains returned to the Blackpool South line on January 29 following upgrades.

Network Rail has held a series of information events for the public throughout the project.

The next is on Tuesday, March 20 from 4pm to 7pm at Poulton Civic Centre, in Breck Road.

In preparation for the re-opening of the rail line later this month, work is currently under way to:

Commission new signalling equipment to make the railway more reliable

Finish remodelling the platforms at Blackpool North station to get them ready for trains

Complete work at Poulton station to get the platforms and canopies ready for electrification equipment

Complete railway drainage work in the Poulton area to support the new and improved track alignment. Meanwhile, most of the foundations have been laid for the overhead equipment needed for electric trains to run and work will continue over the coming weeks to install the necessary wiring.

These photos were taken by keen rail vlogger Gordon Head, who goes by the screen name Nodrog.

He has been documenting the progress on the rail line since early last year via his YouTube channel.

He said: “I am fascinated by the level of change to the railways in my area.

“They play such a big role in every aspect of our daily lives and this change is historically important for future generations to be fascinated too.

“I’m happy I can be part of it by capturing this transformation.”