Blackpool passengers can look forward to top quality wifi and new carriages next year when changes to the railway come on line.
The electrification process for the Preston to Blackpool line has been put back until 2017 but in April a new franchise will take over the Northern Rail operation.
Electrification looks set to close the Blackpool North to Preston line for three months while work is carried out on the power supply and signalling – but no details of alternative services has yet been given.
In August, contractor Balfour Beatty pulled out of plans to electrify the railway line between Preston and Blackpool.
Network Rail has insisted the electrification will still be finished by summer 2018 but Blackpool has been hit by losing direct services to Liverpool since October because this part of the line cannot take the electric trains.
However, Richard Allan, commercial director for current franchisee Northern Rail said although there would be disruption to deal with, whoever wins the new franchise, due to be announced before Christmas, would be bringing in 120 new carriages for the service which runs to Blackpool.
He said: “The Pacer trains have to go by 2019 so the new franchise whoever that may be, will have to buy 120 carriages.
“It means for Blackpool customers the quality of the trains will step up quite significantly.”
He said they would either be new, or refurbished trains to an “as new” standard, with fast wifi on board.
“There will be four carriage electric trains rather than the two carriage diesels we have now.
“The high quality wifi will mean the operator will be able to go for more business users. People will have an hour’s productive work in comfort on a train before they get to their meetings in Manchester or Liverpool and no expensive parking so we feel there is great potential.
“More people are commuting now as the nature of work changes. Over the course of our franchise we have seen an explosion in the numbers of customers of around 65 per cent. We had nearly 100 million customers this year.
“In terms of the electrification of the Blackpool line, we are fully supportive of that work by Network Rail and their new contractors and area keen to see it completed as soon as possible.