NETWORK RAIL has set out plans to complete the electrification of the Manchester to Preston line via Bolton, including a nine-day closure in late August.

NR told Modern Railways operator Northern expects to start a gradual roll-out of electric trains on a phased basis on the Bolton corridor in early 2019, although it has now been confirmed Northern will not make further changes to its timetable until next May (page 8). A nine-day blockade will take place from 25 August to 2 September, while work will take place every weekend and weeknight until 4 November, by when major construction work will be completed. NR says four weeks of electric train testing will take place overnight during October, and also notes some extended midweek overnight working will continue until 15 February next year to allow for snagging work to take place.

NR says the scheme, originally due for commissioning in December 2016, has been delayed by poor ground conditions, with delays compounded by the collapse of Carillion, the lead contractor for the scheme. Amey has now replaced Carillion as the main contractor, and NR says progress ‘is accelerating’.

The failure to complete the work in time for the May timetable change this year caused major issues at Northern, which had to rewrite its timetable to account for the fact it would still have to operate diesel trains over the line. NR noted on 26 June that only three problem foundations from a total of 1,659 remained, while there were only 117 masts left to install.