Electric trains have started to operate over the railway between Newton Le Willows and Castlefield junction outside Manchester Piccadilly, marking the commissioning of the first phase of the £400m North West electrification project on time and under budget.
The commissioning of new electrical infrastructure on part of the world’s oldest public railway between Newton Le Willows and Castlefield Junction marks a major milestone in the project which will see over 350km of track upgraded across the north of England delivered by December 2018.
Dyan Crowther, route managing director, Network Rail, said: “Electrification of key routes in the North West will significantly improve connections between our major towns and cities, boosting the economy and providing passengers with quicker, cleaner and more frequent services provide the railway that the region’s passengers want and its economy needs.
“This is the first railway line to be electrified in England in over a decade. We have delivered this complex project, using modern standards and state-of-the-art technology, in four years from inception. We will continue to replicate the successful delivery of electrification across the North West which will be completed in phases by December 2016.”
Rail minister Stephen Hammond said: “This is the latest step in delivering an ambitious plan to electrify the national railway infrastructure across the north. I am pleased that soon passengers on the Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh line will enjoy the benefits electric trains can deliver including faster journey times and more reliable services.”
Chris Nutton, programme director, First TransPennine Express, said: “This is a significant and important milestone which marks the start of a major improvement programme which will bring great benefits to the north of England.
“FTPE has delivered a £60m investment in a fleet of electric trains that will start to come into service in a few weeks and will mean a 30% increase in capacity across our network. Customers will benefit from more journey options, faster trains and better connectivity and accessibility. The procurement of these additional 40 carriages, alongside the North West electrification programme, is a great example of the industry working together and shows our commitment to providing the best possible rail travel for customers now and in the future.”
The next major improvements will arrive in December 2014, when electric trains will be able to run from Liverpool to Manchester via Newton le Willows and Wigan and from December 2016, when they will run between Preston and Blackpool, Manchester and Preston and Manchester and Stalybridge. This will be followed by the completion of trans-Pennine electrification from Stalybridge through Huddersfield on to Leeds, York and Selby by December 2018.