Network Rail has announced that the railway between Preston and Blackpool North is set to reopen on April 16 following 22 weeks of work.
The line’s closure was extended in March to complete the upgrade following severe weather and the breakdown of critical machinery used to install new overhead line equipment.
The major upgrade to tracks, stations platforms and the signalling system is a part of the multi-billion pound Great North Rail Project – Network Rail’s plan to stimulate economic growth in the North through better rail connections between towns and cities.
As part of Blackpool’s rail upgrade, Network Rail has rebuilt 11 bridges, remodelled 11 station platforms, replaced 11,000m of track, installed 200,000m of overhead power line, upgraded drainage systems and installed 84 new modern signals.
The brand new signalling system, controlled from Network Rail’s operating centre in Manchester, will help to reduce delays and improve railway performance.
When the railway reopens, upgrade work will continue into spring during overnight shifts when trains aren’t running.
Train services between Preston and Blackpool North will initially resume with one train per hour allowing time for driver training on the route.
From April 16, Northern will operate one train per hour between Blackpool North and Manchester Airport – via Preston – and will continue to supplement this with two stopping and two express bus services every hour between Blackpool North and Preston. The hourly service between Blackpool South and Preston will continue to operate but with many services extended to operate to/from Colne.
Also on April 16, Virgin Trains on the west coast will reinstate its direct service to Blackpool North, which departs London Euston at 16.33.
Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “During the closure we’ve worked round-the-clock to upgrade and electrify the line to provide passengers with better services on this important route later this year.
“This work will allow greener, quieter and more reliable train services to run between Preston and Blackpool North when the new timetable is introduced on 20 May.”