Completion of phase one of the North West electrification project has been marked with the commissioning of the newly-electrified route between Newton Le Willows and Castlefield.
Siemens-built Class 350/4 EMUs will soon begin operating on the route, allowing direct electric train services between Manchester Airport and Glasgow for the first time.
In total, the £400 million project is scheduled to upgrade 350 kilometres of track in the north of England by the end of 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.”
Network Rail has said the next major improvements will arrive in December 2014, when electric trains will operate from Liverpool to Manchester via Newton le Willows and Wigan.
The North West electrification programme is being delivered in five phases from now and December 2016:
- Phase 1: Between Castlefield Junction and Newton Le Willows by December 2013
- Phase 2a: Between Liverpool and Newton Le Willows
- Phase 2b: Between Huyton and Wigan
- Phase 2c: Between Ordsall Lane and Manchester Victoria, all by December 2014
- Phase 3: Preston to Blackpool, by May 2016
- Phase 4: Manchester Victoria to Preston (Euxton Junction), by December 2016
- Phase 5: Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge, Guide Bridge to Stalybridge, December 2016