The railway between Preston and Blackpool has been connected to the West Coast main line by overhead electric wires for the first time in its history.
The milestone was completed over the Christmas period as work continued to upgrade the railway as part of the Great North Rail Project.
Team Orange worked round-the-clock on Christmas Day and Boxing Day to install new wiring and electrical equipment that will enable greener, quieter and more reliable trains to travel to Blackpool in 2018.
Blackpool’s railway is undergoing a 19 week revolution to upgrade and electrify the line between Blackpool and Preston. Work ramped up on 11 November and will continue into the spring to install the remaining overhead equipment, realigned tracks and a modern signalling system.
The upgrade equates to a £1,800 investment for every person living in Blackpool.
Noel Connolly, head of programme management for Network Rail, said: “Work to connect new overhead line equipment on the railway to Blackpool was successfully completed over the Christmas period during a planned two day closure on the West Coast main line.
“The upgrade of Blackpool’s railway forms a key part the Great North Rail Project and will help to transform train journeys for passengers in the north.
“I’d like to thank passengers and local residents for their patience while we continue to carry these vital improvements.”
Sharon Keith, regional director for Northern, said: “It’s great to see the work progressing between Preston and Blackpool as the rail industry works in partnership to improve and modernise the railway for customers.
“The work being carried out by Network Rail will pave the way for our brand new and refurbished trains to serve our customers in West Lancashire, providing modern, state-of-the-art rail travel with improved reliability.”
During the 19 week closure, Northern is running a full replacement bus service to keep customers on the move.
Network Rail will carry out vital upgrades to track and platforms at Blackpool North and Kirkham & Wesham stations. We are also upgrading the signalling system which includes installing 84 new modern signals which will help to make journeys more reliable.
The upgrade is a key strand of the multi-billion-pound Great North Rail Project, a railway industry team effort to transform train travel for customers across the north. The upgrade will make the railway bigger and better to cater for the increased volumes of people forecast to want to use it in future.
During this time the car park at Preston station is expected to be busier than usual. We advise passengers to leave plenty of time if they are planning to use the car park before boarding a train.
To find out more about this work please visit our website at www.networkrail.co.uk/blackpool.