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What Will the North Rail Electrification Improve?

3 min

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With the government approving major investments to electrify rail lines in the North, Quadrant Transport looks at how the plans will create a more reliable railway.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has announced today that a £78 million investment to electrify key rail infrastructure will improve Wigan to Bolton lines.

The upgrade between Wigan North Western station and Lostock Junction near Bolton will enable longer electric trains with more capacity by 2025, building a greener rail network.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Rail Minister, told Quadrant Transport: “As we Build Back Better and create a railway that truly works for passengers, I am delighted to give this rail upgrade the go-ahead.”

“This significant investment will provide a service around Greater Manchester that is better for both passengers and the environment, ensuring our railway plays its part in meeting our ambitious net-zero ambitions.”

The announcement is ‘welcome news’ for Transport for the North

Martin Tugwell, Transport for the North’s Chief Executive told Quadrant Transport: “It’s great news that a commitment has now been made to electrify this key section of the rail network.”

We have already made clear that the need to decarbonise our surface transport network is vital in helping to tackle the climate emergency. This is a step towards that, but there remains a huge amount of work to be done – including commitment to projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2.

Through electrifying almost 13 miles of infrastructure and lengthening platforms, this investment will ensure that CO2 emitting diesel trains are replaced by electric rolling stock. Longer trains with additional capacity will provide passengers with greener, more comfortable, and more reliable journeys.

As well as supporting decarbonisation, the project will also save journey times and costs

While the project will support greater benefits to the environment and rail infrastructure, it calls for a long-term rolling programme of electrification to be introduced.

This would call for continuous work for electrification to be carried out, allowing a decrease of cost and help maintain skills, expertise, and a supply chain. It would also include boosting the UK’s productivity in electrifying rail lines.

The benefits of a long-term rolling programme of electrification would not be limited to the engineers delivering electrification schemes, but would also be spread amongst the wide supply chain. But, although supported by many people, it has not been approved by the central government.

Speaking to Quadrant Transport, Phil James, North West route director at Network Rail, said: “To help the region recover from the pandemic, we’re turning over a new leaf thanks to the £78million investment to electrify the railway between Wigan and Lostock junction.”

This environmentally and passenger-centric scheme will be a game-changer for Greater Manchester’s railway as more electric trains mean better air quality, less railway noise and more reliable and spacious journeys for rail travellers.

The plans are also in line with Network Rail’s National Traction Decarbonisation Strategy, which lays out a plan of implementing electrification and other technologies to reduce carbon emissions from rail vehicles and specifically to remove all diesel-only rolling stock by 2040.

The upgrade project will provide 450 new overhead line equipment stanchions and modifications to 17 bridges and two-level crossings. Platforms will also be extended at Hindley, Westhoughton and Ince stations to reduce overcrowding at peak times and cater for six-carriage trains in the future.

The project will also offer train operators with more operational flexibility to deploy trains to these parts of Wigan and Bolton, from the recently upgraded train maintenance facility at Wigan Springs Branch.