Completion of Manchester to Liverpool electrification delayed

Network Rail will not complete the Manchester to Liverpool electrification project in time for the planned December launch of services, leaving bosses at Northern Rail “deeply disappointed”.

Northern had planned to start running two Class 319s on the line after the December timetable change, with a gradual roll-out of a further 12 over the next year. However this will now be pushed back into the new year, possibly as late as the end of February.

The delay has been blamed on “unexpected ground conditions and technical issues with the wiring equipment”, encountered while installing overhead catenary wires on the 184-year-old former Liverpool and Manchester Railway mainline.

Jim Syddall, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “We are making every effort to ensure the work is completed as soon as possible. We expect it to be completed by early 2015 and we will keep people informed as the work progresses. The rest of the north west electrification programme is not affected by this delay.”

The £400m programme includes the £160m upgrade of the line between Manchester and Liverpool and will cut journey time to just 30 minutes.

It is a key enabler for a planned doubling of service frequencies.

Alex Hynes, Northern Rail managing director, said: “We are deeply disappointed that work by Network Rail to electrify the Liverpool – Manchester line will not be completed to enable electric trains to be introduced from the December timetable change, as originally planned. However, we remain committed to working with them to ensure customers on the route will benefit from the additional capacity and more reliable journeys that electric trains will deliver as soon as possible.”

The first two Class 319s cascaded north from Thameslink arrived at the Allerton depot for driver training in September.

Northern said refurbishment work is being carried out at Wolverton by Knorr-Bremse under a Porterbrook contract, and Northern has also contracted Interfleet to undertake additional modifications. Refresh work on the trains includes: an exterior and interior repaint; refurbishment of seating; and fitting of door controls through all vehicles to allow conductor door operation from anywhere within the train.

Northern is reported to have told the Transport for Greater Manchester Rail & Metrolink Committee that the 319s will also get a new passenger information system and LED lighting. Four units were to be ready for December 2014; two in passenger traffic and two for maintenance spare and training.

In an interview with RTM in the summer, Network Rail’s principal sponsor for north west England, Martin Jurkowski, made clear how much work had to be done.

He said it was a “critical date”, just as the December 2013 first-phase electrification commissioning was, Manchester to the West Coast Main Line and Newton-le-Willows. That phase allowed First TransPennine Express to start running its electric services from Manchester Airport to Scotland.

Jurkowski told us then: “This December, the same is happening for Northern, with the introduction of electrified services between Liverpool and Manchester. There’s a lot going on collectively between us – driver training, depot electrification, and so on – for that to happen.”


The original timeline for north west electrification was as follows:

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

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Pedr Jarvis   08/11/2014 at 19:13

Where were the unexpected ground conditions, please? Couldn't be Chat Moss, could it?

RTM   10/11/2014 at 08:36

We're still trying to get to the bottom of that one Pedr! (Let's hope not though...)

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