Latest Rail News


Farnworth Tunnel boring work ‘ahead of schedule’

Network Rail is confident that its major tunnel boring work at Farnworth – an important enabler of electrification between Manchester and Preston – will be complete on time. 

During a site visit on 11 August to the tunnel near Bolton, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin was introduced to ‘Fillie’, the 9m diameter tunnel boring machine, which is being used to build the new 270m railway tunnel at Farnworth. 

IMG 0838

The work – which began in March – involves re-drilling the existing tunnel, using a machine bigger than those used on the Crossrail and Channel Tunnel projects, so that the rail line can be electrified. This will allow electric services to run from the end of 2016. 

Nick Spall, Network Rail’s LNW route delivery director, told us that he is confident the Farnworth work, which is due to be complete by 5 October, will be finished on time. 

He told RTM that there had been a few teething problems. But Fillie, which cost almost £2.5m from Oldham-based Tunnel Engineering Services (UK), is already ahead of schedule at the moment with 10m of tunnel bored, instead of the planned 9m. 

The works form part of Network Rail’s overall North of England programme, made up of various enhancements collectively costing more than £1bn. 

To prepare the tunnel ahead of Fillie’s work, more than 7,000 cubic metres of foam concrete have been pumped into the tunnel. Now that the machine has been launched it is tunnelling 24 hours a day, re-boring the tunnel, and installing 190 concrete sections which will form the tunnel lining. 

IMG 0827

After his site visit, McLoughlin said: “You can’t upgrade any rail infrastructure without causing a disruption — what I can say is that when this is completed, we will get a better service, a more resilient service and a brand new tunnel that takes two trains through it rather than one as currently happens.” 

IMG 0833

The transport secretary’s visit coincided with the government unveiling a blueprint for how £13bn of government investment in transport will help create the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. 

However, back in June, McLoughlin announced that one aspect of the ‘Powerhouse’ – TransPennine electrification between Leeds and Manchester – was ‘paused’ indefinitely. When asked about this, he said he was awaiting Sir Peter Hendy’s eagerly anticipated report in the autumn and that the work had not been cancelled, just ‘paused’. 

A full report on the site visit and the Farnworth Tunnel work will appear in the August/September edition of RTM.


John Gilbert   16/08/2015 at 21:16

I am a cynic where politicians are concerned. Given that they have every right to be furious at the total incompetence of Network Rail in its electrification schemes, and the waste of money on the apparently useless HOPS train, I shall nonetheless refuse to believe in any lifting of the "pause" on the two major schemes until it actually happens; politicians utter weasel words and it is their deeds by which we must judge them, even words from such a pleasant man as McLoughlin appears to be.

Add your comment



Rail industry Focus

View all News


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >

'the sleepers' blog

Apprentice to Co-leading the Rail Sector Deal

05/06/2019Apprentice to Co-leading the Rail Sector Deal

In a series of Q&A’s with key speakers on the run up to TransCityRail Midlands, we caught up with TransCityRail panellist and Amey’s commercial account director, Anna Delvecchio, for her insight into what the Rail Sector Deal mea... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

By Ewan Quayle, Rail Technology Magazine Reporter Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that ... more >
Malcolm Holmes, executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive, announced as TCR Midlands speaker in Birmingham

24/06/2019Malcolm Holmes, executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive, announced as TCR Midlands speaker in Birmingham

Ahead of his appearance, Malcolm Holmes spoke with Rail Technology Magazine about what key leaders in the industry were doing to improve rail in the Midlands. He said: “It’s very... more >