Tuesday 31 December 2013

Electric Passenger Services!

Yesterday, 30 December, 350401 and 350403 operated the 07:15 Manchester Piccadilly to Glasgow and the 11.09 Glasgow - Manchester Piccadilly, marking the first run in normal passenger use.

350403 working alone did the honours today.

Friday 13 December 2013

Phase Six

The DfT today announced that Wigan North Western to Bolton (Strictly Wigan Station Junction to Lostock Junction) will be electrified, with completion targeted for 2017.

A task force has been set up to consider "where next" for electrification in Northern England.  They  have a list of routes to examine:
  • Leeds-Harrogate-York
  • Selby-Hull
  • Sheffield-Leeds
  • Sheffield-Doncaster
  • East Coast main line-Middlesbrough
  • Sheffield-Manchester
  • Warrington-Chester
  • Crewe-Chester.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Phase One - At Last!

5T91 23:09 Ardwick Traction Maintenance Depot to Wigan North Western has just passed along the phase one route from Castlefield Junction to Lowton Junction, running about 15 minutes early.  This train is booked to be a Class 350 EMU.

I'm hoping someone was out to see it to confirm it was electric, but I think this is probably the trial run we have been waiting for.

Two further runs are booked tonight:
5X90 23:51 Wigan North Western to Manchester Oxford Road
5X91 00:33 Manchester Oxford Road to Preston Carriage Sidings

UPDATE: It has been confirmed that this was a 350.  And here it is at Eccles - Picture courtesy of Network Rail:
An "invited guests" run is scheduled for Thursday daytime.

Friday 22 November 2013

Phase One Nearly There?

A two page article in December's Modern Railways is highly critical of the work on Phase One, describing it as a débâcle.  They include pictures of missing, loose and disconnected droppers, as I mentioned on my 8th November blog entry.

Modern Railways goes on to say that the latest plan is to open the line to electric traction tomorrow (23 November) with Pendolino test trains scheduled for that day and the 25th.  At the time of typing I can see nothing in the VSTP feed for these.

Other sources report that test coach Mentor ran up and down the line on Wednesday, suggesting things may indeed be ready for this weekend.

Another point made by MR is that Ordsall Lane Junction to Newton-le-Willows has been commissioned as one electrical section because the section switches were not ready in time.  They describe this short cut as a disaster waiting to happen.  Presumably further works will be required to incorporate the switches later.

Update 23 November:
A correspondent reports that this morning at Parkside Junction, temporary earth wires were still present, and "some cables are loosely coiled up over some of the gantries".  Doesn't look promising!

Sunday 17 November 2013

Progress at Roby

I took a stroll down to Roby station to see how they're getting on.  The northern access is now via the "new" subway which is, of course, the original subway re-roofed.
This shot is taken from the down (south) side, with the "new" section in the distance.  Above ground, the old trackbed has been dug out for the full length of the station and is now in use for vehicular access from the work site west of here to locations between Roby and Huyton.

Unfortunately the subway is already leaking, at the join between old brickwork and the new concrete slab.

Meanwhile, on the down platform, the canopy has suddenly gained nine props.  I'm not quite sure what's going on here, the plans do not call for any changes to the canopy.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

350/4 Test Trains

An eagle-eyed reader of this blog has spotted the schedules for what we suspect are 350/4 test runs:

5T72 10.40 Crewe Carriage Sidings LNWR to Carnforth Down & Up Goods Loop
5T73 13.03 Carnforth Down & Up Goods Loop to Crewe Carriage Sidings LNWR

The times are different on Mondays and later in November, see realtimetrains.co.uk for details.

Today's runs were cancelled.

UPDATE:  The test trains ran on Thursday and Friday, here's a shot kindly supplied by David Hull of the Friday run at Wigan.

Chorley Complaints

The people of Chorley and nearby locations are realising their services are to be significantly cut when TPEx's Manchester/Scotland trains are diverted via Wigan in December, in preparation for the phasing in of electric units.

A correspondent kindly forwarded a link to a report in the Lancashire Evening Post.

As I understand it, the intention is to return these services to the Chorley route once phase four is completed in 2016.

Friday 8 November 2013

Progress Report

I took a trip to Manchester today to see how much progress there has been since my last trip, one month ago.

Starting at Huyton station, building works are in full swing, the old trackbed is being dug out, and they were pouring a new concrete roof for the subway.  To my un-trained eye they seemed to making a right dog's breakfast of this simple task, but I'm sure they know what they're doing!

Further along, there are some mast bases and many 'scrapes' for masts.

At Earlestown, the new trackwork and signalling work appears to have ground to a halt, with some points still disconnected and most new signals bagged.  Nothing seems to have progressed here for a couple of months.

On to phase one, and I can report that contact wire is now in place on the up and down lines throughout, the gaps I reported last time have all been filled.  However, much work remains to be done, many of the droppers are loose or even disconnected, so there's a lot more finishing required before any test train can pass.

After Ordsall Lane Junction (and therefore phase two) there are a large number of peculiar structures either side of the line, consisting of a hole in the ground about the size of a grave, filled with concrete with a smooth flat top.  I'm guessing these are the type of mast base required on the viaducts where it's not possible to drive a pile into the ground, although it's odd that there are no fixing bolts.

Manchester Victoria is a major construction site, with scaffolding everywhere.  Large signs warn of the Christmas closure "for electrification work".

Thursday 7 November 2013

New Train Arrives

The first of the new Class 350/4 trains, destined to run on the Manchester to Scotland services, has arrived in the UK, and was filmed passing north through Rugeley earlier today.  See this YouTube video

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Phase One Still Incomplete

I took a ride to Manchester today to check on progress on the Phase One works.  Don't believe everything you read on the internet, there's lots more work to do:
  • One stretch of catenary and contact wire is missing from the Down line.
  • On both lines, a few support arms are missing, with the wires temporarily hung from pulleys attached to masts or gantries.
  • Long lengths still have temporary droppers - Basically a bit of bent wire twisted round the catenary and the contact wire.
So, a few more week's work, I think, and until these items are completed there's no chance of the much vaunted Class 92 test runs.

On a more positive note, I noticed the first signs of work between Huyton and Earlestown - A number of locations for mast bases have been cleared, east of Rainhill.

Friday 4 October 2013

Huyton and Roby Details

I attended the public consultation for the fourth track at Huyton Library today, so I've now got a few more details about what is going on.  For the sake of brevity, I've omitted "if permission is granted" from a lot of the following.

A Two Stage Project

The third track will be entirely within existing boundaries, so construction is under way and it should be operational by December 2014.  The fourth track requires the acquisition of a strip of land from the BT Telephone Exchange site and Huyton Bus Station.  Consequently this will need a TWAO (Transport and Works Act Order) with  public consultation before submission to the Secretary of State in Spring 2014.  Assuming the order is granted, the fourth track will be operational towards the end of 2017.  Thus we have the annoyance of two major disruptions at Huyton Junction three years apart, to do work which could all have been done in one go with a little more forethought.


The area will be resignalled and the signal box will be demolished, along with the adjacent relay room.

The stairs on the south side will be reconstructed around a lift shaft, requiring the current ramped and staircase access from the road to be moved.  A temporary access ramp is currently under construction, to allow passengers to access the station during those works.

Platform extensions will be built, extending in the Roby direction.

North side access will be via a new ramp from Derby Road to platform 4, with the existing ramp to platform 2 being demolished.

The public subway will need to be deepened as it currently rises at the point where the third and fourth tracks will pass over.  A small flight of stairs will be necessary to get the subway back up to street level, and a ramped route will loop round to avoid the stairs.


Next week, pedestrians arriving from the north side will be diverted in to the reopened subway on platform 4.  This will allow the existing access which is at platform level across the trackbed to be dug out.  Construction vehicles will then be able to use the trackbed to access areas east of here from the Roby works site.

Work has begun on eastward platform extensions, 52m will be added to the existing platforms 1 and 2.

Three lifts will be installed, one within the existing building and the other two in new lift towers on the island and on platform 4.

Track Layout

At both stations, platform 1 is the existing southernmost platform and platform 4 is the re-opened northern platform.  2 and 3 form the central island.

In the three track layout the line through platform 1 will become the Down Fast, platform 2 will be Down Slow, and platform 3 will be Up.  Down trains from St Helens will use platform 2, down trains from Earlestown will have access to platforms 1 and 2.

In the four track layout platform 3 becomes Up Fast and platform 4 is Up Slow.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Progress at Roby

Work on the subway at Roby is well under way.  As you can see, proper railings have been provided around the disused stairs (Left of the picture at the back, with the Heras sign attached).  Unfortunately the steps face "the wrong way" for the station's northern entrance, which is off to the right of the picture.  The plans also call for a shelter over the stairs.

In the foreground, the disused section of the subway has a new concrete roof and platform edge walls.

This subway route will need to be brought into use so that the existing footpath can be closed and dug out where it crosses the new trackbed.

Friday 23 August 2013

Rainhill Skew Bridge Controversy

An article in the St Helens Reporter says that Network Rail are in trouble over the recent work on Stephenson's famous Skew Bridge at Rainhill.  The results have been described as "horrendously botched".

Network Rail have admitted the work did not comply with the approved drawings.  They have been granted permission to undertake further work, subject to the condition that a qualified stonemason is called in.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Additional Non-Passenger Lines

There's an interesting article about the electrification project in this month's Modern Railways.  The map shows that the Ince Moss Junction to Bamfurlong Junction spur will be electrified in Phase Two.  However, the detailed Scope of Works statement in Network Rail's "CP4 Delivery Plan - Enhancements Programme: statement of scope, outputs and milestones (June 2013 Update)"  does not include this line.

Modern Railways also confirms that the connection from Ashburys to Miles Platting Junction and to Baguely Fold Junction will be included in Phase Five.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Phase Two Masts Up

I received a message today reporting that masts have been erected between Huyton and Prescot.  I believe these are  the first ones to go up on the Phase Two lines.

Friday 9 August 2013

Bridge Works for "Phase Five"

A Network Rail press release reports the beginning of work on electrification between Manchester and Stalybridge.  Initially, two road bridges are to close for reconstruction:

Osborne Street, Collyhurst: Closed 19 August - 16 February 2014.
Henrietta Street, Ashton-under-Lyne: Closed 2 September – 21 December 2013

Temporary footbridges will be provided to maintain pedestrian access.

Residents in Ashton-under-Lyne can find out more about the project at a drop in session between 16:30 and 20:00 on Tuesday 13 August at:
Village Hotel, Ashton Moss
Pamir Drive,

I note that this release describes the electrification from Manchester Victoria and Guide Bridge to Stalybridge as Phase Five of the North West electrification programme.

Friday 26 July 2013

New Timetable

Details of the new timetable, to start 8th December 2013, are appearing in the schedule database.  At this early stage they must be considered provisional.  Highlights include:

  • The last service out of Lime Street Mondays to Thursdays is slightly later, as the 22:12 to Manchester Victoria reverts to being a train.  Later trains continue to be replaced by buses.
  • From Sunday 5th January 2014 until the end of the new timetable in May, there will be no trains on Sundays between Liverpool and Manchester via Earlestown and between Liverpool and Wigan.  (Trains from Manchester to Chester will run as normal via Earlestown.)
  • Manchester Airport / Scotland services are changed and routed via Golborne.  They are still recorded in the database as DMUs, but of course new EMUs can be infiltrated as they become available.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Phase One "Completed"

At a ceremony at Eccles station today, Network Rail celebrated the completion of Phase One of the electrification.

Slightly premature, as they don't expect to complete commissioning until September, but nonetheless a good sign of progress.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Blackpool Line Update

My thanks to Graham for some pictures and updates from the Blackpool line:

At Salwick work is just about complete.  The rebuilt bridge has unusual metal parapets.

 At Kirkham and Wesham the main bridge span has been rebuilt and the road has re-opened.  I'm not sure what the plan is for the bridge span over the down platform track.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

First Time!

Yesterday, amongst the train service disruption notices I spotted this:

Overhead wire problems are causing disruption at Eccles. 
Because of this, trains between Manchester and Liverpool Lime Street / Warrington Bank Quay via Earlestown may be delayed by up to 40 minutes. These delays will continue until further notice. 
Oh dear.  It didn't take long to go pear shaped did it!

Friday 7 June 2013

Eccleston Park Works

A reader kindly provided these pictures of work at Eccleston Park, taken last year.  Thanks, Dave.

 Two shots of the raising of the bridge.

The remains of the old up platform can be seen beyond the end of the current one.

(Up is towards Wigan.)

Friday 31 May 2013

Phase One "Nearly There"

I notice that the late evening services between Manchester and Chester which have been buses on Mondays to Thursdays, are to be trains again from September 9th.

So work on Phase One - Manchester to Newton-le-Willows and to Lowton Junction - is presumably expected to be mostly completed by then.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Progress Reports

A number of correspondents have provided progress updates:
  • A work site, currently empty, has appeared just west of Huyton Junction on the north side of the line at the site of Huyton Quarry station.
  • Mast bases have started appearing between Huyton and Eccleston Park.
  • Lots of new cable troughing and new rails in the Newton/Earlestown area.
  • The switching/substation site at Newton-le-Willows appears externally complete.
  • Wiring also appears complete on the Parkside Junction to Lowton Junction curve.
  • The length of catenary going east from Parkside Junction is getting a lot longer.
  • New cable troughing is being laid east of Eccles.
My thanks to all who took the trouble to email me.

Friday 8 March 2013

Huyton/Roby Extra Tracks Progress

Work has been proceeding rapidly on the additional track(s) through Huyton and Roby.  Much of the former trackbed has been dug out, and many shrubs and substantial trees have been hacked down.

Here are the old platforms at Roby, looking east towards Huyton.  Since this picture was taken, the undergrowth has been cleared and the the platforms can be seen to be in remarkably good condition.

A train leaves Roby towards Huyton, with the cleared trackbed stretching away into the distance on the left.

Looking towards Roby from Huyton.

At Huyton the old north side subway entrance has been re-opened.  So far there's no sign of re-opening this into the current subway.

I think subway work at Huyton will have to be completed early in the project as the busy public pedestrian underpass will need to be closed and altered before the additional track(s) can pass over.  An extended station subway could be used as a diversionary route.

Monday 7 January 2013

Huyton / Roby Extra Tracks

A few weeks ago my attention was drawn to the minutes from last July of the Rail Services Committee of the Merseyside Transport Authority.  Amongst other things the committee discussed a report by the Director of Integrated Transport entitled "Roby and Huyton Stations Upgrade".

This report makes the statement that expansion of the line through Roby and Huyton to three tracks is part of the electrification project currently under way.  The Northern Hub proposals (Which had not been approved at the time of this meeting.)  would then require further expansion to four tracks.

The three track proposal is new one to me, and I must say it seems a bit daft to re-model Huyton Junction twice.

Here's a diagram which originates from Network Rail.