The official testing of the now completed Phase 4 electrification upgrade.
Manchester to Preston railway line - electrification upgrade. This line goes via Bolton Station hence the name ’the Bolton corridor’.
By the term electrification is when a section of railway is converted from just being able to run diesel trains to the more efficient and greener electric trains by getting the power from an over head wire - a system first adopted on a section on railway at Wath to Penistone in 1952.
Since then electrification from the above wires was rolled out across various sections of the railway - the west coast mainline electrified between 1959 and 1974 helping to launch British Railways new InterCity Brand.
Electrification of a railway is proven to help not only cut costs in trains and operation on a railway but cuts time of a journey by trains being able to easily reach speeds of 125mph - something a diesel or steam train could never do day in day out. In fact the fastest electric train was the Harmony train in Japan hitting 300mph - so what takes about 4-5 hours from Edinburgh to London now, could be achieved in 1hour 30mins.
So electrification is a modern way to upgrade a section of railway that ultimately benefits passengers and the economy. And by upgrading this line like phase 3 the recent Blackpool to Preston railway - connects to the larger spectrum of electrified routes available.
Work started on this section early 2015 and taking a bit longer than expected to complete today is it’s test day. So ultimately the only way to really find out if the work is ready - is to send a train down and back along this section and what better train to use than a British Railways Class 390 - or known to you and me as the tilting Pendolino train.
Before the test begins to get an idea of the scale of work completed on this line, Farnworth tunnel situated between Farnworth Station and Moses Gate Train Station was bored larger to accommodate the overhead electrification installations, new platforms like at Chorley.
Over 20 bridges have been reconstructed, with much more hard work carried out to a great standard enabling these faster, quieter and more reliable trains for you and me.
Now there was a delay in having this section ready on time due to unforeseen issues with the viscosity of the layers of earth needed for piling the metal posts in for the over head equipment. A little issue with a engineering company involved in working on this line - but as in time with great British Spirit, Team Orange jumped on the task and did a great job with getting this line to a modern higher speed standard - to be married to the overhead electrified family that’s building across our country under the Great North Rail Project.
So for this vlog (to follow) I spoke to some of those involved in this project to get an insight into the formation of this railway - maybe their personal feelings and what it means for us passengers.
This test has to be conducted ‘after hours’ as not to disrupt any passenger services if anything failed - and the reason for choosing Buckshaw Parkway and Bolton Station is they are the only stations between the run that has good long platform that's well lit, and has a better view.
Before I got on the railway I had to don my full Personal Protective Equipment or transform into Team Orange, get my track permit and hopefully share with you a first for this line a Pendolino train under the wires running through Bolton Station from Preston to Manchester Victoria after midnight.
We’ve come on a long way since the first passenger railway opened - by the Swansea and Mumbles Railway at Oyster Mouth in 1807, using horse-drawn carriages on an existing tram line. In 1802, Richard Trevithick designed and built the first steam locomotive to run on smooth rails, to today in the 21st Century looking at some of the worlds most reliable train sets working across the country carrying millions of passengers who probably don’t bat an eye lid to the vast amount of work carried out to modernise a system that is built on the foundations of the Victorian design.
The trains have changed, many stations and the people who run and use them have changed- but the thing that we all really on hasn’t, and that the metal track. Decades of modernisation built on something very simple but very special.
Thank you to all at Network Rail for inviting myself along to this special event. Good to meet up with some previous members of NR staff and see how it's all transformed - hats off to you all!