Northern transport leaders have welcomed the government’s green light for the £78m electrification of the Wigan to Bolton rail line.
The track between Wigan North Western station and Lostock Junction near Bolton will receive a £78m upgrade to enable longer electric trains with more capacity by 2025, building a greener rail network
Ministers say that by electrifying almost 13 miles of infrastructure and lengthening platforms, this investment will ensure that CO2 emitting diesel trains are replaced by electric rolling stock. As longer trains with additional capacity, these will provide passengers with greener, more comfortable and more reliable journeys.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “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."
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 £78m 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.”
Nick Donovan, managing director at Northern, said: “The electrification of the line between Wigan and Bolton will make a really positive impact for the north and will help us give our customers better journeys on greener trains. In the past 18 months we have made significant improvements to the northern network with a fleet of 101 new trains, refurbishment of our older trains and enhancements at stations. Today’s announcement provides further evidence of the rail industry’s commitment to improve and modernise our services and infrastructure to benefit passengers and the environment.”
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 provides 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.
The news has been welcomed by sub-national transport authority Transport for the North as a ‘step in the right direction’ as the organisation continues to push for investment in sustainable rail schemes across the region.
“It’s great news that a commitment has now been made to electrify this key section of the rail network,” said TfN’s chief executive Martin Tugwell. “It may be just one piece in a bigger jigsaw, but it will support sustainable rail in this area of the north-west for many years to come.”
The scheme for the electrification of 13 miles of track and the lengthening of a number of platforms builds on the recent electrification of the line from Manchester Victoria to Preston through Bolton. It is part of a wider plan for ‘infill’ projects where additional electrification can be built to connect already electrified routes.
TfN leaders say that as well as supporting decarbonisation, the project will also potentially give journey time savings, lower operating costs and carbon savings for passenger and any freight services using the route. For Manchester the new rail scheme is a strategically important development as it will assist in decarbonising commuter journeys into and out of the city which already faces severe challenges with road traffic.
In welcoming the initiative, TfN chief executive Martin Tugwell said: “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.”