A TEST train made its final journey along the newly-electrified line between Manchester, Bolton and Preston early today, boosting hopes that the delayed project could soon be completed to full specification at last.
Northern said disruption following the introduction of new timetables in May 2018 had been partly due to the delayed electrification scheme on the Manchester to Preston route, which should have been a core part of improved services in the north west last year.
Public services using electric Class 319 sets were introduced without ceremony on 11 February, although their speed has been limited to 75mph (121km/h).
The test run in the small hours of this morning involved inspections of the track and overhead lines at speed, using special equipment on board a 319 unit. Although 319s should soon be carrying passengers on the route at up to 100mph (160km/h), the test run was also restricted to 75mph.
Higher speeds will only be allowed after the upgrade has been given the thumbs-up by a railway inspector from the Office of Rail and Road.
Network Rail project sponsor Mark Ashton said: ‘Following the successful introduction of electric passenger trains on the Manchester to Preston railway last week, last night we completed our last test as part of the project to allow trains to run up to 100mph.
‘High speed testing of the overhead wires will support the introduction of greener, faster and more frequent trains – a key aim of the Great North Rail Project to help transform rail travel across the North.’
If the ORR agrees, full speed electric services should start running on the route when timetables change in May.