The delayed project of the newly-electrified line between Manchester, Bolton and Preston could soon be completed to full specification at last as the last test train made its final journey. The introduction of new timetables in May 2018 and the disruptions brought with it were partly at fault for 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.
On 11th February, the public services using electric Class 319 sets were introduced without ceremony, 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.
“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,” said Network Rail project sponsor Mark Ashton.
If the ORR agrees, full speed electric services should start running on the route when timetables change in May.