Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line

Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line

Following the Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line, Virgin Trains have announced a significant number of new direct rail services between Blackpool and London from 21 May. Plus a new Saturday service between Birmingham and Blackpool, the first direct link for 15 years.

Virgin Trains set to boost services on Blackpool route

Virgin Trains is preparing to introduce 35 additional Pendolino trains per week between London and Blackpool next month, following electrification of the route by Network Rail. It will add nearly 17,000 seats per week onto the route.

Virgin Pendolino train, coming soon, after the electrification of the Blackpool railway line
Photo: David Parry/PA Wire. It was pointed out to Live Blackpool that this might look like a Pendolino but is in fact an AZUMA, one of the new HITACHI built trains for the EAST Coast Mainline.  The photo was taken on Sunday 23rd April 2017 on the occasion that four trains ran parallel on the line representing four generations of train travel on the line.  The four, including the AZUMA, were an HST from 1970s, a Class 91 and its train from the 1988-91 period, 60103 ‘Flying Scotsman’ represented the period 1925 -1963. (You can see the smoke rising from it  behind the AZUMA). 

Launching on Monday, 21st May, ahead of Blackpool’s peak tourism season, the electric Pendolino services will strengthen connections to and from the city six days a week, providing eight direct services each weekday and six services on a Saturday.

The move has been hailed as a “step change in connectivity” by tourism leaders and follows Virgin Trains’ move to reintroduce direct rail services to London in 2014.

The extra weekday services between Blackpool North and London Euston (three northbound and three southbound) will also call at Rugby, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western and Preston.

In addition to five Saturday services between Blackpool and London (two northbound; three southbound), Virgin Trains is set to operate a service from Birmingham on Saturdays, offering the West Midlands a direct service to Blackpool for the first time in 15 years.

The boost in services will generate an additional 16,900 seats a week* as the seaside resort welcomes three new major attractions. ICON (the UK’s first double launch roller coaster); the elephant house at Blackpool Zoo; and Marvel Comics super-heroes attraction at Madame Tussauds.

First time for Pendolino tilting trains

This is the first time the long-distance train operator will serve Blackpool with its electric-powered tilting Pendolino trains. It follows the completion of Network Rail’s work to electrify the line between Blackpool and Preston and lengthen platforms at Blackpool North station to allow the longer Pendolino trains to travel to and from the resort.

Testing of the infrastructure is due to take place over the coming weeks in the run-up to the launch of the first services.

It can only be good for the leisure market, business tourism and potential inward investment. It brings a real step-change in connectivity for Blackpool and the whole of the Fylde Coast.

Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line – Great North Rail Project

As part of the multi-billion pound Great North Rail Project, the line has reopened following 22 weeks of work to upgrade the tracks, station platforms and signalling system.

Train services between Preston and Blackpool North resumed from Monday 16 April 2018. Initially with one train per hour, allowing time for driver training on the route.

Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line - Blackpool North Station
Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line – works at Blackpool North Station

From Monday 16 April, Northern will operate one train per hour between Blackpool North and Manchester Airport – via Preston. They will continue to supplement this with two stopping and two express bus services every hour between Blackpool North and Preston. The hourly service between Blackpool South and Preston will continue to operate but with many services extended to operate to/from Colne.

Also on Monday 16 April, Virgin Trains on the west coast reinstated its direct service to Blackpool North, which departs London Euston at 16.33.

A full rail service will continue to operate from Blackpool South.

Delay in reopening the line

The closure of the line was extended in March to complete the route upgrade following severe weather and the breakdown of critical machinery used to install new overhead line equipment. The new timetable will be introduced on 20 May following essential driver training.

Great North Rail Project in Blackpool and the Fylde Coast

This project has seen over £1bn+ investment to improve the railway infrastructure, so that new electric trains can be introduced between Manchester and Blackpool via Preston.

Most crucially, once this work is completed, passengers travelling on the line from Blackpool to  Preston and Manchester, and vice-versa, will benefit from better, greener, quieter and more reliable journeys. The improvements will also serve passengers for many decades to come and help boost the economy across the north of England.

As part of Blackpool’s rail upgrade Network Rail has:

  • rebuilt 11 bridges,
  • remodelled 11 station platforms,
  • replaced 11,000 metres of track,
  • installed 200,000 metres of overhead power line,
  • upgraded railway drainage systems,
  • installed 84 new modern signals.

The Great North Rail Project, Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line

The brand new signalling system, controlled from Network Rails operating centre in Manchester, will help to reduce delays and improve railway performance.

When the railway reopens, upgrade work will continue into spring during overnight shifts when trains aren’t running.

It’s seen major improvements at Blackpool North station, Kirkham & Wesham station, as well as at Blackpool depot to support the roll-out of modern trains across the region from later this year.

While the railway is running, lifts will be completed at Kirkham & Wesham station in the next few weeks, making it fully accessible.

This photo was taken from Sainsbury’s Supermarket, across the road from Blackpool North, in February 2018.

Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line, works at Blackpool North in February 2018
Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line, works at Blackpool North in February 2018

Blackpool South Station Reopened

Blackpool South Railway Station, Electrification of the Blackpool Railway Line

On Monday 29th January 2018 train services returned to Blackpool South Station.

Trains run from Blackpool South Station to Preston on an hourly basis calling at:

Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Squires Gate
St Annes-on-the-Sea
Ansdell & Fairhaven
Moss Side
Kirkham & Wesham

Find out More

Have a look at the Live Blackpool website homepage for more of the latest updates.

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  1. Just read the article on the electrification of the Blackpool railway line. Great news. However just wanted to point out that the image used for a Virgin Pendolino is incorrect. The image shows a non-tilting Virgin Class 800 Azuma which will be used on the East Coast Main Line not the tilting Virgin Class 390 Pendolino which are used on the West Coast Mainline.
    Otherwise a good article and worth a read

    1. Hi Sean, that was pointed out on the Live Blackpool Facebook page! The information came from Virgin without an accompanying photo. I picked one out from their online media library which looked like a Pendolino to me… I’m sure one will be provided in due course! Thanks for your comment though. Glad you enjoyed it! Jane, Live Blackpool

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