Milestone journey completed as first electric train pulls into Blackpool

The transformation of the railway in the north has made another big step after the first electric train travelled to and from Blackpool as part of tests for new infrastructure along the 17-mile route between Blackpool North and Preston.

The first visit of the Pendolino trains to Blackpool North on Monday (14 May) came ahead of the launch of Virgin Trains 36 new services next Monday. The new timetable will see train operators Northern and Virgin Trains introduce greener, quieter and more reliable trains to and from Blackpool.

The milestone journey follows 22 weeks of work to upgrade the tracks, station platforms and signalling system. The upgrading work, part of the multi-billion-pound Great North Rail Project, will see train services between Preston and Blackpool North resume initially with one train per hour allowing time for driver training on the route.

This is the first time the long-distance train operator will serve Blackpool with its electric-powered Pendolino trains, since it reintroduced direct services between the resort and London in 2014. 

The train travelled from Preston to Blackpool North and back under the supervision of Network Rail’s Team Orange engineers who were on hand to check and inspect the route’s new overhead equipment.

Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “The successful testing of the newly electrified railway is the latest step to provide customers with a better, more reliable railway. The Great North Rail Project is transforming rail travel across the north of England and passengers are now in touching distance of better journeys between Preston and Blackpool.” 

In the last 18 months Team Orange has installed over 1,000 steel structures and 200,000 metres of electric wires, as well as replacing every moving part on the railway between Preston and Blackpool North. A new and improved track layout, modern signalling system and electrification mean that passengers in Lancashire are set to benefit from better journeys on the Fylde Coast.

Michael Stewart, general manager at Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “We’re really excited to have reached this landmark by welcoming our Pendolino train to Blackpool North. This will allow us to test the infrastructure, as we prepare to launch our new electric services to and from the resort next Monday.”

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