The Anonymous Widower

What’s Gone Wrong With The Blackpool To Preston Electrification?

On Friday this news item appeared on the BBC web site. It is entitled Balfour Beatty pulls out of Lancashire rail electrification.

The article starts like this.

The main contractor behind plans to electrify the railway line between Preston and Blackpool has pulled out.

Balfour Beatty confirmed it was leaving the scheme after a review said the work was unlikely to be on time and budget.

Network Rail insisted the electrification was still due to finish by spring 2017 and a new contractor would be “appointed shortly”.

On the Saturday, on my route from Liverpool to Preston, I took a detour up the Blackpool branch and took these pictures.

The aim was to see, if I could get a clue as to what has gone wrong.

For a start, I saw a succession of bridges that appeared to have been recently replaced or refurbished. Often with electrification, the cost of getting bridges and stations ready for electrification is a major part of the cost.

Even Poulton-le-Fylde station  appeared to have acquired a cafe from when I saw it in May this year.

At Blackpool North station crowds of people were leaving, as the weather was atrocious, so I took the next train back to Preston.

As to why, Balfour Beatty have given up the contract, there were no clues.

I think there could be two reasons for the delay.. In this section on Electrification for the Wikipedia entry for Blackpool North station, this is said.

This will result in the semaphore signalling at the station being replaced by modern colour lights controlled from the WCML North Rail Operating Centre in Preston and will also see the station track & platform layout altered (the current eight curved platforms will be reduced to six on a straighter alignment than at present). Work has begun to raise many of the intermediate overbridges to accommodate the overhead wires and the project was due for completion by May 2016, with the line onwards to Manchester following by the end of the year. This has since been pushed back to March 2017 so that the track remodelling & resignalling work can be carried out at the same time as the wiring, reducing disruption to passengers (as only one period of closure will be required)

So could an over-complicated project or lack of resources be the cause?

Look at other Wikipedia entries for lines in this area and it gets more complicated with aspirations to reopen the Fleetwood Branch Line.

Or could it be that there are so many ideas about what to do in Blackpool with the trains, the planners at Balfour Beatty can’t keep pace with all the changes? So backing out is the esiest thing to do!

I think there is a need to take a long hard look at all the possibilities, like the Fleetwood Branch and linking to the Blackpool trams and the way they actually perform any track changes and electrification.

Perhaps everything from the West Coast Main Line to Blackpool and Fleetwood should be devolved to an elected mayor or someone, who gets voted out, if the project fails.

I know Blackpool reasonably well and if ever an are needs an upgraded transport system, with an electrified line to nearby cities, it is Blackpool.


August 23, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | ,


  1. […] There was no sign of any electrification work and it was almost if they had tidied everything up and gone away, just leaving a few builders putting the finishing touches to the new and raised bridges on the route. There was no piles of steelwork for the overhead lines or yellow special-purpose vehicles anywhere! I didn’t see them on my last visit to Blackpool, which I wrote about in What’s Gone Wrong With The Blackpool To Preston Electrification? […]

    Pingback by Up And Down The Chase Line « The Anonymous Widower | September 27, 2015 | Reply

  2. […] When a few weeks ago I visited all work between Preston and Blackpool had ceased and they’d tidied it all up. But bridges and platforms looked like they were ready for new four-car electric trains. I wrote What’s Gone Wrong With The Blackpool To Preston Electrification? […]

    Pingback by Thoughts On Electrification « The Anonymous Widower | September 28, 2015 | Reply

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