The Anonymous Widower

Slow Progress On Manchester-Preston Electrification

These pictures show the current state of the electrification of the Manchester-Preston Line at Bolton and Horwich Parkway stations.

It is a sad sight, that I have seen repeated all over England, where electrification is being installed.

As on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line progress has been slow. Except that this scheme is much slower.

It also appears that something like this is happening on electrification.

  1. A team come along and install the foundations for the gantries.
  2. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst it is worked out how to install the foundations that couldn’t be installed or had just been forgotten.
  3. A team then comes along and puts up the gantries.
  4. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst they chase up the gntries that don’t fit or haven’t been delivered.
  5. A team then comes along and decorates the gantries with the various fitments for the overhead wires.
  6. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst they chase up the faults needed to be fixed before the wires to go up.
  7. Finally, the wires are installed.

Only now,the testing can begin!

On the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, they’ve finally got all the way to Stage 7, but it has meant two major closures of the line.

On the Manchester-Preston Line, they’re still blundering around in Stage 1.

Years ago, I used to work with the Greater London Council on various projects. The Head of the Construction Branch told me, to beware of sub-contractors, who had  their fingers in lots of projects, as it inevitably led to all projects being late.

Could it be, that the electrification woes all over the UK, is that there aren’t enough competent engineers and fitters to design and erect the overhead gantries?

As the Manchester to Preston electrification was being carried out by Carillion, that wouldn’t have helped either! This probably explains the very slow progress on this project.

The competent staff are going, where they know they’ll get paid.

Network Rail’s chronic Project Management and forward planning hasn’t helped either. Crossrail has highlighted the poor state of the wires on the Great Eastern Main Line and with all the new trains due to thunder along the line in a few years time, they seem to have decided to replace all the unreliable wiring in East Anglia.

About time too!

But, this job should have been planned, resourced and carried out earlier.

So all the competent engineers and fitters are flocking to better jobs!


Network Rail needs to do the following.

  • Have access to a competent team of engineers and fitters, either in-house or with a reliable engineering firm.
  • Create a plan of new electrification and renewals for the next few years.
  • Stick to it.

But politicians will not allow this!

It should be noted that if the train companies use more bi-mode, hydrogen and battery-powered trains, this will increase the need for small electrification schemes to allow the new trains to run efficiently.

Hopefully, these small schemes will be of vaguely similar natures, so installation won’t be the large scale farces, we’ve seen in recent years.




January 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Bolton Station Is Still An Ongoing Project

I Bolton station still needs a lot of work to be done to allow electric trains to pass through.

I had just intended to change trains at Bolton on a trip from Deansgate to Blackburn. But because the trains to Blackburn are only hourly, I had to wait nearly an hour.

Hopefully, when the service between Bolton and Blackburn is doubled in frequency, as I wrote about in Blackburn To Manchester Every Thirty Minutes, the wait will be reduced too!


November 17, 2017 Posted by | Transport | | Leave a comment

Bolton Station

Bolton station was a surprise, as it is overflowing with lots of Victorian architectural details. Even if trains are a bit sparse.

It is being linked to a new bus station and the whole will be called Bolton Interchange.

This Google Map shows the area around the station and Bolton Interchange.

Bolton Interchange

Bolton Interchange

Note how north of the station, the rail lines split with the Manchester to Preston Line going to the North West and the Ribble Valley Line going to the North.

The bus part of the interchange, is being built between the two rail lines. This is the architect’s visualisation.

Looking at the visualisation, I have a feeling that what is being created and linked to the existing station could be something of which Bolton could be proud.

All it will need is increased train services from Manchester to Blackburn, Blackpool, Clitheroe, Darwen, Preston and Wigan Wallgate.

Some or all will be electric and the others will be run by better or even new diesel trains.

I will be interested to see if Bolton’s profile in the economic scheme of things rises in the next few years.


March 9, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Removing One Hundred And Seventy Years Of Inadequate Design

The Manchester to Preston railway is san important line in the North-West of England, that was completed in 1841.

To say that is not fit for purpose is a total understatement, as it is not electrified and has a speed limit of just seventy-five miles per hour.

Finally, the line is being electrified and the speed limit will be raised to a hundred. From December 2016, hopefully refurbished Class 319 trains will be speeding from Manchester via Bolton and Preston to Blackpool and possibly Windermere.

The major problem on the line are the twin tunnels at Farnworth. They have a history of make-do-and-mend and are too small to take the overhead wires and Network Rail have come up with a practical solution, that should last several hundred years at least. This Google Earth image shows the ends of the tunnels with respect to the location of Farnworth station and the A666.

Farnworth Station And Tunnels

Farnworth Station And Tunnels

The smaller of the two tunnels will be refurbished and given a concrete lining, so that during the works, there will always be one track for trains. They will then bore out the larger tunnel, so that it is big enough to take two tracks and the overhead lines.

This will require that between May and October this year, there will be significant disruption to rail passengers. The whole project is described in this article in the Bolton News. It may cause a lot of disruption, but the passengers seem philosophical, as these paragraphs from the article show..

Jeff Davies, part of the newly formed Bolton Rail Users Group, said: “The station closures are the bad news, but there is good news here actually.

“It is the beginning of big investment which could take us out of the present problems and the companies have been at great pains to minimise inconvenience and ensure that Bolton people who work in Manchester will still be able to get there.

Perhaps this is because Network Rail have done their public relations well, if this YouTube video entitled Rebuilding the Farnworth Tunnel is anything to go by.

It all goes to prove that politicians should have sorted out the mess that are the railways of the North many years ago.

April 19, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Match Thirty-Eight – Ipswich 1 – Bolton 0

The best things about this match were the fact that the trains to Ipswich were working well and the result.

It was yet another tricky match and Ipswich won it with a late goal from Tabb.

The only problem I had was I fell asleep on the train and nearly ending up sleeping in a siding.

Luckily I woke up just in time!

March 17, 2015 Posted by | Sport | , , , | Leave a comment

Match Twenty-One – Bolton 0 – Ipswich 0

The Reebok stadium is one of the shortest walks to the ground from the nearest rail station of Horwich Parkway.

Walking To The Reebok Stadium From Horwich Parkway Station

Walking To The Reebok Stadium From Horwich Parkway Station

It was a bitterly cold day and I don’t think we saw either team playing at their best, so we got a goalless draw.

Serious Faces And Hats In The Cold

Serious Faces And Hats In The Cold

I also think, Ipswich were missing Stephen Hunt’s left-footed delivery from free kicks and corners.

After the match the trains into Manchester gave a superb demonstration of why the line needs to be electrified and the Ordsall Chord built.

One totally inadquate two carriage trained turned up after twenty minutes in the cold. At least it was followed by an eight-carriage one going to Manchester Piccadilly.




December 13, 2014 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Back Home Via Bolton

I didn’t go directly home, but broke the journey to see Ipswich play Bolton at the Reebok stadium, which is very close to Horwich Parkway station. This meant changes on both legs at Preston.

I would have preferred to come home via Manchester, but because Manchester United were playing Stoke City, I couldn’t get a train ticket at a reasonable price.

This resulted in having to rush my second change at Preston, as the London train had already arrived, when my local train came into Preston a few minutes late.

But the train was in London at the scheduled time of 20:15.

I’ve talked about the problems of getting gluten-free food on Virgin at weekends, so I didn’t really bother, as they had one gluten-free ham salad sandwich in the Marks and Spencer’s at Glasgow Central station.

And of course, it’s impossible to get any gluten free food in a football ground.

If I’d gone home by Manchester, I could have eaten in Carluccio’s in Piccadilly station. And probably a couple of other places too!

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Food, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Buying Tickets To Scotland

Next weekend, I’m going to Edinburgh and Glasgow and then down to Bolton to see Ipswich play.

All journeys were booked on-line in First Class and purchased using my Senior Railcard. It cost me £64.31 for the trip up using East Coast on Thursday and £57.45 for the split  journey down using Virgin.

The journey down is probably cheaper, as it is effectively a typical Premium Economy journey in First Class on Saturday.

As I can now collect tickets from my local station at Dalston Junction, I was able to collect the tickets, whilst taking a constitutional walk to the pub in the evening.

Would people use the trains more, if it were easier to pick up tickets?

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bolton West Service Area

Is this the worst service area on Britain’s motorways?

In my view, yes!

The place looks like it hasn’t been painted or cleaned for some years and all of the roads around the place are of genuine third world standard.  I was only able to buy some Coke!  Couldn’t find any coeliac-friendly crisps or nuts at all.

Perhaps though it owes it all to Bolton.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment