UK: Farnworth Tunnel Opened

Image courtesy of Network Rail

The 270m Farnworth Tunnel in the north west of England was opened to passenger train services on Monday, 14 December 2015, following a full rebuild to accommodate electrification of the line.

The electrification of the line forms part of Network Rails Railway Upgrade Plan, and the creation of the Northern Powerhouse. When the works are completed it will provide an electrified line from Manchester to Preston.

The line is open to full capacity, with trains running less frequently and slower, pending works to be carried out in the new year, but extra carriages will make up for the shortfall. Engineering works took place over the weekend to connect the new tracks in the tunnel in order to restore services.

The engineering work itself was particularly challenging, as the twin tunnels pass beneath the A666 Manchester to Bolton road were not large enough to fit the overhead lines. The challenge was overcome by keeping one of the tunnels open for trains, while the other tunnel was entirely rebuilt to make it large enough for two tracks and the overhead power lines. The tunnel was rebuilt using the UKs biggest boring machine.

As well as rebuilding the tunnel, the project also included works to:

  • Fit concrete lining and permanent rib supports to the single track tunnel
  • Demolish and rebuild Farnworth and Moses Gate train stations
  • Lower more than 1,600m of track in order to enable the increase in line speed to 100mph
  • Install a new footbridge at Kearsley
  • Demolish and reconstructed a road bridge (Cemetery Road)

Nick Spall, route delivery director at Network Rail, said:

The work we have done at Farnworth is part of a major upgrade to electrify one of the regions busiest commuter routes. It will mean faster trains with more seats, giving passengers better journeys and boosting the economy.
Over the weekend our engineers worked round the clock to connect the new tracks through the tunnel, and Im delighted that we have been able to restore the full timetable for passengers on this key route.
I would like to thank passengers and the local community for their patience whilst we have carried out this work, which will bring real benefits in the future.

A spokesperson for First TransPennine Express said:

The opening of the new Farnworth Tunnel is fantastic news for our customers and staff. We understand how difficult it has been for everyone involved during these works and were very grateful for our customers patience during service alterations. These works have been essential and its great to see the tunnel open once again.

Alex Hynes, Managing Director for Northern Rail, said:

With services now returning through the newly developed Farnworth Tunnel, we have the opportunity to not only provide extra seats to our customers travelling through Bolton but to also start planning for an exciting new phase of electrification in the North West. Our customers have been amazingly patient throughout this complex and challenging project. What better way to reward them than with bigger and better electric trains . Were really looking forward to being able to share the benefits of electrification in the North West with our customers.

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