Pacer under catenary: Nos 142053 and 150271 on a Blackpool South to Preston service at Kirkham & Wesham, the junction for the Blackpool North and South lines, on 17 March 2018.
Rob France

THE BLACKPOOL North branch reopened on 16 April following a lengthy blockade by Network Rail to carry out electrification work.

The line had originally been due to reopen on 25 March, but Network Rail confirmed just nine days before that date it would need to extend the closure for a further three weeks. Delays to the completion of work on the Blackpool line were said by Network Rail to be due to ‘Snow, wind and ice from the “Beast from the East” combined with Storm Emma off the Atlantic’ as key factors, along with unplanned maintenance being needed for an essential engineering train.

The closure began on 11 November 2017, with the Blackpool South branch reopening on 29 January while the section between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool North remained closed. Although the full route reopened to trains on 16 April, with the electrification work still ongoing Northern was only able to introduce one train per hour from Blackpool North to Manchester Airport, supplemented by replacement bus services. A full service with electric trains is planned from 20 May, when timetables across the UK are due to change.

NR says the Blackpool work has involved the rebuilding of 11 bridges, remodelling of 11 platforms, replacement of 11,000 metres of track, installation of 200km of overhead power line and installation of 84 new signals. The new signalling system is controlled from the Manchester Rail Operating Centre (ROC).