Ongoing electrification work between Preston and Blackpool branded a 'shambles'

Workers on the Preston to Blackpool electrification project
Workers on the Preston to Blackpool electrification project
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Paperwork blunders, delays, and cancellations led to the handling of the ongoing electrification work between  Preston and Blackpool North being branded a shambles.

The multi-million pound project is three weeks behind schedule, with just one train running every hour.

A director from operator Northern has blamed delays and ‘errors’ in planning for cancelled services.

Tony Williams, opposition leader at Blackpool Council, said: “This whole exercise has been a shambles from beginning to end.”

And Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard, the former rail minister, added: “I have expressed to Northern and Network Rail my concerns over the re-opening of the route between Blackpool and Preston which appears to have been poorly planned and badly communicated. I remain convinced of the long-term benefits electrification will bring.

“What is important now is that all involved work together to restore normal services as quickly as possible before passenger confidence is further damaged.”

Rail minister Jo Johnson said he was ‘disappointed’ with the delay on work, which was blamed on a ‘combination of bad weather and technical glitches’, including a breakdown on a specialist wiring train – with another wiring train involved in a road smash.

In a letter to his predecessor Paul Maynard, he said 20 shifts of work, based on two shifts a day, had been lost as a result.

He said: “I shared your disappointment at the news which was circulation by Network Rail ... that the reopening of the Blackpool North-Preston line has been delayed by three weeks.

“The project was progressing well until high winds and snow disrupted progress on wiring. Just around that time, unfortunately, there was also a breakdown in a part of the high-output wiring train from OCR.”