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Electrification of Preston-Blackpool rail line put back a year by Network Rail

Network Rail has set a new completion date for a crucial part of the £75m north-western electrification programme that is almost two years later than originally scheduled.

The electrification of the line from Blackpool to Preston was initially scheduled to finish by May 2016 but is now expected to be finished by summer 2018, according to Network Rail regional managing director Martin Frobisher.

In an email obtained by the Blackpool Gazette last week, Mr Frobisher said: “We recognise it’s important to protect Blackpool summer holiday traffic and detailed plans are being developed to make sure this is achieved.

“It is likely that final commissioning will take place prior to the summer holiday traffic, summer 2018.”

This has now been confirmed by Network Rail.

This is the second time the completion date for the Blackpool-Preston project has been rescheduled after Network Rail announced last year that completion would be reached in March 2017.

The estimated end date was then put into further doubt in August when contractor Balfour Beatty pulled out of the contract, after completing only two of the seven phases of the electrification along the route.

Construction News reported last month that Carillion was in early contractor talks with Network Rail to take over work on the line.

However, no contract has yet been signed between the two contractors.

If Carillion does pick up the contract it would take on the remaining five phases of electrification along the route.

These include phase three from Preston to Blackpool, phase five from Manchester to Stalybridge, phase six from Windemere to Oxenholme and phase seven from Lostock to Wigan.

Carillion would also take on phase four from Manchester to Preston, which had been started by Balfour Beatty but not completed.

The Preston-Blackpool project would be the latest in a series of delays to the CP5 electrification enhancements.

In September, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that the Midland Main Line electrification would not be completed until 2023, three years later than originally expected, and the TransPenine route would also not be completed until 2022, three years later than planned.

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