Greater Manchester rail passengers a step closer to greener, faster, more reliable services as enlarged Farnworth tunnel reopens: 1st train through Farnworth tunnel

Monday 14 Dec 2015

Greater Manchester rail passengers a step closer to greener, faster, more reliable services as enlarged Farnworth tunnel reopens

Region & Route:
| North West & Central

Passengers on one of the busiest rail routes in the north west of England are a step closer to a faster, more reliable electrified railway after the new tunnel at Farnworth opened to passenger train services this morning (Monday 14 Dec 2015).  

As part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan, Farnworth Tunnel, near Bolton, has been enlarged to accommodate two electrified lines which will mean greener, faster and more reliable services for passengers when electrification of the line from Manchester to Preston is complete.

Over the weekend engineers worked to connect the new tracks through the tunnel to restore a full timetable for passengers traveling on one of the busiest routes in the north west.*

Upgrading the railway through Farnworth posed a particular engineering challenge, as the twin tunnels which carry the railway under the main A666 Manchester to Bolton road weren’t big enough to accommodate the overhead lines which will power electric trains. 

The solution was to keep one of the 270m-long tunnels open to trains, while the other – just 1.5m away – was completely rebuilt using the UKs biggest tunnel boring machine , making it big enough for two tracks and their overhead power lines.

As well as rebuilding the tunnel, around 120 people have worked on the project to:

  • install  a concrete lining and permanent rib supports to the tunnel which has remained open
  • demolish and rebuild Farnworth and Moses Gate train stations in line with the new tracks
  • lower over 1,600m of track to support an 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 region’s 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 I’m 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 we’re very grateful for our customers’ patience during service alterations. These works have been essential and it’s 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. We’re really looking forward to being able to share the benefits of electrification in the North West with our customers.”

The weekend closure of the route on 12-13 December has seen the new tracks brought into use through the new tunnel. There will initially be a speed restriction on this new section of railway, which will be removed after some further work in the new year which will require an additional closure of the railway. Full details will be confirmed as soon as possible.

* While trains have been running in both directions on a single line, services have been less frequent but more carriages have been added to trains to maintain the usual level of capacity. Returning to a normal timetable from Monday 14 December will enable Northern Rail to restore train service frequency and station calls as well as provide longer trains.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - North West & Central Region
07740 782954

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail
Visit our online newsroom: