Rail upgrade hold-up may be ‘no bad thing’

Rail electrification work
Rail electrification work

Blackpool is “crying out” for electrification of the railway but complications caused by out-of-date signalling are holding up the work, it has been claimed.

A resort MP said the latest set-back, when contractor Balfour Beatty pulled our of its deal with Network Rail, will not see the project shelved – and may actually be good news in the long-term.

Paul Maynard

Paul Maynard

But the long-awaited rail upgrade between Blackpool North and Preston could yet be delayed by a further six months in a bid to minimise the impact on tourism in the resort.

Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said the fact Network Rail will have to find a replacement for Balfour Beatty, which has been blamed in some quarters for the downfall of Blackpool Airport, “might be no bad thing”.

He added: “Balfour Beatty was not the most popular firm in Blackpool.

“Blackpool is crying out for electrification and we have got to make sure that happens at the right time of year so it doesn’t damage the town’s economic interests.”

Blackpool is crying out for electrification and we have got to make sure that happens at the right time of year so it doesn’t damage the town’s economic interests

After meeting with rail bosses earlier this month, he said the work could be completed on time – but it would mean closing Blackpool North train station for months on end “in a time sensitive period”.

Instead, the project, which includes upgrades across the North West, is under review to determine how the work should be carried out.

But Mr Maynard said there is no question of Network Rail cancelling the scheme as he revealed he had been told issues around the semaphore signalling used on the Fylde coast led to engineers “underestimating the complexity of the task”.

Network Rail, which has said it and the Government remain “committed” to the project, said Blackpool is getting the investment it deserves.

A spokesman added: “We continue to progress our commitment to invest in all phases of North West electrification.”