Network Rail started work on a major infrastructure project to upgrade the railway between Preston and Blackpool as part of the multibillion pound Great North Rail Project to deliver greener, quieter and more reliable journeys for passengers in 2018.

The 17 mile route between Preston and Blackpool North will be fully electrified, connecting the area to the West Coast Main Line, the key rail artery linking the North West with London and Scotland, stimulating economic growth by paving the way for modern and more spacious trains. The project also includes improvements to the track layout and signalling equipment aimed at reducing delays and improving performance.

Based on previous positive performance, Freightliner, a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W), was selected to undertake all the rail haulage work associated with the upgrade which has involved detailed planning in collaboration with Network Rail and their contractors, VolkerRail, a leading UK multi-disciplinary railway infrastructure contractor.

For several months, this involved monthly train haulage reviews to provide clear visibility of the programme of works throughout 2017/18 and ensure key resources were booked and allocated in line with timescales.

The project intensified during the major junction re-modelling at Kirkham and Blackpool during the first three weeks of the blockade, when a large number of engineering trains were used. Throughout this period, it was even more critical that all parties worked closely together to overcome challenges, ensuring that all works were implemented safely and on time.

James Ramsden, VolkerRail Senior Project Manager, said: “In order for us to achieve our works, it was imperative we set up a good working relationship with Freightliner. Through reviews and stringent planning, following last minute work changes, we were able to book and utilise over 80 engineering trains. This type of collaborative effort shows what can be achieved when everyone works together. Thank you to all involved.”

Since June this year, Freightliner drivers from numerous depots have undertaken extensive work to prepare the site for commencement of the major works in November.

“Once again Freightliner staff have provided a comprehensive haulage delivery solution for this high profile project,” said Freightliner’s General Manager Train Crew, Adrian Sawdon. “They wholeheartedly committed to delivering on every aspect of this key programme of improvement works, demonstrating great teamwork and determination to get the job done within the challenging timescales.”

During the 19 week blockade, Freightliner, supported by a dedicated engineering team, will run over 80 trains delivering and removing materials and moving spoil around the site, culminating in an estimated 10,000 staff hours worked.

Freightliner Infrastructure Director Mike Leadbetter said: “We have worked closely with Network Rail, VolkerRail, and customers to provide effective support to the significant improvement work being undertaken on the Preston to Blackpool route. I am proud to see how the Freightliner team has worked together to deliver for our customer.”

Chris Montgomery, Network Rail’s Major Programme Director, said: “Our freight partners are playing a key role and doing a great job in helping us deliver the upgrade of the Preston to Blackpool line as part of the Great North Rail Project through the transportation and delivery of construction materials. Together, our one team approach is modernising this railway to improve journeys for passengers travelling between Preston and Blackpool.”