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Expanded Farnworth tunnel reopens

Farnworth tunnel has reopened to passenger train services following the completion of works to allow electric trains to run between Bolton and Manchester.

As part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan, Farnworth tunnel has been enlarged to accommodate two electrified lines.

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 were not big enough to accommodate the overhead lines which power electric trains.

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

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.”

Major upgrade

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)

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