Train services on certain routes between Manchester stations and Liverpool and Liverpool and Wigan are to be amended on Friday nights and Sundays over the next six weeks.
Network Rail is investing more than £1bn in the railway in the north west of England to provide a faster, more reliable and efficient railway which includes nearly 200 miles of newly electrified lines.
Additional closures are needed to allow Network Rail to catch up on the delivery of the electrification programme which has been delayed because of the cumulative impact of severe weather, an accident involving an essential wiring train and equipment failure.
Network Rail has taken the difficult decision to close the railway on the route between Manchester and Liverpool via Newton-le-Willows on the next six Sundays (25 January; 1, 8 15 and 22 February; and 1 March) and to extend the current amended Monday to Thursday evening timetable to include Friday nights until 27 February.
Additional closures may be required and engineers are currently assessing if and when these will be necessary.
Jim Syddall, route managing director for Network Rail said:
“I fully appreciate the implications of this decision and apologise to passengers for the impact it will have. It was not taken lightly and all alternatives – which also involved additional closures of the railway or a further delay to the completion of the project – have been considered.”
“The extra closures are needed so Network Rail can complete this phase of electrification to allow electric trains to operate on the line and support the wider cascade of trains across the north west.”
“While the promise of a better, more reliable and faster railway will provide little comfort to passengers in light of this news, the £1bn+ investment in the north west will deliver just that by 2019. I can assure passengers that lessons have been learnt which will improve the ongoing delivery of the electrification programme.”
A spokesperson for train operators said:
“Network Rail has informed us that it needs to close the line between Liverpool and Manchester via Newton-le-Willows so it can continue with electrification work. This work will allow bigger and better trains to run on the line.”
“We understand the frustrations that this disruption causes to passengers and whilst this is far from ideal we are working together to keep customers moving and informed.”
“We are advising customers to check the details of their journey before they travel and allow extra time where possible. We will have extra staff available at locations across the route.”
To minimise the impact on passengers as much as possible, Network Rail has worked with Northern Rail and First TransPennine Express to plan alternative travel arrangements during these times.
Jim Syddall, from Network Rail, added:
“Once it is known if further closures are required to complete this work, it will be communicated far and wide at the earliest opportunity. I apologise again for the ongoing inconvenience this delay is causing to passengers.”
Information about the changes will be available on trains, at stations and via social media. Railway staff will be at stations, including Manchester Victoria, on Sunday (25 January) to provide assistance and information to passengers.