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  • Farnworth Tunnel upgrade

    Faster direct links to cities and towns across the north of England are coming – we're electrifying one of the north west's busiest routes to allow faster trains with more space for passengers

  • This is part of a wider investment to electrify around 300km of the rail network in the area, improving travel between Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Blackpool, Leeds and York, which is vital to support the region's long-term economic growth.

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    Farnworth Tunnel reconstruction

    To make room for overhead power lines, we have reconstructed Farnworth Tunnel. On Monday 14 December a full timetable on the route was restored, with two new tracks now running through the new tunnel.

    Once the electrification work is complete, electric trains will be able to run between Manchester and Preston, providing more capacity and quicker direct links between cities and towns across the north of England. Electric trains are greener, quieter and more reliable too.

    Farnworth, Moses Gate, Kearsley and Clifton railway stations are now reopened.

    About the Farnworth Tunnel reconstruction and improvement works

    We started work on site in March 2015. Fillie, our giant tunnelling machine exited the tunnel at Farnworth in October 2015.

    Over the course of the project we:

    • Removed over 30,000 tonnes of material from the 270m-long tunnel, and put in place 1,940 concrete sections to build the new tunnel.
    • Lowered over 1600m of track at Farnworth and Moses Gate.
    • Completed the demolition and reconstruction of Farnworth and Moses Gate train stations on their new alignments.
    • Constructed a 300m access road off the A666, removing 40–120 lorries from residential roads each day.
    • Installed a new footbridge at Kearsley.
    Prior to starting work on the tunnel we:

    • Installed an internal mesh frame, as well as concrete lining and a series of permanent ribs to support the tunnel, which is still in use.
    • Installed bi-directional signalling and cross overs
    • Filled one of the tunnels with around 7,500m3 of foam concrete, which was mixed on site to reduce the number of lorries travelling to the site.

    Around 120 people are working on the project 24/7. We will have worked around 580,000 man hours by the time we finish the project.

    In September, we announced that work on Farnworth Tunnel was to be extended beyond the original completion date of Sunday 4 October. The reason for this was due to exceptionally poor ground conditions and unforeseen running sands which the machine had come across during boring. This slowed the excavation speed and created voids which needed filling before boring could safely continue.

    Despite more than 1,500 test holes being drilled to try and predict the ground conditions in the area, engineers encountered far more sand than was predicted, making the tunnel boring process extremely slow adding weeks to the programme. It proved impossible to safely excavate while concurrently installing and grouting sections of tunnel wall as was originally planned.

    We first hit an area of loose sand on 14 August when our engineers saw it suddenly pouring into the tunnel. This slowed progress and created big voids, the largest of which needed filling with around 35 tonnes of grout. Again on August 27, sand poured into the excavated area and our engineers had to remove 100 tonnes of material by hand.

  • Photos from the site

    One of the first passenger trains to use the new tunnel

    December 2015: work takes place to connect the new tunnel to the railway

    View of the new tunnel

    Inside the new tunnel

    Tunnel boring machine exiting the tunnel, Oct 2015


    Farnworth tunnel

    Creating pit from above the tunnel to remove unsafe material

    Engineers sit on mound of sand poured into the TBM

    Tunnel boring machine cutter, 2 August 2015

    Tunnel boring machine in place, 24 July 2015


    Lowering the tunnel boring machine, 18 July 2015

    Farnworth station, 24 May 2015

    Moses Gate station, 24 May 2015

    View down the tunnel, 10 May 2015

    Concrete lining for the down tunnel


    Lowering the track, 9 May 2015

    The tunnel after the track had been removed

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    Electrifying your railway

    As part of our railway upgrade plan, we're electrifying the route between Manchester and Preston via Bolton.

    Manchester to Preston Electrification
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    Chorley station improvements

    We're improving the railway at Chorley station to get the track and platforms ready for faster electric trains.

    Chorley station improvements

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