FASTER rail services due to the electrification of Bolton’s train network will be a huge boost for the town, according to campaigners and business leaders.

Plans for the £1 billion improvements to the North West’s rail network have been announced as part of a £37.5 billion five-year plan for the UK’s railways.

Network Rail has unveiled its business plan for 2014 to 2019 to create faster journeys, more peak-time commuter seats and better reliability.

In the North there will be: l—700 more daily trains connecting key regional cities l—The Northern Hub improvements around north and east Manchester, including greater capacity at Manchester Victoria l—The £400 million Lancashire Triangle electrification programme between Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool by the end of 2016, which will also benefit Bolton.

l—Trans-Pennine journeys between Manchester and Leeds reduced by 10 minutes through a £300 million electrification programme by 2018.

Network Rail, which has submitted plans to the Office of Rail Regulation, said higher fares and savings would be needed to help fund the work.

It aims to create 170,000 more peak-time seats across the UK.

Bolton rail campaigner, Preeva Crossley, a member of the Greater Manchester Transport Campaign group, said: “I want to see Network Rail concentrate on infrastructure along with providing more and longer trains between Bolton and Manchester.

“Travelling during the rush hours is horrendous. People pay for their tickets, yet there is only standing room for many of them.”

The announcement came just days after rail fares for season ticket holders rose by an average of 4.2 per cent. Mr Crossley, from Great Lever, added: “Is it fair that train prices have risen steadily yet people cannot get a seat? It would be best if passengers didn’t have to pay towards improvements.”

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying for improvements to the Northern Hub for a decade.

Emma Antrobus, its transport policy manager, said: “It is important to deliver improvements for the short to medium term, with the Northern Hub providing the capacity for up to 700 additional train services, and electrification of the north Trans-Pennine route and the ‘Lancashire Triangle’, which will provide more and faster services via Bolton and Wigan to Scotland.”