COMMUTERS are being warned of major disruption to train services this summer as operators press ahead with plans for electrification.
Passengers at Horwich Parkway, Lostock and Blackrod will only get one train an hour instead of the usual three while work is carried out upgrading a tunnel in Chorley for six weeks from July 19 until August 31.
During the engineering works there will be only one Northern Rail train an hour between Chorley and Bolton, continuing to Manchester Victoria, from 7am and 7pm, which rail bosses say they will increase from two carriages to four, with additional buses laid on.
Cllr David Chadwick said: “The situation is not ideal, but the problem we have got is that the rail infrastructure on that line is not of the 21st century.
“Electrification is going to bring it up to date, but it is going to be difficult for regular users, and during that six to seven weeks there is going to be a lot of disruption.”
On evenings and weekends, no trains will call between Bolton and Preston, affecting Lostock, Horwich Parkway, Blackrod, Adlington, Chorley, Buckshaw Parkway and Leyland.
Instead there will be replacement buses, which train bosses say will match the capacity of carriages.
Commuter Kat Dibbits drives to Lostock every day from her home in Horwich so she can catch the train to Manchester.
The 31-year-old, who works at Manchester Metropolitan University, said the disruption would cause a lot of problems for her getting to work.
She said: “I’m going to have to drive to Westhoughton in the mornings during this six weeks.
“It’s all well and good putting on replacement buses, but the roads are already congested so it’s pretty awful.
“The communication has been poor — we’ve known it was happening, but the staff at the train station, who are normally very good, don’t seem to know anything. It’s like they haven’t been told.”
Rail users who get on at Horwich Parkway will face more problems, as all First Transpennine Express services travelling from Manchester and Bolton to Lancashire and Cumbria will be diverted via Wigan, no longer stopping at the station any day of the week.
A spokesman for Northern Rail and First Transpennine Express said: “The improvement works will bring significant customer benefits when they are fully completed.
“We do however recognise that customer journeys between Preston, Chorley and Manchester will be considerably disrupted over the summer.
“Replacement buses will be used to supplement the service and rail connections to Manchester Piccadilly will be available at Bolton.”
Rail operators say the changes will mean engineers can access the Chorley tunnel, where extensive works are required to lower the track, so that there is enough space to install new overhead power lines necessary for electric trains to run.
Once electrification is complete in December, 2016, providers are promising quicker journeys and more seats on many services.
HOW THE ELECTRIFICATION WORKS WILL AFFECT YOU
CURRENTLY there are six services from Horwich Parkway to Bolton in the morning — 7.01am (TPE), 7.16am (Northern), 7.25am (TPE), 7.46am (Northern), 8.16am (Northern) 08.46am (Northern).
Between July 19 and August 31, on weekdays there will be only one train an hour from Horwich Parkway to Bolton, operated by Northern Rail, with rail replacement buses running instead.
The time of this train will be announced with the finalised timetable.
Services from Bolton to Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly remain unchanged.
It is estimated more than 500,000 passenger journeys are made to and from Horwich Parkway every year, compared with almost 250,000 trips at Lostock.
For more information contact www.nationalrail.co.uk or call 08457 484950.