THIS is the specially-built machine that will bore a tunnel under the A666 for the £1 billion electrification of rail lines in the north west.

Engineers will fill the Farnworth Tunnel with concrete before then boring it out to create a larger space for new electric trains to travel through.

The works — which will be carried out between May and October — will mean Bolton train station will be closed at weekends for five months, as revealed yesterday in The Bolton News.

The boring machine is similar to that used on the London Crossrail project.

Stations at Farnworth, Moses Gate and Kearsley will close completely during the works.

The smaller tunnel at Farnworth will remain open during the project.

Jeff Davies, part of the newly formed Bolton Rail Users Group, said: "The station closures are the bad news, but there is good news here actually.

"It is the beginning of big investment which could take us out of the present problems and the companies have been at great pains to minimise inconvenience and ensure that Bolton people who work in Manchester will still be able to get there.

"I appreciate the inconvenience this will cause people — unfortunately, in order to achieve a minimum service of eight trains per hour, trains cannot stop at stations like Farnworth, Moses Gate and Kearsley, because this will just hold trains up while work is ongoing.

"The Bolton Rail Users Group is necessary to ensure that the investment is carried through and that under electrification we do not continue with old trains cast off somewhere else, with no extra capacity and the same timetable."

The rebuilding of the tunnel has been described by Network Rail as a "significant engineering challenge".

The larger tunnel will eventually accommodate both railway lines — currently a line is in each tunnel.

From 2016 this will mean better trains will be able to operate between Manchester and Preston providing more capacity on the line.

When the new tunnel is complete, it will be fitted out with new tracks, signalling and electrification equipment which will power and operate the new electric trains.

The retaining wall and road bridge above Farnworth Tunnel will be reconstructed, while there will be changes made to both platforms at Farnworth station.

A new track between Farnworth and Moses Gate will be installed and alterations will made to Moses Gate station.

In Kearsley, a pedestrian level crossing will be closed and replaced with a footbridge.

Work started at the bridge at Station Road, Blackrod, this week and the bridge will be closed until May 15.

The bridge at Grimeford Lane, Blackrod, will also close from March 2 for three months.

Ian Joslin, area director for Network Rail, said: “These bridge rebuilds are an essential part of the electrification of the railway which will provide passengers with a faster, more reliable and efficient railway.

“With only a limited number of weekends available when we can stop all train services and numerous bridges to be rebuilt, it is not possible to complete one bridge at a time.

“I apologise for the disruption caused to the surrounding road network but we have worked closely with the local authority to plan the diversions and will complete the work in the quickest and safest possible way.”

Representatives from Network Rail will be at Bolton train station today from 8am to 10am to talk to people about the project and provide more information about what it will mean to train services between Manchester and Bolton.