Network Rail has announced that work on the West Coast Main Line will be carried out this summer to increase the speed that trains can travel.
Four major rail junctions will also be replaced and enhanced.
The firm says the work will improve the reliability of the infrastructure and the punctuality of train services on Britain’s busiest mixed-use railway line.
The £18m improvement scheme will be completed over nine days from Saturday 13 July to Sunday 21 July when four life-expired junctions will be replaced and three miles of track re-laid.
During the project, over an 18 mile stretch of line near Wigan, trains will be unable to use the Warrington to Preston section of the route. Train operators will be making alternative arrangements to help passengers complete their journeys during the line closure.
Dyan Crowther, route managing director, said: “This scheme represents significant investment in the railway in this area to increase line speeds and make the railway more reliable and punctual for our customers.
“There is never a good time to carry out major work on such a busy route and after careful discussion with the train operators and industry partners, it became apparent that undertaking this vital investment in nine consecutive days in July would, overall, cause less disruption.
“Train services are quieter at this time and fewer people are expected to experience changes to their travel plans compared to the work being staggered over the next two years, impacting on dozens of weekends and Bank Holidays.”
Usually, Network Rail would have carried out work of this kind over a number of Bank Holiday weekends requiring train services to be replaced repeatedly by alternative transport.
By carrying out the work in a nine-day continuous spell this summer, engineers expect to be able to complete the replacement of the four junctions around 16 months earlier and to avoid disrupting rail travel plans for many weekends and nine bank holidays over the next two years.
The project by numbers:-
-3 miles of track to renew
-4 main line junctions upgraded
-18 miles of West Coast Main Line occupied by engineers
Network Rail says it's working with the train operators to arrange a replacement rail and road travel service and our joint aim is to enable passengers to travel by train as far as possible.
The temporary line closure will affect passengers using services run by Virgin Trains, Northern and First TransPennine Express.
The train operators are developing timetables for alternative services, which will be publicised and available through rail journey planning and train company websites.
Plans are being made for leaflets to be handed out at stations in advance of the work and a number of road shows will be held at stations to explain the project and to answer any questions.
When completed the work will allow train services to run at up to 75 mph over the four upgraded junctions – Golborne Junction, Bamfurlong, Wigan Springs Branch, Balshaw Lane Junction. The reliability of the rail infrastructure will have been improved and it will be easier to maintain.