Delivering the upgrade of the Preston to Blackpool line

The project also included improvements to the track layout and signalling equipment aimed at reducing delays and improving performance.


In November 2017, Network Rail embarked on a major infrastructure project to upgrade the railway between Preston and Blackpool as part of the multibillion pound Great North Rail Project to deliver greener, quieter and more reliable journeys for passengers.

The 17 mile route between Preston and Blackpool North was fully electrified, connecting the area to the West Coast Main Line, the key rail artery linking the North West with London and Scotland, stimulating economic growth by paving the way for modern and more spacious trains.

Based on previous positive performance, Freightliner was selected to undertake all the rail haulage work associated with the upgrade which has involved detailed planning in collaboration with Network Rail and their contractors, VolkerRail, a leading UK multi-disciplinary railway infrastructure contractor.

For several months, this involved monthly train haulage reviews to provide clear visibility of the programme of works throughout 2017/18 and ensure key resources were booked and allocated in line with timescales.

The project intensified during the major junction re-modelling at Kirkham and Blackpool during the first three weeks of the blockade, when a large number of engineering trains were used.Throughout this period, it was even more critical that all parties worked closely together to overcome challenges, ensuring that all works were implemented safely and on time.

“In order for us to achieve our works, it was imperative we set up a good working relationship with Freightliner. Through reviews and stringent planning, following last minute work changes, we were able to book and utilise over 80 engineering trains. This type of collaborative effort shows what can be achieved when everyone works together. Thank you to all involved.”

James Ramsden, VolkerRail Senior Project Manager

During the 19 week blockade, Freightliner, supported by a dedicated engineering team, ran more than 80 trains, delivering and removing materials and moving spoil around the site, exceeding 10,000 staff hours worked.

“Our freight partners played a key role and did a great job in helping us deliver the upgrade of the Preston to Blackpool line as part of the Great North Rail Project through the transportation and delivery of construction materials. Together, our one team approach modernised this railway to improve journeys for passengers travelling between Preston and Blackpool.”

Chris Montgomery, Network Rail’s Major Programme Director