Amidst the hustle and bustle of Lime Street station, something new was lurking. Northern Rail’s latest toy, a Class 319 electric, decked out in sleek shades of pastel purple, stood at the buffer stops. In contrast to the burbling engines of the diesel trains on the adjacent tracks, this one sat in dignified silence, pantograph raised, ready for action. The future is electric, and it’s finally here.
I have been waiting years for this moment. It was way back in July 2009 that Labour’s Lord Adonis announced the Liverpool-Manchester electrification would go ahead. A year later, in 2010, it looked like the scheme could be cancelled, as the new Tory government seemed to believe that no money spent by the Labour party could possibly have been spent wisely.
Fortunately, wiser counsels prevailed, and the plan, although delayed, finally went ahead. Electrification masts stated sprouting at the lineside between Newton-le-Wilows and Manchester. Then, tangible signs of progress started to appear at the Liverpool end of the line, including the total remodelling of Roby station, to allow express trains to overtake the stopping services.
Then, there were further delays. First with the transfer of the trains, held up because their replacements on Thameslink were not ready. Then with the electrification itself, which was supposed to be finished by the December 2014 timetable change. A rush of last-minute Sunday engineering closures enabled Network Rail to get the last bits of wires in place, with the first passenger trains running on Thursday 5th March.