Thursday, 5 March 2015

Northern goes electric

Today (05/03/15) was a significant day for commuters from the North West as Northern Rail officially launched electric services between Liverpool and Manchester.  For the majority of commuters it will be just a normal day, they may notice the freshly painted train waiting for them at the platform, they may notice the lack of engine noise and the fresh new interiors. But for the many they will be surprised to find a seat, apart from this their day will go on as normal.

For businesses, Northern Rail, transport workers and enthusiasts however this is a momentous day. The culmination of years of hard work by Network Rail, Northern Rail and those who have lobbied for electrification over the years.

The electrification of the line between Liverpool and Manchester, and the introduction of new electric trains is just the start of a programme of electrification which will benefit millions of commuters across the region as other lines go live. 

Liverpool, Wigan, Preston and Blackpool services are all due to go electric over the coming years, with electric trains steadily heading north for refurbishment and introduction on Northern routes. For more information about North West electrification click here

The trains

The electric services themselves may be new to the region, but the trains are not. In fact the class 319s that are being introduced have been in service in London since the 1980s. This has lead to accusation by some that the trains are "cast offs from the south"

I'm delighted to say however, that they certainly do not feel like "cast offs". The trains are a world away from the diesels that they are replacing. All trains entering service with Northern will be refurbished and given a new coat of paint making them look fresh and modern.

The trains on the inside are not what you would describe as luxurious, there are no tables and have 3 + 2 seating in places, however they are ideally suited for carrying people the short distances into Manchester and Liverpool in relative comfort.

The seats are comfortable enough and the ride is quiet, apart from the odd clatter from an air compressor. The train feels comfortable at speed with none of the engine noise of the older diesels and with very little buffeting.

The ride is now comparable with the more modern diesel trains used by Trans Pennine Express, with the only draw back being a lack of tables. Otherwise there is nothing to choose between TPE's modern diesels and Northern's electric trains if you're travelling between Liverpool and Manchester.

Perhaps it would be nice if we in the North received new electric trains, but the new electric services being introduced provide a step change in comfort, capacity and hopefully speed that should not be scoffed at.

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