Work to complete the Manchester to Preston railway upgrade is continuing, alongside work on other key parts of the Great North Rail Project, in 2018.

Continuing every weekend for the forseeable future, Network Rail engineers will be working to complete the upgrade of the 25-mile stretch of track between Manchester and Preston to support the introduction of better trains. There will also be a nine day closure of the railway, with buses replacing trains through Bolton from Saturday 25 August – Sunday 2 September 2018.

The project was due to complete last December, but old mine workings, running sand and varying layers of rock have significantly hampered the installation of hundreds of steel columns needed to carry the power cables for the introduction of electric trains. New engineering solutions have been required to resolve the problems which has included using steel cylinders and filling them with concrete to deal with poor ground conditions 

To allow engineers to access the railway, sections will need to be closed during some weekdays and every weekend. This will affect journeys in and out of Manchester from destinations including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxenholme, Penrith, Lancaster, Preston, Liverpool, Wigan, Chorley and Bolton.  There will also likely be further closures when the work is being tested and trains are put in to service.

The work will mean major changes for our customers travelling across the region, including rail replacement buses in some areas. Network Rail are currently working to finalise full details and will provide further updates as soon as possible. 

Due to the nature of this engineering work, unfortunately we are unable to produce timetables as far in advance as we would like. Please check here for timetables for future weekends, which we will update as quickly as possible. Times shown in National Rail Enquiries for weekends ahead of those shown below may change as the engineering work is finalised a couple of weeks before.

As RMT Union strike action is taking place on Saturday 25 August, please see further information - including strike timetables, when available - here.

Due to the implementation of a temporary timetable, please check our timetables page for services between Manchester and Southport/Kirkby and between Manchester and Preston.

Engineering Timetables

Bolton to Manchester: Sunday 26 August to Friday 31 August

Sunday 26 August: Alternative Timetable.

Monday 27 August: Alternative Timetable.

Tuesday 28 to Friday 31 August: Alternative Timetable.


Manchester to Blackburn and Clitheroe: Sunday 26 August to Friday 31 August

Sunday 26 August: Alternative Timetable.

Monday 27 to Friday 31 August: Alternative Timetable.


Manchester Airport and Manchester to Wigan/Southport/Kirkby: Sunday 26 August to Friday 31 August

Sunday 26 August: Alternative Timetable.

Monday 27 August: Alternative Timetable.

Tuesday 28 to Friday 31 August: Alternative Timetable.


Blackpool to Preston and Manchester: Sunday 26 August to Friday 31 August

Sunday 26 August: Alternative Timetable.

Monday 27 to Friday 31 August: Alternative Timetable.