UK: On August 11 Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin visited the worksite at Farnworth Tunnel between Manchester and Bolton, where Network Rail has launched a 293 tonne tunnel boring machine to enlarge one bore and provide sufficient clearance for overhead electrification. With a cutting head 9 m in diameter, the TBM is currently the largest at work in the UK, according to NR.

As part of the project to electrify the route between Manchester, Bolton and Preston, one of the twin 270 m single-track bores at Farnworth has been filled with 7 500 m3 of foam concrete, which is now being dug out by the TBM to accommodate double track electrified at 25 kV 50 Hz. The second bore remains open to traffic, but will be taken out of use once the project has been completed.

The project has already seen the ‘complete demolition’ of the stations at Farnworth and Moses Gate, which are to be rebuilt on new alignments, as well as the lowering of 1⋅6 km of track. NR says that its project team ‘remains on course’ to reopen the tunnel on October 5.

‘Once this major improvement work is complete, faster electric trains will be able to run between Manchester, Bolton and Preston, bringing many benefits’, said First TransPennine Express Managing Director Nick Donovan. ‘In the meantime, together with Northern Rail and Network Rail, we will continue to keep customers moving and informed while the work is underway’.