One of Virgin’s Class 390 Pendolinos has become the first electric train to run between Manchester and Preston via Bolton.

On the night of 13 December 2018, the train was used to test the new infrastructure along the 25-mile route via Salford, Bolton and Chorley, closely monitored by Network Rail engineers checking the new overhead power lines.

Virgin Trains Pendolino running through Bolton station.

The test runs are taking place in two phases. These first runs will be used to check that the new electrical infrastructure works correctly, while a second set of tests in early January will check that the infrastructure can handle trains running at full linespeed.

As part of the Great North Rail Project, the rail industry’s joint programme to transform train travel for customers through track and train upgrades, the Manchester-Preston upgrade will give Northern and TransPennine Express customers faster and more comfortable journeys using a new fleet of electric trains which will replace the old diesel-powered Pacers.

Commenting on this latest development, Network Rail route managing director Martin Frobisher said: “This challenging upgrade has been really disruptive for passengers and our train operating partners who use this route. We’re sorry for this.

“I would like to thank local people for their patience, and I hope this milestone reassures them the end is in sight.”