STOP PRESS - Bolton Station and services back to normal

Water Main on Bolton Road, Farnworth

As a result of a burst water main under Manchester Road, Farnworth near Moses Gate station in August  there was slippage of the nearby embankment on the Bolton to Manchester line, flooding on the track and possible damage to the bridge carrying Manchester Road over the railway. Rail services had already been temporarily suspended because of major works to refurbish Bolton Station and prepare it for electrication.  This was accordingly continued while work began to remedy the Moses Gate situation.

By Wednesday 6 September the blockage was removed and the embankment and bridge made safe. Bolton station was re-opened and all its rail services were restored on that date. Well done Network Rail, its contractors and everyone working on the job. Thanks also to Northern Rail for getting the services restored so quickly after such a major incident.

Unfortunately the works to repair the water main and restore the carriageway will take much longer and the closure of Manchester Road has to continue for now.  Diversions are in operation for road traffic.


The electrification works on the Manchester-Bolton-Preston line are continuing as planned. It doesn't seem likely that this incident will lengthen or delay them.  They  are due for completion in December, in time to allow the now electrically powered Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh trains to run via Bolton again instead of by-passing Bolton via Wigan.

Further Information and Travel Advice:


Stop press - Further Strike days in guards dispute


Friday 1 September and Monday 4 September

Travel Situation

As previously, Northern will attempt to run as many trains as possible.  They are publishing details of the services they expect to operate and hope this will amount to 900 on each of the two days.

The Dispute

Further information about the dispute and the Bolton Rail Users Group's position on it are given in "Previous News 1" further down this page:

Further Information

For further information including details of the trains that  Northern are hoping to run, visit their website:

At the time this news item was posted (29 August 2017), the Northern site did not yet include the timetables for the area that includes Bolton.  They were however promised.  If they are not there when you look, please look again later).

Other News - temporary Station closure

Saturday 12 August to Sunday 27 August 2017 inclusive

Throughout this period, Bolton Station is closed to all trains except those to and from Darwen, Blackburn and Clitheroe on Mondays to Fridays.

The Great North Rail Programme

The reason for the closure is that contractors working for Network Rail need  possession of the station to carry out works of renewal and enhancement to the track, platforms and buildings of the station and install overhead equipment and the supporting masts and portals.

The works are part of a multi-million pounds investment programme across the North of England.  They are necessary to bring the station up to modern standards and allow the Manchester - Bolton - Preston electrfication to go live in mid-December when the winter timetable commences.

Is this closure really necessary?

Yes. There is a limit to how much can be done to a railway during the night time, which is when many of the works completed so far have been carried out.  The total hours of work will be between three and four times those available just at night and the jobs will be finished much sooner.  

Passengers will not be exposed to risks from work being carried out on or near the platforms they would be using.  From their point of view, most people would perhaps also prefer to suffer the two weeks' inconvenience rather than have the works drag on for months all around them while they are using the station.

The operatives can also work in greater safety as there are no trains moving apart from those directly employed on the contract, bringing and removing materials etc.

Could the closure have been done at a better time?

There is no ideal time.  People will be inconvenienced and their travel disrupted whenever works like these are carried out.  Network Rail simply had to make a judgement of the best time.  They chose August as they thought the numbers travelling would be less through people being away on holiday.

Will we see any benefits?

We should do. There will be new platform surfaces, a better environment all round, a new emergency escape footbridge at the south end of the station and an extra platform,  which will become Platform 5.  This will enable the station to handle a greater number of trains and help it to cope with the growing passenger numbers.  This new platform, which will also create more waiting and circulation space, is actually putting back a facility which existed for a century or more in the past.  It was removed in the 1990s among many false economies perpetrated by British Railways around that time.

We will also benefit from the electrification itself.  The electric trains will be quieter, emit no toxic pollutants and have better acceleration, allowing shorter overall journey times and more frequent services.  They will also be of 4 or more carriages in length and seat more people and there are a good number of spare electric units at present.  There aren't any spare diesel units yet.

We shouldn't however expect the overcrowding to cease immediately.  Some of our feeder lines are not being electrified, so electric haulage for some of our trains will not be possible until later next year when Northern will receive the first of the converted bi-mode "Flex" units they have ordered - electric trains fitted with diesel engines and generators.  They will be able to work on or off the wires and go anywhere. Northern will also not have in service the 89 totally new trains now being built for them by the CAF company in Spain until towards the end of 2018.

But we should see at least some easing of the overcrowding progressively through 2018 as the electric and Flex units come into service here.  We shall also see the restoration of our TransPennine Express services to Lancaster, Penrith, Carlisle, Glasgow and Edinburgh in December when the Winter timetable starts.

How will we travel during the closure?

There should be a  full network of bus services from outside Bolton Station covering all the routes.  Rail tickets and passes will be valid on the buses.  Special, green cover, bus timetable leaflets are available in the station. Unfortunately we haven't been able to find them on line.  If you don't have a green timetable and need to know the bus times, National Rail Enquiries on 03457 48 49 50 might be able to help. 

Previous News 1

Industrial Action - Guards Dispute

Northern have, like some other operating companies, undergone a number of days of industrial action by members of their guards staff in relation to the control of train door operation and the possibility of guards being re-deployed as on-board supervisors. The most recent occurence was over the period form Saturday 8 to Monday 10 July.  It is likely that there will be further days of industrial action if the dispute is not resolved.

If there is further industrial action we will do our best advise about what trains may be running. But we are strictly neutral so far as the dispute is concerned.  We hope that the parties may be able to reach some amicable resolution and wish both sides well.

Previous News 2

First Annual General Meeting

A landmark in the history of the Group was its First Annual General Meeting,  held on Thursday  16 March 2017 at the All Saints Bolton business and community centre. The meeting was open to the public and attended by the press, local councillors and Group members, including one of Bolton's Members of Parliament. 

Highlight of the meeting was an address  by Matt Worman of Arriva Northern Railway.  Matt is their Client & Stakeholder Manager and a good friend to us and similar groups.  He gave an excellent presentation on the transformation  which his company plans to make to rail services across the Northern region, the new trains which are on order and a major timetable change which will take place in May 2018. He also gave details of the changes which were currently envisaged for Bolton and answered questions from among those present.   


At the Annual General  Meeting, the members present re-elected Jeff Davies as Chair of the  Group and  Adrian Golland as its Membership Secretary. Sue Haworth was elected as the Group's first Treasurer. Preva Crossley and Adrian Schofield were appointed as members of the Executive Committee.

That leaves some unfilled vacancies.  These are for the position of Secretary of the Group and three places on the Executive Committee. The Chair agreed to fulfil the duties of Secretary until an appointment can be made. 

New 2018 Timetable

On Tuesday 9 May 2017, Group Officers met with Northern’s Central Region Director Liam Sumpter and other Northern staff members to discuss the current proposals for Bolton in the new, restructured May 2018 timetable.  The changes applied across the whole Northern region and were to be made possible by the availability of new trains and the cascade of existing trains following electrification in Northern and elsewhere. The changes were part of the “transformation” required under the new franchise agreement and were designed to increase the number of trains and provide new additional services.

The Group Officers felt that the proposals for Bolton as currently drawn up would not achieve those things and doubted that they would adequately address the gross overcrowding problems. A detailed discussion took place about the draft timetable and what it could mean in practice.  Northern explained the limitations under which they had to operate, while stressing the importance of the Bolton line and its services to them. They also stressed that  the current proposals were only a first draft.

The outcome of the discussion was that Liam took note of our views and arranged for the staff to go back to do some more work to find a way to make some improvements on what was currently proposed. The Group awaits hearing further from Northern in due course.

Electrification - Progress

The electrification of the Manchester - Bolton - Preston line is an important feature of the strategy to improve our trains and services.  It has been a long time coming, but still seems to be on track for December 2017.

With overhead electrification, there is a great deal of preparatory work to be done beforehand. For us, this included the building a new tunnel at Farnworth, complete and opened to traffic in December 2015.  There were many other works to make room for the power cables on varying scales, ranging from small footbridges to the large Orlando bridge reconstruction near Bolton station.

More recently (May 2017), much work has been done during the night which is crucial but leaves not much to see in the daylight.  Foundations have been put in for masts and portals over long lengths of track, involving much concrete and piling.  But all there is on the ground seems to be circular areas of concrete the size of a dustbin lid -  with bolts sticking up out of them to fasten the masts and portals to.  There are places now however, e.g. between Moses Gate and Bolton stations, where steelwork has been put in quickly onto the laboriously created foundations over reasonable lengths of track.  It is happening and will seem to speed up.

Station Reconstruction

North of Farnworth tunnel, works of a different kind have had to be carried out.  Because of the number of overbridges it was easier and cheaper to lower the track instead of raising the bridges.  But this necessitated new platforms at Farnworth and Moses Gate stations, in the case of the former on a slightly different alignment in order for trains to get a clear, straight run into the tunnel.

Here is Farnworth Station, with the reconstruction nearly complete and the new tunnel complete and in use.

Station Adoption

Building on the work of station “Friends” and other groups under the previous franchise, the present Northern have pursuant to their franchise agreement with the Department for Transport and Rail North introduced a general scheme for the adoption of stations by voluntary community bodies generally. Under the scheme, the bodies apply to Northern to take on responsibility for improving and maintaining the amenities of a station, by measures such as planting, flower baskets etc. They can also apply for grants to cover their costs out of a fund set up by Northern under a specific provision in the franchise agreement with the Department for Transport and Rail North.

A few of the smaller stations in the Bolton Borough have Friends groups which have previously taken part in this kind of work, with success.  But the majority of the other smaller stations don’t have a friends or other community group. There is of course nothing to stop them forming one now and applying to Northern for approval and grant.  If any of them did so, this Group would not stand in their way.  We have a specific provision in our Constitution that we will not duplicate the functions of a friends group.

Nevertheless there could be a role for this Group for any station where there was a need for planting and other amenities with grants from Northern’s fund but there was no-one able or willing to form and lead a friends group. The Executive Committee has therefore thought it appropriate to try a pilot scheme in one of the stations which would benefit by planting and in whose locality there are Group people who would be willing to get involved.  The station chosen is Bromley Cross, pictured above.  An application has therefore recently been submitted by the Group for adoption of the scheme and a grant to cover the costs.

If the application is approved and the project goes ahead, there could be opportunity for other members of the Group and/or other members of the local community to take part and assist with the work.  Anyone not already a member of the Group could become so, provided they do use the train, even if only occasionally.

Anyone potentially interested or who would like further information is welcome to speak with the project leader, Adrian Golland, who is also our Membership Secretary.  He can be contacted on 01204 461103 or .

More about the Works

Plenty going on now.  Portals and masts erected south of Bolton Station.  New line being installed , presumably leading to what will be the restored Platform 5. Amazing what Network Rail get up to in the night and at weekends!  

[Photo by courtesy of AndyBTravels]

More about the Trains

This is the new image for Northern's trains.  Mainly white, with Royal Blue cab end areas - Arriva style of course.  The existing trains that are being retained are to be refurbished internally, "as new".  The first brand new Northern trains, some diesel, some electric, are due to appear during 2018.