Electrification of the railway between Manchester and Preston has been delayed until November.
Network Rail revealed that the upgrade work, which is part of the Great North Rail Project, had been pushed back during a crisis meeting to discuss the recent chaos caused by the introduction of a new timetable.
The work was expected to be finished in May this year, 17 months later than the original completion date of December 2016.
The rail operator denied claims that a ‘‘stable network” would not be in place until the autumn in response to reports that suggested the current timetabling fiasco would continue for a further five months.
Network Rail London North Western managing director Martin Frobisher said: “A stable network exists now. Diesel train services are running right now on the line between Manchester, Bolton and Preston.
“To be clear, delays to the electrification of this route are not preventing trains from running during the week. A rail replacement service runs at weekends while planned upgrade work takes place.
“This is by no means an attempt to belittle recent pain caused to customers by the timetable problems. For that we remain truly sorry. But customers deserve facts. The facts are: customers are getting from A to B on the Manchester-Preston line. The timetable is being stabilised. Service is improving.
“The Manchester-Preston upgrade is part of the Great North Rail Project, an industry effort to transform train travel for customers through track and train improvements. People in the North need and deserve this. We remain committed to delivering it.”
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has blamed the problems in the north of England on Network Rail’s failure to deliver electrification between Bolton and Preston in time for the start of the new timetable on 20 May.
Grayling survived a vote of no confidence tabled by the Labour Party in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
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