Today was a bit of a red letter day for Northern Rail as their new electric train service between Liverpool Lime St & Manchester Airport started carrying fare paying passengers, 53 years after the overhead wires first reached the city when the West Coast Main Line was electrified. I took a trip across the Pennines to Merseyside to check out how it all went & I have to admit I was impressed. The ex-Thameslink Class 319s have received an internal refresh which has greatly improved their tired interior but what really stands out is their performance. These 4-car, 100mph EMUs are replacing 2-car 75mph DMUs on a route that has line speeds of 90mph. Leaving Liverpool Lime St you can be forgiven for not really noticing much difference – except for the absence of the vibration & noise of an underfloor engine. As the service stops at Wavertree Technology Park it doesn’t really get to stretch its legs but that soon changes. From just before Roby until our next stop at Helens Junction, we flew! The acceleration of the 319s is impressive & the trip was a rather exhilarating experience after ‘enjoying’ decades of fairly pedestrian diesel units that wheezed & rattled along the same route the electrics now glide over with ease. The performance was just as ‘electric’ as far as Newton-le-Willows where I swapped riding them for photographing them. Considering the trains have doubled in size I was surprised by how full they were already. Whether this was the first day effect or not I don’t know but two other electric services I saw were just as busy. I’ll pop back in a couple of weeks to find out. On my return I couldn’t resist stopping off at Rainhill station to grab a shot of a 319 passing the site of one of the most famous events in railway history – the Rainhill trials. Here, in 1829, Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ reached the heady speed of 30mph. Now, Northern’s new electric service will be speeding past at 90mph. How times (eventually) change!
Here’s that picture at Rainhill; http://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/p755024368/h22d6177#h22d6177