Network Rail has completed electrification works between Manchester and Newton-le-Willows, allowing electric trains to operate between Manchester Airport and Scotland.
The project is the first phase of the £400m North West Electrification Programme and will see over 350km of track upgraded across North West England.
With the installation of new infrastructure between Newton-le-Willows and Castlefield Junction, electric trains will be able to operate between Manchester Airport and Scotland from December 2013.
UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the government is providing record amounts of investment to transform the rail network in the country.
"Electrification of these routes will significantly improve connections between our major towns and cities, boosting the economy and providing passengers with quicker, cleaner and more frequent services," McLoughlin said.
The electrification project is expected to help increase capacity, reduce carbon emissions and cut the cost of running services on the network.
Network Rail director of route asset management Jane Simpson said that the electrification work is part of a wider programme of improvements that will transform rail travel in the north of England.
"Electric trains are also quieter, more reliable and have more seats, which is good news for passengers," Simpson said.
First TransPennine Express (FTPE) programme director Chris Nutton said that the electric railway investment in North West England is on plan and progressing well, and passengers will benefit from more journey options, faster trains and better connectivity and accessibility.
"FTPE has invested £60m in a fleet of new trains that will start to come into service from December this year and will mean a 30% increase in capacity across our network," Nutton said.
"The North West electrification and our procurement of an additional 40 carriages is a great example of the industry working together and shows our commitment to providing the best possible rail travel for customers now and into the future," Nutton added.
Balfour Beatty was awarded the North West Electrification Phase 1 contract from Network Rail in November 2011.
The second phase of the project will see Balfour Beatty design, supply and install 90 single-track kilometres of new electrification, including foundations, steel work, wiring and power distribution works.
Work will also include wiring the double track between Earlestown and Bootle Branch Junction and completing electrification between Manchester and Liverpool Lime Street.
Electrification work under Phase 2 of the North West electrification project is expected to be completed in December 2014, following which electric trains will be able to run from Liverpool to Manchester via Newton-le-Willows and Wigan.
The project is being carried out in five phases, scheduled for completion between December 2013 and December 2016.
Image: Eccles Station, where a plaque was unveiled commemorating the electrification of the former Liverpool and Machester Railway. Photo: Network Rail.