Whilst a lot of excitement when it comes to the Blackpool Tramway tends to be concentrated on the heritage operations behind the scenes progress has been continuing on the proposed extension of the tramway up Talbot Road to Blackpool North railway station. This week Blackpool Council have revealed plans for the purchase of the Wilkinson’s building which would be demolished to make way for a proposed tramway terminal.
The extension of the tramway is planned to leave the current Promenade tramway opposite North Pier with two turnouts having been installed as part of the tramway upgrade and it would then travel up Talbot Road towards Blackpool North station but previously no details had been confirmed of where the terminus would be located. However with the plans revealed this week by Blackpool Council it would now appear that a tramway terminus will be built on or near the site of the Wilkinson’s superstore opposite the entrance to the railway station. These works would be part of the second phase of the Talbot Gateway Central Business District which has already seen a significant amount of investment although it has been long thought that the Wilkinson’s building doesn’t really fit in well will this new image. In addition to the terminus it is hoped to include residential, office and retail outlets alongside a hotel.
The plan to purchase the building which contains Wilkinson’s is due to be considered by the Council’s Executive on Monday 4th April and if approved it is expected to cost a maximum of £7.8 million (this includes not only the purchase of the building but also preparing the site for development). The three current occupants of the site – in addition to Wilkinson’s there is an Age UK retail store and a multi storey car park – would remain in situ whilst development plans are put in place.
As well as these plans further preparatory work is continuing with a business case for the money to build the line due to be presented to Transport for Lancashire and Lancashire Enterprise Partnership in the next few weeks. Provided that there are no unexpected obstacles to this actual construction work would likely commence in 2018.
The line would run directly up Talbot Road with a tramstop developed on Talbot Square and then at the junction with Dickson Road the line will travel away from the current highway as it joins the new terminus.
Cllr Fred Jackson, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Municipal Assets, said: “The first phase of the Talbot Gateway has seen a run down, dilapidated area transformed into an excellent first impression for people coming to Blackpool. At the same time, it has brought over one thousand workers into the town centre, helping the nearby local businesses and creating new jobs. However, the Wilkinson’s building now sticks out like a sore thumb and needs transforming in to somewhere that can help the business district thrive. Extending the tramline to the station will make it easier for commuters and tourists to move between the two and will also provide more opportunities to increase our visitor numbers – in turn creating more jobs and boosting the local economy.”
As part of the project to extend the tramway it is also expected that two further Flexity2 trams will be ordered from Bombardier.