Lancashire County Council respond to Trams to Lytham petition

A petition urging support for a plan to extend the Blackpool Tramway into the South Fylde (including Lytham and St Annes) has recently closed with more than 3,8000 signatories backing the plans. The petition was launched by Trams to Lytham who want to see the extension to provide an integrated, modern transport system across the Fylde Coast. With the petition now closed it has been presented to both Lancashire County Council and Fylde Council asking for support although the initial reaction from the county council is circumspect to say the least.

The idea of Trams to Lytham is that the current Blackpool Tramway would be linked to the South Fylde railway line (which currently sees Northern running a service from Preston to the terminus at Blackpool South with much of the line single track giving very little scope for an improved service). The petition does not seek to provide answers how this could be achieved but was just looking for support for idea in principle. It does however suggest that either the railway line could be fully converted to light rail operation or they could run in parallel (i.e. tram-trains).

Very soon after the petition closed – 3,834 people signed – Cllr Keith Iddon, Lancashire County Councillor with responsibility for highways and transport, released a statement proving very little hope that the council would be looking to back the plans in the immediate future. He said: “Tram extension schemes such as that proposed through this petition and likewise under construction between the Promenade and Blackpool North railway station usually require substantial funding contributions (up to 90%) from central government through competitive bidding processes. Currently, the funding mechanisms in place to 2020/21 are Local Growth Deals and the Department for Transport’s Large Local Major Transport Schemes programme. The Promenade to Blackpool North extension is partly funded through the Lancashire Local Growth Deal, agreed between the Government and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership in July 2014. Unfortunately, both the Local Growth Deal and Large Local Majors programmes are fully committed. It is not clear whether the Government intends to continue with either programme beyond 2020/21 and if not, what replacement mechanisms the Government will put in place. This will require a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which the county council does not anticipate taking place until next year. Furthermore, the Government is progressively linking transport infrastructure investment to wider policy agendas, particularly housing delivery and the Industrial Strategy published in November 2017. Once the Government’s intentions about future funding programmes become clearer, the county council’s Cabinet will decide whether to commit further (potentially significant) resources to developing any tram extension, including Outline Business Case preparation.”

In response Trams for Lytham restated the fact that they are just calling for a “feasibility study and development work for light rail investment in South Fylde to be prioritised once the government’s plans are fully clarified.”

Trams for Lytham added: “The closed petition and online support of Trams to Lytham clearly demonstrates that this proposal is highly supported by local residents. Trams to Lytham are currently in the process of preparing an Outline Report which will explain in full the benefits of the proposed scheme, including enhanced connectivity to key economic centres on the Fylde Coast, and why the option presents the most well-balanced option to enhance the role of the South Fylde Line. It explains what the next steps should be and what intermediary solutions can be explored. It is also explained what the shortfalls of previous feasibility work regarding this scheme are and why further and updated study is a necessity. The report has cross-party support within Blackpool Council, the backing of the Light Rail Transit Association and endorsement of Jane Cole, managing director of Blackpool Transport among other notable statements from influential groups and individuals which have been included in an appendix. All comments and signatures from the petition have also been incorporated as further supporting evidence.”

As things stand at the moment the return of trams to Lytham seem a long way off but at least there is public support behind the plan and who knows once central government is clearer there may be a way forward which will revolutionise public transport on the Fylde Coast once again.

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8 Responses to Lancashire County Council respond to Trams to Lytham petition

  1. Lovelightrail says:

    Lunacy, pure and simple.

    Now before i get slated for this outlandish opinion let me tell you my reasoning.
    1) Any light rail system proposal along to Lytham should be applauded, but only if it links to the Blackpool system to make it fully integrated.

    2) Tram-Train is too expensive to build, and Sheffield only has enough money for 2 or so years running.

    3) Tram Train requires different wheel profiles to be able to trip the heavy rail safety systems, and Sheffield currently does not have all their T.T’s with this facility and i understand doesn’t have the cash to convert. So a Lytham tram train would suffer the same problems.

    A fully integrated system using trams would be the best option, and in the long run, the cheapest option too, especially if the extension to North proves that the growing of the tram system is what the public want. I would venture free P+R on the outskirts of town to discourage traffic in town (Blackpool) with large congestion charges for visitors the the city centre itself.
    Cleans up the city, makes it safer, and everyone wins, same for Lytham.

    However, the fly in the ointment, is the lack of success in growth of the Sheffield, Croydon, and to a lesser degree the newish Edinburgh system. It seems that only Manchester has the real ‘golden egg’ of light rail.

    • Sam Flynn says:

      1) That is exactly what’s being proposed.

      2 and 3) Trams to Lytham is not proposing tram-trains for the reasons you give (and others). The article was incorrect to mention them.

      Not sure I’d call only Metrolink a huge success. All UK systems have had a lot of success in several areas.

  2. Sam Flynn says:

    Just pointing out that Trams to Lytham is not promoting the use of tram-trains as suggested in the article. By ‘parallel running’ we mean just that: light rail adjacent to heavy rail but not on the same line.

  3. AlderleyMike says:

    The pragmatic solution would be to cut heavy-rail back to St Annes, but extend the tramway to Lytham, utilising the rail formation from the Pleasure Beach. The formation between St Annes and Lytham would be able to accomodate two parallel single tracks – one for the tramway and one for heavy-rail and offer a good interchange. The high frequency of bus services between Lytham and Blackpool shows just how suitable this route would be for a tramway service. I see little justification, however, in extending the tramway beyond Lytham and all the complications that tram-train operation would incur. In due course it may be possible to justify electrification of heavy-rail to St Annes as a low-cost add-on to the Fylde scheme, and once again offer through services to Manchester etc.

    • Sam Flynn says:

      This is spot on and exactly what Trams to Lytham are campaigning for. Best of both worlds!

    • John1 says:

      Surely the number of buses are serving different areas, so those passengers probably wouldn’t go by Tram on the rail alignment or they would already go by rail? And if you go from Pleasure Beach, what about Blackpool South with its ready made park and ride? Surely a connection in that area? Or directly to serve the new Central development?

      • Sam Flynn says:

        There are only two main roads between St Anne’s/Lytham and Blackpool, so buses are often caught up in traffic congestion. Many buses also take indirect routes the the Town Centre and other key areas. Plus, they have lower capacity and are not as accessible for wheelchairs and prams. Trams would be a lot faster and efficient than the current buses so passengers would certainly transfer over.

        People don’t use the railway to get into Blackpool because:

        -It’s only an hourly service.
        -The route doesn’t reach the Town Centre.
        -The current stops have inefficient connection with key areas (e.g. Pleasure Beach Station requires a long walk to the main entrance).
        -The stations are far apart, so thousands of residents are not within reasonable walking distance.
        -The trains have poor accessibility and are overall extremely outdated and not fit for 21st century.
        -Ticket prices are high and increasing each year.
        -People have lost confidence in the service after the Northern Rail fiasco.

        Extending to Blackpool Central would be ridiculously expensive compared to this option, and doesn’t solve most of the issues. Similarly, if a ‘passing loop’ was installed on the line to increase train frequency it would only solve one of the issues and would still leave a lot to be desired.

        This tram proposal would solve all the issues mentioned and bring a modern and effective network to the Fylde Coast, and the associated socio-economic benefits that come with it.

  4. Alan Kirkman says:

    Sam is 100% right and as far as traffic levels are concerned they don’t exist from Lytham towards Kirkham but as Jane Cole said at the FTS 2016 AGM the logical final TRAM terminus might just be the large employment site that is BAE Warton!