Could the future of public transport on the Fylde Coast see an expanded tramway running in a loop? If the results of a feasibility study are favourable that is exactly what could be seen with extensions at each end of the current Blackpool Tramway seeing the line run to St Annes, Lytham, Kirkham & Wesham, Thornton and Poulton. As part of the plan local councils have recently confirmed that they plan to bid for funding for a feasibility study as part of the Future High Street Fund bid.
The complete plan for extending the tramway would be for each end of the current Blackpool Tramway to be extended. At the southern end this would serve the Blackpool Airport Enterprise zone before heading to St Annes, Ansdell & Fairhaven, Lytham, Moss Side, Wrea Green and Kirkham & Wesham. This part would see the current heavy rail line which runs to Blackpool South being utilised. Meanwhile the northern end of the line would be extended through to Poulton using the old railway trackbed and serving Dock Street, Freeport, Three Lights, Burn Naze, Hillhouse Enterprise zone and Thornton.
The plans remain at a very early stage and at the moment the only bid is to fund a feasibility study into the idea so the chance of trams running beyond Starr Gate and Fleetwood Ferry does remain a long-term plan but the fact that the three councils (Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre) seem committed to at least having a study into the extensions is a positive step in the right direction.
It is planned that the plan to submit funding for study will be discussed at a meeting of the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Prosperity Board in January and it has been recommended that it is approved. The bid for funding would be part of each council’s Future High Street Fund bid, which have to be put in by June 2020.
In the report discussing the plan to bid it states: “A tramway loop would ensure the Fylde Coast’s settlements are better connected and more accessible to each other, benefiting local residents and visitors alike. Trips for employment, education, leisure and other purposes could be made by an efficient public transport system, improving transport choice, benefitting the environment and the local economy, boosting the high streets of Blackpool, Kirkham and Fleetwood. This joined-up proposal would demonstrate to Government and key stakeholders that the Councils are serious about not only improving the area and reducing retail leakage to Deepdale, Preston and further afield, with more attractive centres that will draw people in, hopefully reducing the proportion of their spend elsewhere and online, but also encouraging modal shifts towards a more sustainable form of transport.”
If successful and if a feasibility study does take place it would use the WebTAG appraisal and the ideal result would be a Benefit Cost Ratio of more than 2:1. There would be an initial options report and a comprehensive business case for the preferred option produced as part of this work. The estimated cost of the study would be £2million, with an equal split between the three councils.
Interesting times could well be ahead for Fylde Coast with this just the first step towards a loop line serving the entire area.