A welcome injection of cash will hopefully turn the dream of an extension of the Blackpool tramway to serve the town’s main railway station into a reality. Transport bosses announced that they would be providing over £16 million towards the construction of the new line, as part of a larger £90 million scheme to improve transport links on the Fylde Coast.
For some time there has been suggestion that a new tram route would be created, to connect the exisiting promenade tramway with the main train services in and out of Blackpool. During the upgrading of the system, sets of points were laid diverting from the main line at North Pier, although this was generally viewed as being an overly optimistic development. Apparently not so! At a local Council meeting held on Wednesday 18th September, it was announced that Transport for Lancashire have allocated a hefty £16.4 million towards the scheme to construct a new tramway route from the promenade to North Station. The project is expected to cost a total of £18.2 million, with Blackpool Council required to find the remaining £1.8 million to complete the ambitious project.
Transport for Lancashire is a new body made up of representatives from Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council, and the private sector led Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. The exciting news comes as part of the group’s plans to invest in major improvements to road and rail transport links in Lancashire over the next decade, which is also expected to involve the construction of a new ‘Broughton Bypass’ to reduce traffic congestion on the A6 into Preston, and a significant contribution towards the creation of new roads to offer better access to the Warton Enterprise Zone site. The idea behind the tramway extension is to offer integrated public transport at the heart of Blackpool, making the modernised tram system much more attractive to commuters, and also enabling holidaymakers to catch a tram to their hotels and major attractions directly from the station. With electric trains due to start operating to Blackpool North Station within the next couple of years, this announcement is particularly timely and should provide yet another boost to a tramway which has gone from strength to strength since its upgrade to light rail standards.
Councillor John Jones, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport, told the local press: “This announcement is tremendous news for Blackpool. Extending the tramway to Blackpool North railway station to create a fully integrated transport system, extending right into the heart of Blackpool town centre, would be a very welcome step forward for residents and tourists alike. This is also tremendous news, more widely, for the whole of the Fylde coast and Lancashire and means jobs and an improved infrastructure to support economic growth.”
If Blackpool Council provide the remaining finance required to complete the work, construction could begin as early as 2015. Obviously the main goal is to create a modern public transport link, but who knows, maybe in a few years we may even see heritage trams running through Blackpool town centre?