Rossall School was the setting on Thursday for a well attended meeting organised by Eric Ollerenshaw MP for Fleetwood and Lancaster, and Paul Maynard MP for Blackpool North. The Guest Speaker was the Rt Hon Patrick Mcloughlin, MP - Secretary of State for Transport and overlord in the Government on all matters to do with our getting around whether by road, rail, bicycle or tram. In fact the Minister arrived at Rossall by tram from North Pier together with his entourage and the two Members of Parliament.
He fielded with considerable patience and dexterity detailed questions and complaints which inevitably (and correctly) focussed on the disconnect Between Blackpool, Wyre and Lancashire Councils which mean that Wyre Residents are not able to use their NOW Cards to ride on the Fylde coast’s superlative upgraded tram service. This running sore between residents of neighbouring communities is a source of considerable aggravation with no doubt local political consequences. The possibility of Parliamentary legislation being required to cut the Gordian knot was raised by the Minister. Crowded Number 1 Bus Services by BTS came in for much criticism from the audience.
The longstanding improvement to the A585 and promises of all manner of proposed coloured ‘routes’ in the Lancashire County / or area Transport Plan was a further bone of considerable contention, with promises of work in progress (indeed it is in parts) - and a five year funded Highways England agency being set up to bring order where there has been discord.
Blackpool’s tram extension to North Station was cited as example of government funding being applied to the area - with commitments to ensure that a fully integrated railway/tram and bus inter-change emerges in the final arrangements for the tram extension at North Station terminus.
The Airport and lack of real commitment to make best use of this vital resource at Squires Gate was raised with Manston Airport being cited as an example of clear (or is it blue) skies thinking by that forward looking local authority in the south of England. Railway electrification drew questions, along with third hand rolling stock heading north in our direction - by way of ‘new investment’.
A highly creditable effort on the part of the MPs and local Councillors saw the Government’s supremo on transport matters drawn to the north Fylde coast - and a ride on Blackpool’s trams. Even the heritage side was not overlooked as it turns out the Minister’s Parliamentary Constituency in Derbyshire includes the Crich tram museum of which he is very familiar. His knowledge of Blackpool’s heritage trams was considerably expanded by the gift of two of the Trust’s 2015 calendars on his departure.
The Wyre Borough NOW Card use (or lack thereof on BTS trams) and the A585 are now firmly embedded in Ministerial note taking - thanks to this visit and the work of our two local MPs.