POULTON CURVE ANYONE ?
Further to the previous Blog - Northern Power House Anyone ? - the reopening this weekend of the direct rail service between Burnley and Manchester prompts an additional posting.
Not having ridden over the railway line to Burnley I am not personally familiar with the problem facing travellers from east Lancashire heading to and from Manchester. However it seems the one important missing link at Todmorden, cut in 1972, has been reinstated to allow direct services from Burnley into Manchester.
The 'Todmorden Curve' traversed only some 500M but created a strategic gap which resulted in Burnley and Accrington passengers having to change trains at Hebden Bridge to connect with the Manchester service. This has been sorted in part due to consistent representation by Burnley Council supported by diverse organisations, charities and public bodies. Taking this news on board as it were :
Poulton Le Fylde railway station retains the double track junction which leads to Blackpool North and northward for former services to Thornton, Burn Naze (with its important industrial assets) and Fleetwood. The trackage and right of way to Fleetwood from the 'Poulton Curve' still exists albeit now single line as far as the Jameson Road railway bridge at Burn Naze. At this point just south of Fleetwood. and beyond the blocked in bridge, the railway right of way has been protected to allow for future operation as far as Wyre Dock an area likely to change in the next few years. Our Trust has many of its trams stored here thanks to Associated British Ports who have been most considerate and helpful in recent years.
Development of former railway right of way beyond Wyre Dock makes it impossible for trains to reach Fleetwood's commercial district. However a park and ride facility is possible together with a shuttle bus linkup from a simple rail terminus. Trains could operate to Poulton, Kirkham and Preston, and serving the expanding industrial and energy development on the former ICI industrial land at Burn Naze. There is also talk of the same railway infrastructure being utilised in a potential tramtrain scheme embracing the Fylde coast hinterland - connecting with Blackpool's light rail operation at Blackpool North. This might not be a curve too far, given the kind of political and local government prodding witnessed at Burnley and Accrington - other Lancashire towns fallen on hard economic times.
Elsewhere in west Lancashire; filling a similar rail gap in the vicinity of Ormskirk could allow the return of direct rail service from Southport to Preston - although Southport's fortunes are abetted by the excellent electric rail service to Liverpool by Merseyrail. Nor is this renaissance in rail investment confined to England! The reopening of a long closed line south of Edinburgh to the banks of the River Tweed (well almost) will reconnect towns and communities cut off by arbitrary rail closures under the unlamented Beeching era. This is a project of Scotrail with local government partners and widespread community involvement.
Perhaps we should now be considering Fylderail as a logical development of the Blackpool Council light rail setup. One which serves all (or nearly all) of the key economic drivers and communities in this compact part of the northwest.