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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blot on the landscape

Latest news on plans for electrification of the Preston to Blackpool North line indicates a new Contractor replacing Balfour Beatty with work being completed in 2018. This provides a target for Blackpool Council's work on the street running tram extension up Talbot Road to a terminus adjoining or in close proximity to the railway station.

A major barrier in developing the heralded transport interchange at Blackpool North which would allow 'seamless' transfer for arriving (and departing) passengers remains the monstrous concrete edifice which is commonly referred to as 'Wilkos'. Ironically this property built in the 1970s after demolition of the original North Station red brick and glass terminal - occupies the site of the main train station bringing millions of visitors into Blackpool each year since the late 1890s.

No redeeming qualities whatsoever - brutalist design at its worst - welcome to Blackpool. The contrast with the new Council Offices, Sainsbury's imposing store and the redesigned Talbot Road Car Park could not be greater.

An early transport interchange was created at this point with the opening of the very successful (and profitable) Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company line with its Blackpool terminus directly in front of the station entrance. Up to the 1930s the railway station was referred to as 'Talbot Road Station'. Now the wheel is literally turning a full circle with the reintroduction of trams to serve trains at what is now more mundanely known as 'Blackpool North'.

Planners are bedevilled by limitations posed by the awful concrete edifice owned by the 'Wilko' business which takes up the entire former train station site - and at the same time blights redevelopment of 'Talbot Gateway' with its bland concrete construction. It is understood efforts are ongoing to acquire and redevelop the property to complete transformation of this 'gateway' investment by the Council with Muse Development. Construction of the tramway along Talbot Road - itself sorely in need of property renewal and redevelopment might give spur to investors and commercial businesses over and above the rash of betting shops, charity shops and bars which now blight this one vibrant part of the town centre.

A bus station might help footfall and quality retail outlets of course !

Well past its shelf life - this ominous glowering facade is no way to greet visitors.

For the moment the infrastructural investment and intended new services to Blackpool North are greeted by a dismal scene, dank pedestrian tunnel and grimy concrete walls outside the grey brick surrounds of the station precinct. Something 'must be done' to transform this apalling urban morass to a condition appropriate to Britain's most popular resort. Trams of course will play an important role in this physical transformation, much as they did with the newly electrified overhead power used in the 1898 Blackpool to Fleetwood system. This was leading edge technology of its time; far surpassing the troublesome conduit system used by early Blackpool trams along the promenade .

After the demolition crew finish their work on Church Street finally removing the former ABC and Hippodrome structure, perhaps they could turn their attention to this abysmal blot on Blackpool's urban landscape.

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