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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Lancashire Combined Authority ?

Blackpool's Council, along with nearly every other Local Authority in Lancashire, except one (Wyre) have voted or approved the invitation from Lancashire County Council to form part of a combined authority for this part of north west England. Strength in numbers apparently will give the combined grouping including the County Council a critical mass in securing central government funding for capital and strategic projects. This includes transport.

The full details of how the combined authority will interface with the constituent local authorities - and more effective engagement in planning and economic development has yet to be disclosed. However intensive discussions are ongoing at various levels which draw in other regional bodies notably the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership).

For the Fylde coast this move towards a more cohesive administrative arrangement should strengthen proposals for more efficient transport links. The dire state of road access to Thornton and Fleetwood from the M55, as well as the need for a better transport connection serving Warton and the important aerospace industry based there - have to be high on planners agenda. Preston is itself again reviewing a light rail proposal by a local consortium with the potential of a UK new build tram design, so patently missing from this country. The substantial imports coming to Manchester benefitting other EU factories and workers are an indictment of local transport authorities which are in the land of the blind led by one eyed consultants (plus farcical restraints imposed by EU regulators in Brussels). Blackpool is not far behind in this 'Buy European' philosophy. Ironically Preston of course was at one point a leading UK railway equipment and tram resource exporting all over the world. And Blackpool's own workshops managed to design and build (or rebuild) its own fleet of trams long after every UK firm had given up on tram manufacture. Below : domestic rebuild by Blackpool Transport 2012 and imported German manufactured tram also 2012. Not like for like but a sampling of how the Fylde coast can resurrect engineering skills in light rail (and a whole lot more).

No doubt it will be some time before the full effects of the Combined Authority will make themselves felt in practical ways - but at least there is shared acknowledgement by the overwhelming majority of Lancashire's local politicians that things cannot continue as they are. With Blackpool being the sole municipal operator of trams in the UK (via an arms length company wholly owned by its Council) there is clearly merit in building on this unique asset in multiple ways. Little in the way of practical benefit has so far accrued from the private sector in either railway investment - other than fleets of gleeming new trains in fancy colours all sourced from elsewhere in the EU. Time for a change.

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