The Blackpool paper has been full of challenging comments from readers on two local transport issues during 2016. The first concerns the town centre need for a more coordinated bus service arrangement ie : a bus station; whilst the second involves the tram extension serving Blackpool North aka North Station.
A sizeable amount of criticism has been levelled at the Council over the lack of a town centre bus station and the wide spread of bus service stops; whilst a predictable number of concerns have been expressed over funding an on street tram service along Talbot Road as far as the current Wilko store site. Both topics have been taken in hand by the Council and Blackpool Transport Services to deliver an enhanced solution that takes advantage of Blackpool's first tramway extension since the 1920s. At the same time the important parallel investment by Network Rail which involves electrification of the Preston to Blackpool North railway will be taking place, offering enhanced service improvements overall.
Original thinking of planners in the formative days of the Talbot Gateway scheme was a joined up bus, tram and railway interchange with a new station terminal building. This has fallen by the way side most certainly because of costs, and also because of the sharp difference in levels between the existing station and tracks - and onstreet traffic which made this desirable objective impossible. As things stand the important plus for the town centre and station is the replacement of the concrete bunker housing the Wilko's business and a car park - with a two sectioned modern development in which a tram terminus will be 'inserted'. Access from the station precinct into or onto the tram terminus and Talbot Road will hopefully involve moving walkways with an light enhanced passage onto Talbot Road itself.
The Council Leader has personally attested to the importance and value of the tram extension which has a further benefit in obliging the redevelopment of Talbot Road from the Town Hall to the new scheme. Currently this abysmal stretch of public thoroughfare is like a sinkhole casting a disreputable shadow over arriving visitors. Clearing away the dross and rundown properties on both sides is well overdue - swept paths of the trams will enforce a clear passage for limited traffic and much else. Blackpool Transport are working with the Council to bring about a more orderly arrangement for the many bus services which utilise the same stretch of Talbot Road (or parts thereof) - and a bus 'hub' is envisaged which benefits the area and importantly the travelling public. This doesn't mean 'Talbot Road Bus Station Mark II' though.
Much like the A585 upgrade and these town centre changes, and of course the expectation that new energy sourcing through 'fracking' - will attract critics and opposition. This is a healthy condition for all of us with pro and ante views being openly expressed - much like the EU Referendum. Unfortunately of course one cannot please all the people all the time. In this case the trams have it. With the ongoing work at Crossleys Bridge due to close entirely in a few weeks time when it is demolished and a new bridge constructed facilitating overhead electric wiring for the railway into Blackpool - even more strident criticism can be expected. Living in proximity to this important work allows a firsthand perspective on the resulting traffic issues that unfortunately have no practical solutions other than grin and bear it for drivers (and bus passengers). It is however a sign of investment in the town and its future - for which we should be appreciative. A lot of people are engaged in promoting this meaningful change in the town centre fabric and they deserve to be recognised.
Even the sharp outline of this Alexander Dennis demonstrator seen last year does nothing to disguise the appalling blot on the landscape which looms over the Talbot Gateway scheme. The Council are definitely commended for engineering the removal of this awful structure and its early replacement (complete with tram terminus, office and possibly a hotel). Images : John Woodman