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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

North Station - fewer platforms, longer trains

Contractors are now well esconced in the precincts of Network Rail's station infrastructure and approach tracks leading into Blackpool North. One of the island platforms (most northern) has been demolished and tracks on either side removed. Further work in eventual straightening of the existing curving platforms is expected over the winter - when the entire station will be closed so that new electrification overhead installation can be carried out, without the continuing passage of trains.

The impressive Blackpool North signal box will be removed as will the signal boxes at Carleton Crossing, Poulton and Kirkham (among others). Electronic controlled signals will replace the long familiar semaphore gantrys throughout the Fylde whilst the level crossing at Carleton will be under the control of cctv or similar devices monitored from a central control unit elsewhere in Lancashire.

The configueration of the seemingly 'new' electric trains require longer platforms and less curvature than Blackpool North's current layout. It should be remembered that the existing station is actually the former 'Excursion Platform' annex to the original North Station which was sited on the footprint of the existing 'Wilko' store and extending east alongside the current station. I say 'new' electric trains advisedly as they are actually refurbished rolling stock built by British Rail's once thriving engineering works at Derby and other sites in Britain some decades past.

At some point the new layout will host direct services to London currently being bid for by two competing companies. The franchise to be awarded by the Department of Transport's all-knowing suits at some point in the next millenium.

Naturally we, the actual users/passengers, can expect to be awarded with a further fare rise across the board to be applied by individual train operators whose skill in disregarding the realities of a UK economy where incomes are outpaced by inflation is also ignored by successive governments. In fact the UK manages to sustain the highest rail fares in western europe, if not the world, whilst at the same time offering possibly the worst service for those unfortunate enough to have to crowd into already full trains in peak hours. All of this is directly the result of operators keeping to a minimum the numbers of coaches/carriages they are obliged to lease through the cleverly set up middle band of rolling stock 'brokers' owning and leasing carriages to passenger train franchisees. This understandably inhibits franchise operators in running the sort of passenger trains one sees as the norm almost everywhere else in Europe. Oh what a tangled web John Major's Conservative Government managed to weave when it pushed through its rail privatisation Bill in the final weeks of clinging on to power. To be fair there are some good stories on the UK rail network, but they tend to be the exception to the rule. I certainly welcome positive tales whenever I can find them.

Along with the BBC's outrageous license tithe on the population - Britain's train set up is nothing more than a money pit on the national economy. I will get to the BBC in due course.

Destined for scrap - ageing semaphore signal gantry posts and the still impressive landmark Blackpool North Signal Box now hemmed in inevitable encroaching housing. Note the scaffolding struts added to ensure this particular post is able to withstand strong winds - at least until it is dismantled this winter.

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