The overriding concerns of governments and health authorities around the world over the cummulative impact of emissions on both health and global climate are now at a tipping point. China this month signalled intention to halt production and sale of diesel and petrol powered vehicles by 2030, whilst auto manufacturers are racing to bring to market electric cars (and other vehicles) as quickly as possible, with similar elimination of petrol (and diesel) engine products.
On UK railways the prevalence, certainly in the northwest, of superannuated diesel powered motive units is an issue of public health concern. To be fair Network Rail and the Northern Rail franchise operator are pushing ahead with electrification of lines including the Preston to Blackpool link on which work is advancing rapidly ahead of complete closure at the end of the Illuminations allowing completion of infrastructure work. Nonetheless the prevalence of diesel fume spurting rolling stock is already an embarassment when viewed under the still impressive structure at Preston Station.
Northern operates the highest number of 'Pacer' units of any UK rail franchise - with their obsolete and polluting motive power as well as third world riding qualities. They continue to be the unacceptable face of railways in this part of the country and mar the image of railway travel 'up north'. The sooner they are all consigned to the scrap heap the better. Not far behind are similarly dated passenger rolling stock on services running into Blackpool, again with diesel powered units and accompanying pollution.
The Fylde's railway is on the cusp of being 'electrified' with crews at work day and night to complete overhead installations; and also at Blackpool North a revised track and platform layout which will meet the operating needs of new rolling stock. Poulton-Le-Fylde signal box now boasts bold signage on its windows 1898 - 2017 evidence of the termination of semaphore signals in this area and replacement of all the traditional signal boxes along the line from Preston to Blackpool. A sad moment for train enthusiasts with lineside interest. Hopefully the structures dating from the 1890s and early 1900s will find good 'homes' elsewhere, along with their fittings and equipment. An sadder moment for the signalmen whose jobs are being eliminated to be replaced by a centralised computer system based in Manchester area.
The definitely disgraceful polluting trains still prevalent in the Northern Powerhouse:
Above : Blackpool North train travel at its worst (for the moment) and Below : Preston Station receiving another generous dose of diesel pollutants within the passenger area thanks to a 'Pacer'. Health hazards for staff and the travelling public day in day out.
Diesel fumes out - above. Below : Diesel fuelling point discretely embedded on this dated carriage (leased of course from an unnecessary rolling stock financing firm).
Another operator - another story : modern quiet and fast trains running between London and Bicester / Oxford courtesy of Chiltern Railways. PS : New Station as well.