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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Reconnecting Fleetwood

The Government's announcement by Chris Grayling this week to aid reopening former rai;way lines closed under the 'Beeching' cuts almost sixty years ago is to be welcomed. Evidence from the two years of operation of the brand new 'Borders line' connecting towns and communities on the Scottish Borders with Edinburgh has shown positive economic impact with new investment and development - and importantly more visitors and leisure spending. This was the most extensive new railway built in the UK for many decades and an example of how train travel can reinvigorate local economies by simply reconnecting them with a fixed path investment and scheduled service.

Now the Borders Railway and Scottish Government are looking hard at extending the Borders Railway all the way to Carlisle where it rightly should connect with the West Coast mainline and regional services to Cumbria.

An even more ambitious programme exists to reopen or rather reconnect the rail corridor running east west between Cambridge and Oxford. An important section that runs east from Oxford now serves Bicester Village with dormant onward tracks continuing further east on the original Cambridge line. Having seen firsthand the vibrancy that new railway services bring to a once sleepy dead end halt at Bicester Town with one train an hour (or thereabouts) from Oxford - it is all the more important for Fleetwood to feature in the Government's revival of railway branch lines and links awaiting renewal and investment.

Below : Blue skies dynamic companies, forward thinking, joined up public private sector and the outcome : Bicester Village - new station, new trains, new services, thriving destination and hundreds of new jobs, new investment in a growing economy.

Bright gleaming new build train station on the initial segment of what will become the Oxford to Cambridge 'Spires Line' or something similar which connects two important university and research clusters. Both having lost their railway link with each other because of a Home Counties Accountant in the 1960s and weakwilled politicians.

Fleetwood - a town now on the brink of economic renewal and regeneration.

The 'Fleetwood Quays' scheme in which the writer is a prime mover, has a firm interest in similar investment and renewal of the Poulton to Fleetwood railway line whose own protected right of way and trackbed currently exists all the way as far as Wyre Dock. The long established Poulton & Wyre Railway Society have perservered in limited proposals which would have seen a seasonal heritage service using a short stretch of track close to Burn Naze and Thornton station. A former two car diesel passenger unit from the 1960s having been acquired for this modest nostalgic purpose.

However Fleetwood and the £150Million scheme leisure led development at Wyre Dock require a far more robust rail link operating year round with modern equipment and high frequency service initially to Poulton junction. The potential for tram train units to run beyond to both Blackpool and Preston using new energy propulsion technology would mean no need for overhead power wiring as is the case in the current electrification programme underway by Network Rail with Northern Rail. All of this is perfectly possible even in today's financially taut times and given the engagement of the private sector. If the Scottish Borders can prove the case in towns like historic Melrose - then Fleetwood most certainly is a prime candidate for reawakening of dormant rail infrastructure - on par with its football club, boosted by a local businessman and soon the major leisure destination proposal for Wyre Dock. I will talk about the tram bit there in a later Blog. Blue skies thinking is now needed with credible initiatives dragging in long dormant talking shops.

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