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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Reconnecting Fleetwood

A petition has been launched prior to the holiday period aimed at securing support for Parliament's consideration of the need for a reopened rail link to Fleetwood that connects with the national network. This follows on increased public awareness of the potential for the existing right of way running from Poulton junction as far as Wyre Dock being assigned to third parties for alternative purpose.

Whilst much attention has been given to a short section of the trackbed at Thornton Station with a local railway heritage group looking to run a seasonal 1960s diesel set acquired for this purpose; the strategic value of the still protected entire line extending to Wyre Dock, Fleetwood from Poulton (below) has been cloaked over.

Fleetwood Town Council's stated aim is to bring about a rail service year round to aid economic development and reorientate access other than by road (and tram service from Blackpool). For this purpose the Council created 'Fleetwood Back on Track' two years ago as a pro-active body to promote reopening the railway for regular passenger service. Insofar as the FHLT are concerned this admirable objective is of especial value given that the right of way of the trackbed owned by Network Rail (who now seek its sale) runs directly into the property of Associated British Ports (ABP) at Wyre Dock. The high value of bringing about rail access to this point (and possibly beyond along Dock Street into the heart of Fleetwood) cannot be underestimated.

As things stand the FHLT's contribution to proposals at Wyre Dock anticipate a standard gauge tramway around the dockside utilising some of the Trust's trams for visitor service year round - a la Beamish Museum and its popular tram ride. If this could link physically with a reopened line as far as Poulton station through a tram train operation with modern equipment that uses new propulsion power technology - the basis of a credible year round rail access to the north Fylde coast may well be achievable. The tourist tramway itself will be configured so as to permit inter-running on a section of the loop that brings the tram train service as close as possible to Fleetwood's centre.

Understandably views have been expressed on the potential for Blackpool's existing light rail service to be extended from Fleetwood Ferry along the riverside on Dock Street to proposals for the leisure led commercial scheme 'Fleetwood Quays'. This possibility might emerge in due course; thus giving Fleetwood the best of all worlds: a tourist vintage tramway, light rail service and a tram train operation as far as Preston via Poulton and Kirkham. The track connection at Poulton Junction that formerly ran on to Thornton and Fleetwood has been severed as part of the upgrade of the Preston to Blackpool railway (electrification). However reinstallation of the connection to conforming rail standards for tramtrain service is entirely possible with private sector partners. The ongoing Sheffield Meadowhall to Rotherham tram train installation is finally nearing completion albeit with significant cost overruns which are now subject of Government scrutiny. At least this shows that heavy rail and light rail dual operation is possible in the UK - even though it has been a common enough transport mode in the rest of Europe, with expanding investment strengthening regional economic links.

Fleetwood's missing out as far as rail service to the Fylde coast is lamentable but at least there are at last credible initiatives underway to correct this longstanding omission. Goodwill between interested Principals to achieve this goal is essential. Exploratory exchanges late last year indicate basis of shared interests; whilst there are sufficient indicators of new investment heading to the north Fylde coast in 2018 to warrant joined up actions that place Fleetwood finally Back on Track.

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