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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Fylde Integrated Transport Requires a Combined Authority

The compartmentalised political set up of local government in the Fylde bedevils the creation of an integrated transport infrastructure which serves all the communities in this part of Lancashire. No better example of the current sad state of affairs is the decision of the Lytham St Annes Council in 1936 not to accept a generous offer from Blackpool Corporation Transport to takeover the constantly ailing municipal transport operation of its southern neighbour. Only the casting vote by the Chairman of the Lytham St Annes Council decided to reject the opportunity for Blackpool to extend it tramway from the boundary at Squires Gate Lane to St Annes (in the first instance). Instead parochial head in the sand blinkered snobbery saw Lytham St Annes opt to convert its ramshackle tramway to bus operation. The 11 bus service being the result.

Perhaps Blackpool saw some redemption when the decision was taken three decades later by London headquartered accountants to close Blackpool's central station and downgrade the railway links on the south Fylde coast. Today a single track shuttle once an hour connects stations from Kirkham to Blackpool South terminus with equally ramshackle trains. Where once fast passenger services to Manchester allowed professionals frequent travel options from Lytham, Fairhaven and St Annes to points all the way to London - now only a third world level of service trundles along the solitary south Fylde railway track devoid of passing loops as far as Kirkham where it joins the electrified mainline from Preston to Blackpool North. The M55 takes vehicles into Blackpool with the south Fylde being dealt with by ruritanian back roads through farmland and burgeoning housing estates springing up to flood ever more cars onto already congested Fylde roads.

Fleetwood and Thornton fare even worse. No trains at all - only a moribund track to testify to the former important rail link to the port of Fleetwood along which boat trains once carried passengers to steamer connections with Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The future of this vital rail link is now the subject of agitated lobbying by public and private interests aimed at reconnecting Fleetwood by rail with the national network - led by Fleetwood Town Council with Wyre Dock Development Ltd. An admirable and economic objective given the ever congested state of Fleetwood's solitary road connection to reach the national motorway network. The lamentable lack of planning and even more lack of action by responsible public bodies now results in daily queues of traffic in both directions to and from the North Fylde coast. Adding misery to this deplorable state of affairs is the willingness of the same local authorities to sanction swathes of new house building along already busy main roads leading into the A585. Apparently there is not a field that local councils will forbear rampant housing companies to build on in this part of England. Pity the poor residents of Poulton.

The Fylde coast and its communities deserve better from the public sector having tolerated for far too long the antics of political amateurs voted in year in and year out on a mosaic of fragmented councils now well past their sell by date in the 21st Century. A consolidated authority is needed to bring rational oversight on the future of the Fylde which has become a desirable area for business and residential investment. Piecemeal building by housing firms with influence on fragmented local councils has produced little in value except for nice profits to the builders, developers and their lobbyists. With every new scheme comes ever more pressure on local services and infrastructure - not to mention the aggravation of ever more road traffic, whilst rail infrastructure remains ignored and neglected, pushed into the proverbial long grass politically and by prevalent nimbyism.

Hopefully this will change aided and abetted by companies and professionals aware of these issues and prepared to act with influence beyond the local council offices. Trains, tramtrains and light rail aligned with a coordinated Fylde bus network, itself with priority traffic lanes is a goal for this next generation to politically take on board. Above all the consolidation of the deplorable splintered local government makeup in the Fylde should emerge as the foundation of meaningful economic and social growth in the 21st Century. There are thankfully signs that these tectonic plates are now shifting.

Coordination of regional rail travel - Germany and the Czech Republic a local station stop with national border marked for observant passengers.

And modern tram train and local rail equipment with low floor access. Compare with the third world equipment pushed on to the 'South Fylde Line' currently. This is the 'Waldbahn' running from between local communities in eastern Germany and the Czech Republic. Both Images (plus lower limbs) courtesy Peter Watts.

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