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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Better Laid Planning In the 2020s

A reminder of conceptual rail expansion and connectivity for the Fylde in the new decade - a working paper prepared by Wyre Dock Development in 2018.

Its origins emerged from the company's outline proposals to Associated British Ports (ABP) and redevelopment of the Wyre Dock properties which afforded reopening of the railway right of way to Wyre Dock from Poulton. Whilst these have had to be reluctantly set aside as a result of ABP's property management restructuring - the overarching need for a new rail link serving the towns of Fleetwood and Thornton with the railway network and its electrified service from Blackpool to Preston is now being given support by the new Government through funding for detailed analysis of costing options.

Of especial importance is the potential for introduction of tramtrain services that combine the greater flexibility of light rail with existing railway operation. Not completely out of the picture is the almost forgotten connecting curve at Poulton which allowed for railway service to Fleetwood from Blackpool without need to transit through Poulton's railway station. A 'Halt' on the curve afforded passengers regular service on this inland connecting line. This could prove even more beneficial for tramtrain operation with interrunning at both termini allowing Blackpool Transport greater rail connectivity. The protected right of way is still in place skirting Poulton's central district.

Further impetus to the Fylde's rail infrastructure development lies in the rapid progress in fuel cell capacity and its application to vehicles including trams and trains. Hydrogen fuel cell powered trams operating both on street and along railway lines - bring substantial capital cost reduction benefits by eliminating need for overhead power supply entirely. The storage capacity of onboard fuel cells being the principal limitation on distance travel without 'refuelling'. The increase of electric power points for road vehicles combines with ever more electric cars now on Britain's roads which has the equally important benefit of eliminating) emissions from diesel and petrol engines - a high national priority.

Strengthening and reconnecting the Fylde's railbound traffic patterns has to take precedence over incessant housebuilding pattern now prevalent here whereby greenfield and agricultural land is made over to ambitious builders and investors - with little or no thought given to public transport access and social amenities (to include GPs and schools). Blind acceptance that house buyers come with their own private transport mode - using the same road patterns put down at least a century earlier (if not in Georgian times) seems to be prevailing wisdom with local planning authorities up and down the country.

Pity more farsighted and expansive mindsets are shunted on to inneffectual sub-committees with token remits. Much like the 1930s when electric trams were deemed to be yesterday's urban transport, influenced by the brave new world of car owning middle classes and lobbying of the road building, petroleum and auto manufacturing combines. Britain fell for that one hook line and sinker, as did the USA and France. But back to the Fylde and today's reality check. Blackpool, a pioneer in electric powered urban transport, now finds itself at the forefront of a tsunami of change impacted by the need for downsizing global emissions. Change which brings with it ever more urgency in appraising the staid planning of our communities. A holistic handling of this entire Fylde and its anchoring cities of Preston and Lancaster has become essential. As opposed to the present patchwork of localised planning divorced from blue skies thinking or external engagement beyond the cosy coteries of council committee rooms filled with perpetuating time servers - many of whom being wholly divorced from realities of a new era. For the sake of young generations facing the pressures of the 21st century - something more than the usual politics is absolutely necessary - starting with planning in all its forms, and transport connectivity being chapter one.


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