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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

March 1st Good Riddance Northern Rail

A red letter day for Blackpool rail passengers as well as countless tens of thousands having to use the northwest's railways. The German operator of Northern Rail as it is known has been removed from its 'tenancy' of this rail franchise and replaced with a UK Government nominated management. Finally freeing the northwest of England from the c;utches of foreign control albeit through a partnership with a UK operator. Slow trains, late trains, disappearing trains, old trains and minimal capacity trains being the hallmark of this franchise for far too many years.

It's yet a further nail in the coffin of Britain's privatised rail network instigated by a Tory Government in the dying days of the unlamented John Major administration. After sustained protests by the travelling public and leadership of important northern conurbations Downing Street has woken up and smelled the coffee - by cancelling the operating lease agreement with Arriva Rail/North or whatever they brand themselves these days alongside their German cohorts. A huge sigh of relief can be heard from communities large and small up north - including the Fylde coast.

Already the long distance operator Virgin Trains has had to similarly resign itself to replacing ownership with removal of the Branson branding almost overnight on its leased rolling stock.Whether this leads to a renationalised network with the public interest coming before corporate dividends remains to be seen - but its a fulsome step in the right direction.

Just a few weeks now before the diggers and demolition people move on to the site of the original North Station to begin the task of levelling the awful concrete bunker which replaced the iron and steel arch of the original Talbot Road Station during the 1960s. Few tears will be shed when this depressing edifice housing the Wilko business and little used multi level car park is finally brought down. The overlong redevelopment of Talbot Gateway complete with new hotel, offices and access ramp connecting the new Talbot Road tram terminus within to the lower level of Blackpool North's 1930s excursion platforms will come as a big relief.

Even more silver linings beckon from the misery of a worldwide virus emanating from China (yet again) with its disgusting need to consume wild animal species from open markets. The impact on global travel is both immediate and evident as organisers of major events and conferences cancel long planned venues - and the holiday travel industry faces a dramatic turndown in tourism and foreign travel. British resorts and regions providing safer and simpler options (as well as less expensive) stand to gain immensely in 2020. Blackpool's new hotels going up along the seafront and town centre being notable beneficiaries. However there is also need for new quality year round all age leisure attractions immune to the weather - beyond the honky tonk slot machines and fish and chip outlets still dominating the town's staple offer. Quality restaurants remain a further need in the town centre augmenting the few upper echelon premises - mostly hard to find.

Global warming and rising sea levels place the Fylde coastline under threat now and in coming decades. Whilst the resort has had serious investment in its sea defences over recent years - there have to be questions over whether this will be enough to avoid coastal flooding on a large scale in the medium term. The siting of the town's only tram depot almost on top of the sea wall being a particularly troublesome issue. - Providing a secondary site less exposed to flooding must feature in strategic planning for the decades ahead and well away from the seafront. In the 1920s Fleetwood and Rossall were inundated by the sea with the tramroad's track being washed out in several places. The Fylde coast has form when it comes to flooding (and this is before anyone had heard of global warming). The Lytham St Annes tram service along the seafront up to 1937 was forever bedevilled by blown sand in high winds - needing constant clearance (manually) for much of its existence. Now pity the poor householders living in the latest blitz of development along Clifton Drive North - this award winning inspirational estate caught between an airport runway, railway line, trunk road and sandhills leading down on to incoming tides from the Irish Sea.

More anon

Blackpool floods in the 1920s - on Central Drive. Number 45 carefully inches its way across the junction with Rigby Road on its way to Waterloo Road from Central Station. A depot manager accompanies the tram to ensure it maintains a very slow speed through the flooded area.

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