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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Heading East - Layton Victoria Hospital Stanley Park et al

John Woodman

So far Blackpool's engagement in expansion of its light rail system has been conservative (with a small 'c') at best. The short on street extension from the Promenade at North Pier and then along Talbot Road as far as the former 'Wilko' property has been a torturous exercise thus far - putting a large question mark over further supplemental tramway construction, on street or otherwise.

Growing clamour? for extending the seafront line further south along the Fylde coastline to St Annes and taking in the aviation site at Squires Gate remains a logical and economic case, whether or not an eventual light rail service southbound from Blackpool's Unitary Authority boundary encompasses dual use of the one train an hour heavy rail line ending at Waterloo Road bridge.

Likewise looking north the on again off again pursuit of a Fleetwood rail service connection is still far from resolved in any shape of form. That is discounting the much heralded ambition of the local railway preservation group seeking to take over a key piece of rail infrastructure running from Wyre Dock as far as Poulton station. The envisaged seasonal visitor service would utilise a redundant British Rail diesel set; itself bringing polluting emissions along a route adjoining innumerable back gardens of local residences and hardly providing meaningful social benefit. The alternative option (Plan B) could convert the line as is to light rail without need for overhead power supply and running both to Poulton as well as into Blackpool = possibly even connecting with the Layton tramway extension at Victoria Hospital.

Victoria Hospital (with Stanley Park) and the Talbot Road corridor are eminently desirable objectives for a wider tramway network - one that serves year round needs of schools and employers away from the seasonal confines of the promenade service. The North Station extension is an important first step towards a comprehensive light rail system; perhaps taking longer to realise but nevertheless a critical move for this Authority's transport strategy medium and longer term. Examples of not dissimilar capital investment by most other UK light rail operators and their host political masters - are being reported on from Edinburgh to the West Midlands, and Blackpool should be no exception. Eventually a Fylde wide light rail network taking in BAE Systems at Warton, new housing along the Garstang Road corridor and connection to the Preston tramway scheme (should it be finally realised) is far from idle thinking. Both Blackpool and Preston being at the forefront of electric tram development at the dawn of a new age in urban transport from the 1880s onward. The fertile minds of a new generation of planners and private sector doers are ready to take on challenges, ones which would be strikingly familiar to visionary pioneers of yesteryear.


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