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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Lancashire's Unified Authority Bid

John Woodman

As previously referenced on this Blog - the sixteen Local Authorities within Lancashire plus Lancashire's County Council have agreed to jointly work together but without need for an Elected Mayor in order to gain a unified status and subvention of up to £5 Billion from central government.

This would be applied to agreed infrastructure improvement and new developments benefitting the County. The bid to central government for this new status for the County (which excludes the City Regions of Greater Manchester and Liverpool Merseyside - but includes the Unitary Authorities of Blackburn and Blackpool plus the City of Preston) has yet to be formally ratified in London.

The Leaders of all the qualifying Councils have signed on to the Lancashire shared partnership which extends to transport services and infrastructure.

Whilst the fine details of this most recent agreement have yet to be made public the chances of a joined up light rail strategy involving both Preston, Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde Authorities have moved significantly closer. If this can extend to the creation of a light rail design build centre for the benefit of new schemes emerging in England it will cement the County's leadership role in finally re-emerging as the UK centre of excellence in tramway development. A role formally applicable up to the Second World War through the design build work of the English Electric Company at its Strand Road Works in Preston. The winning design and subsequent construction of Britain's very last 'traditional' electric trams in a joint project during the 1980s between Blackpool's Rigby Road Works and the East Lancashire Coachbuilders firm in Blackburn was the terminal point of light rail vehicle development in Britain. Since then evolving EU regulations and UK legislation governing disability access for passengers on both buses and trams - saw further progress in designing new light rail equipment devolve onto global companies with production sited outside of the UK. Hence the incessant importation of new rolling stock from Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France to support UK tram growth - there currently being no UK competition.

Longstanding efforts by the promoters of a singular UK tram design in the shape of 'Trampower' fortunately still resonate in Preston. where that city's readiness to endorse a new light rail line with

'home built' equipment built in the UK (and ideally in the northwest)- has already established relations with Blackpool Transport and Council. The potential for a joined up network extending from Preston along the Fylde coast and taking in the important BAE Systems operation at Warton, as well as the now sought after south Fylde tramway extension from Starr Gate - may yet be realised. Thus bringing about originating aims of Walter Luff and Blackpool Corporation Transport who made strenuous efforts to acquire Lytham St Annes Corporation Transport's assets and the remaining tram service between St Annes Square and the Gynn in 1937. This would have been a singularly important and strategic initiative at the time.

The 2022 Lancashire County bid on behalf of conjoined sixteen Local Authorities presents a renewed opportunity to bring about all electric light rail connectivity running from Fleetwood to Preston and potentially further east to BAE at Salmesbury. Important sections embracing sizeable communities in Preston, Blackpool and the north Fylde coast are already in play. Taking lessons from the successful light rail network developed in an around Karlsruhe and coastal regions in The Netherlands, as well as the fast expanding regional systems being developed in Greater Manchester City Region and the rapid growth of the West Midlands operation - provide templates for what can be achieved. Politics aside - the future for joined up transport connectivity looks bright here in the northwest.

Below : Summer 2013 The first generation of Manchester's Metrolink fleet imported from Italy and now just a memory. The 'Big Bang' expansion is yet to take place. Photo : John Woodman

Below : Greater Manchester City Region - Second generation of Metrolink trams - Bombardier imports. Expansion of network is well underway Image : John Woodman

Below : Blackpool North Station tram terminus under construction summer 2021 - quarter mile on-street extension with two additional trams for the sixteen strong fleet of Bombardier built trams. Crumbs of comfort.


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