A BID to route Blackpool’s iconic trams back along town centre streets has won Government support.
As the revamped service came back to life, plans to extend the tramway back to Blackpool North Station were backed by Transport Minister Norman Baker.
Mr Baker said: “I’m very keen to support extensions to light rail systems and I’ve already authorised them in Manchester and Nottingham.
“The tram has a great future in this country providing the capital costs are kept down.
“I’m glad the system here in Blackpool has been modified so points have been put in and the plans are already there to take the tram through to Blackpool North.
“It will be for the council to lead on that rather than the Department for Transport but clearly there is some sense in that.”
Mr Baker – whose department has backed tram line expansion in other parts of the country – joined dignitaries and VIPs for the inaugural passenger journey from Starr Gate to Fleetwood.
His support for an integrated public transport system is already being backed.
Tim Ashton, Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We are going to have an electrified rail line to Blackpool North station with new trains but then we need to link people into the new tramway so extending the line will be key.
“I’d like to see a new transport hub near the airport at Squires Gate in future and will be working with my colleagues and with Blackpool Council on delivering that.”
There has been a long-standing ambition to eventually link the tramway with North Station as part of the £220m Central Gateway project.
This would enable rail passengers to switch from the train directly to the tram to reach both Blackpool Promenade, and travel onwards to Cleveleys and Fleetwood.
Consultation has now begun on building a business case for a £15m extension of the line.
European funding has been secured by the council towards gathering evidence in support of the scheme, with the first opportunity for transport chiefs to make a bid being in 2015.
Heritage trams will continue to run special services, starting over the Easter holiday.
Mr Baker added: “This is a particularly well thought out scheme because it’s difficult to get the new trams and the heritage trams running alongside each other.
“To get both running on the same track is a great achievement. Blackpool needed a proper functioning tram system, like Manchester and Birmingham, and I think you now have the best trams in Britain here.”