Trains could be running on the abandoned Poulton to Fleetwood rail line as early as next year, it has been revealed.
A business plan by Poulton and Wyre Railway Society has been given encouragement by Lancashire County Council and Network Rail, the land owners and transport authorities, which will help with funding bids.
Passenger traffic was taken off the line in the 1970s and freight trains stopped using it in the 1990s.
Now the society is pursuing its 10-year plan which would see the creation of a heritage diesel service linking Poulton railway station to Fleetwood, initially running four times a day – two days a week.
Over the 10 years, the Society say the scheme will cost just £300,000, with the expense being low because much of the physical labour will be undertaken by the group’s army of unpaid volunteers.
Initially the link would reach as far as Fleetwood’s Jameson Road bridge, where existing tracks come to an end.
But it is hoped that eventually the route can extend as far as land close to Wyre Dock in Fleetwood.
Funding bids are currently being prepared, backed by the business plan, and the Railway Society is also using cash generated themselves. It is hoped that once up and running, the service would pay for itself.
And consultation with residents who live along the line will also begin shortly.
The Society believes the railway plans can bring in huge amounts of tourists to Fleetwood and Wyre.
As a private venture, Wyre Council does not have any consultational role in the scheme, but the borough authority supports the initiative in principle, citing a boost to tourism.
Eddie Fisher, chairman of the Society’s charitable trust which would run the service, said: “The first phase is to get a short rail link running between Thornton Station, off Victoria Road East, and Burn Naze, where the tracks and the basic station infrastructure is virtually ready to use.
“Ideally we would hope to get a train on this line by next summer, running short pleasure trips between the two points. Next we aim to extend that link to Jameson Road bridge, and then from Thornton to Poulton.
“Once we have extended it to Poulton, we will effectively be linking up Fleetwood to the national rail network.”
Passengers from elsewhere would disembark at Poulton, cross to another platform, jump on the heritage train with its 1950s-style carriages, and travel to Fleetwood.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said the authority had looked at the group’s business plan and was pleased with the business case.
He added: “We support the railway society’s efforts to reopen this line and our officers have been pleased to lend their time and advice.
“We would like to see the old transport infrastructure being brought back into use, and a heritage scheme could add real value to the tourist economy.”
A Wyre Council spokeswoman added: “The council supports the principle of a heritage railway line between Poulton and Fleetwood that would potentially bring employment and visitors to Wyre.”
Network Rail, which owns and runs Britain’s rail infrastructure, said it was aware of the plans, and the extent of its involvement is not yet known..