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Petition bid in free trams travel battle

Tram outside the North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood.

Tram outside the North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood.

A petition has been launched in a bid to convince town hall bosses to drop plans to scrap free tram travel for pensioners who do not live in Blackpool.

Opponents of the proposal – which Blackpool Council claims will save £700,000 – say traders on both sides of the borough boundary will lose out.

Angela Patchett, (inset, right) president of Fleetwood Women’s Institute, is behind a petition, based at St Peter’s Church, on Agnew Road, calling for a rethink.

She said: “We have already got quite a few signatures and we will be giving it in about three weeks from now.

“The feeling is really strong – everybody is really upset about this. Pensioners have said if they start charging to use the trams they won’t go to Blackpool anymore. It will have a knock-on effect.

“But the petition is gathering momentum and I’m expecting about 3,000 signatures.”

Until now non-residents have been able to ride for free as part of the national OAP concessionary fares scheme.

Steve Lynton, boss of Granada Fish Bar, on North Albert Street, said the move will cause as many problems for traders in Blackpool as it will for those in Fleetwood.

He said: “Traders in Fleetwood are just annoyed because we put up with the disruption when the line was built – people went out of business – and now they are saying they want to take away what we believe we deserve.

“But where are they going to find fare-paying passengers in the middle of the day now?

“And when the trams stopped when Fleetwood was being dug up, they put on extra buses, which was great, but people couldn’t get on at Cleveleys because they were that full. If they are going to do that again it will end up costing them more.”

Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn has argued that the resort’s taxpayers should not be subsidising travel for those who live elsewhere.

But Fleetwood councillor Dave Shaw said: “I think after all the disruption and loss of business in Fleetwood – when Lord Street was basically cut in half – I think this is a complete insult to the people of Fleetwood.”

The issue will now be discussed by town councillors at their next meeting tonight, when members are expected to consider writing a letter of objection.

Blackpool Council has said that if the plans go ahead it would fall to Lancashire County Council to make sure other pensioners in the county, who do not live in Blackpool, can continue to ride the trams free of charge.

Lancashire County Council has said it will consider its position once Blackpool Council makes a final decision on the matter.

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