Ambitious new plans to run six daily rail services between Blackpool and London have today been “welcomed with open arms” by campaigners.
York-based company Alliance Rail Holdings (ARH) says it has come to an agreement with Network Rail (NR) to run trains between the resort and the capital from 2017.
The company, which plans to run services under the name Great North Western Railway Company (GNWR), has bought access rights to the route pending final approval from industry arbitrator the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).
Ian Yeowart, ARH managing director, said: “We are hopeful that the regulator will see the benefits in what we’re trying to achieve, certainly people in Blackpool will.”
The company first submitted an application to run the route in 2011 and a period of consultation has now begun within the railway industry.
The proposal would see Poulton included on the route between Blackpool North and London Euston.
Mr Yeowart says he expects a decision to be made in late summer.
The bid is completely separate to the attempts by Virgin Trains to run services between Blackpool and the capital, which are still being discussed with NR and would start sooner than 2017.
Mr Yeowart added: “It has taken a significant amount of work since our initial application in 2011 to get to the point where Network Rail has agreed to the sale of access rights. There is still some way to go following full approval, as new rolling stock needs to be ordered and a full recruitment process needs to be undertaken. The target dates for operation are set to coincide with the full electrification of the route.”
The plan submitted by ARH to Network Rail also includes a proposal to run services between Euston and Huddersfield via Manchester.
The company has proposed to invest in a fleet of eight new six-car Alstom Pendolino trains, currently used by Virgin.
It says a total of 200 jobs will be created if the plans are given the green light.
Paul Nettleton, of the Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users Association, said: “I’ll welcome that with open arms.
“Network Rail might say yes, but the ORR might say no.
“But that really would be something. Six a day seems a lot, but why not?
“It would be good for tourism, good for business, good for everybody.”
Separate plans are currently being drawn up by Virgin Trains and Network Rail to run daily services between Blackpool and London, following a Gazette campaign which saw more than 5,000 people from the Fylde coast back the idea.
Last year, Virgins plans for two brand new trains per day between Blackpool and London were blocked by NR because of concerns over overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line – a decision backed by the ORR.
But since then, NR and Virgin have been working together to find a way forward and it is believed that coming timetable changes will allow current trains travelling between London and northern cities to potentially be extended to begin at Blackpool before 2017.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard says his focus is on starting a rail service to London as soon as possible. He said: “I welcome anyone who wants to improve rail services between London Euston and Blackpool, and I’m still hopeful that the Secretary of State, working with the ORR, will enable Virgin to start these services. That’s the focus of my efforts at the moment.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “It has been agreed with GNWR that they can potentially begin to run trains between Blackpool and London, but that now needs industry approval from the ORR.
“There is a timetable in place and there will be discussions within the industry as to whether or not this can be accommodated on the network.”
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