Just the ticket for Portillo

Michael Portillo at the Station Tavern, Lytham with landlord and landlady Simon Malings and Debbie Blackshaw

Michael Portillo at the Station Tavern, Lytham with landlord and landlady Simon Malings and Debbie Blackshaw

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From a political platform to platforms at rail stations all over the UK and beyond...

Former Conservative cabinet minister Michael Portillo is a popular TV personality these days as presenter of the early evening BBC2 series Great British Railway Journeys – and Fylde looks set to feature in the next series.

Portillo was spotted filming at Lytham station – and called in for lunch to the adjacent Station tavern, to the delight of staff and particularly landlord Simon Malings, who is a big fan of the programme.

“We always record it when it is on and watch it after we have closed up for the night,” said Simon. “It’s a really interesting show and the ideal way to relax at the end of a long day.”

A spokesman for production company Fremantle Media confirmed that Great British Railway Journeys is in the early stages of filming its next series, its eighth, but could give no further details, including when the series would be shown.

It will be the first time the South Fylde line has featured on the series, which started in 2010 and proved an instant hit, attracting an average audience of 1.9 million viewers, exceeding BBC2’s average for its time slot by 16 per cent.

Portillo tucked into a smoked salmon salad as he enjoyed lunch at the Station Tavern along with five members of his production crew and Simon added: “He was very complimentary about the food and was happy to pose for pictures and sign autographs – a really charming man.”

He was later seen on a train passing through St Annes station on its way to Blackpool by community rail development officer Simon Clarke, who took the picture of Portillo on the train with his crew. Simon said: “We boarded at the back and there he was.”

Tony Ford, chairman of the South Fylde Line’s Community Rail Partnership, said: “I was pleased to learn that our humble railway line with its once-an-hour service was chosen to be part of a future series of Great British Railway Journeys. Had we known ardent rail traveller Michael Portillo was coming I am sure members of the Community Rail Partnership would have been there to welcome him.”