A GROUP trying to re-open the Poulton to Fleetwood rail link has won the backing of the Government’s railways minister Teresa Villiers.
During a debate in Westminster on rail expansion, Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw said the Poulton and Wyre Railway Society had been negotiating for more than two years with Network Rail to try to get control of part of the line.
In response, Mrs Villiers said: “If he is having problems engaging with Network Rail, I will be happy to take that up and to encourage Network Rail to work with the group.”
During the debate she said there was “no presumption” against local rail schemes and the Government recognised their benefit.
She said the Government were prepared to consider re-opening disused lines but if a local council wanted a rail line it should also cover running costs.
Mrs Villiers added: “Once the service has run for a few years and demonstrated its success, we will then assess it on the same basis as existing franchised services.
“If the scheme has a good business case, and if the ongoing subsidy required is affordable and accommodated within budget, we are prepared to consider funding.”
Mr Ollerenshaw (pictured) said the railway was the key to Fleetwood’s regeneration and could be important for the expansion of the fish-processing industry.
He added: “Fleetwood has a tremendous fish processing industry. The bulk of fish no longer comes from the fishing fleet which, I think, is down to two and a half boats, but comes in at night by truck from every other fishing port in Britain down a narrow A road.
“Even with the freight possibilities, rail could provide momentum to the expansion of an indigenous industry.”
He added that a 2009 report by the Association of Train Operating Companies said the Fleetwood-Poulton line was fourth from top in terms of cost-benefit ratio.
Railway society trustee David Evans said: “It’s good to get support but we’re not having difficulty with Network Rail. We’re having meetings with them and they are supportive but they are having to do things at their pace although we would like it to be a bit quicker.”