Service will not be back on track

VIRGIN Trains has confirmed that it has no plans to restore through services from London and Birmingham to Blackpool.

Sir Richard Branson's company has told local rail campaigners the trains that operated the service are needed elsewhere on its under-pressure CrossCountry network.

Confirmation that there would not be an early rethink came at a conference in Preston between rail user groups and the North West Rail Passengers' Committee – the statutory watchdog for train travel in theregion.

Virgin ran its final through train from Blackpool North to London last weekend. The eight daily services between Blackpool and Birmingham have also been axed.

In a written question at the conference, the campaign group Railfuture North West asked: "What is the long-term strategy for the restoration of CrossCountry services which have been withdrawn without replacement – for example, services to Blackpool?"

Virgin replied: "We have no plans to restore services to Blackpool as we cannot foresee resources being available within the CrossCountry fleet."

n another question, Malcolm Richardson and Tim Young of Lancashire Transport 2000 asked why Virgin was removing services from a resort that attracted millions of visitors a year, 15 per cent of whom travelled by rail.

Virgin's response was: "CrossCountry is having to cope with a 40 per cent increase in customers, and release all its current High Speed Train fleet for deployment elsewhere."


In these circumstances, said the operator, its new Voyager trains had had to be redeployed to provide extra capacity on the core of the CrossCountry network.

Mr Richardson, who is also vice-chairman of Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users' Association, said it was ironic that Virgin had scrapped its Blackpool services at a time when express train operators were facing tough competition from low-cost airlines.

Ryanair obviously believed there was a market as it had launched its new daily service between Blackpool and London, he added.

Meanwhile, the Rail Passengers' Committee has been told that a draft feasibility study has been presented to Lancashire County Council and train operator First North Western into installation of a lift at Kirkham and Wesham station.

n The giant signal box at Kirkham North is celebrating its centenary this year. The box, which had 75 signal levers, dates back to the opening of the Marton Line to Blackpool.