Train chiefs new route ‘aspiration’

Virgin Trains high speed tilting Pendolino
Virgin Trains high speed tilting Pendolino
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Rail bosses today told The Gazette they will look at introducing more direct routes between Blackpool and London – if initial plans to run a daily return service to the capital are a success.

The Gazette reported, yesterday, how the Office of Rail Regulation had given the green light to Virgin Trains’ bid to run a service from Blackpool – between Monday and Friday.

Business chiefs in the resort today welcomed the news and said they hoped Virgin would look at additional services aimed more at tourists, which might benefit attractions here.

A spokesman for Virgin said it was the company’s “aspiration” to look at additional trains if this first service, which launches in December, is a “roaring success”.

He added: “Our job now is to make this (new route) such a roaring success that we can get a second service and a third service.

“That is our aspiration. Looking further down the line at long-term electrification, as and when that takes place, that, in theory, gives us more flexibility to look at that second train because it would be easier, operationally, to get that in.”

A multi-million pound project to electrify the rail line between Blackpool and Manchester is due to be completed by 2016 and should 
allow faster and more frequent rail services.

Virgin’s original bid last year – backed by The Gazette’s On Track to the Capital campaign – was to run two services per day between Blackpool and London, a move that was rejected by Network Rail and then by the ORR because of fears it would lead to too much traffic on the West Coast Main Line.

Virgin has managed to get the single direct service passed by extending an 
existing service from Preston so it starts at Blackpool instead, meaning there are 
no additional trains on the line.

Business bosses said they hoped the new daily direct rail link to London is just the start and that eventually more trains will operate to the capital.

Nightclub boss Basil Newby, who owns the Flamingo and Funny Girls, said: “Anything that brings the south closer to us and makes it more convenient for people to get to Blackpool to holiday is a positive move.

“Eleven years ago, when we lost the link, was when Blackpool was starting to decline and losing the service to London was another nail in the coffin.

“But now everything is picking up and most people I speak to have had a really good summer, so this will be the cherry on the cake.”

Martin Long, chairman of the Blackpool Business Leadership Group, said he hoped the initial one service a day could be built up to provide more daily services to the capital.

He said: “This is something we have been campaigning 
for some time so we are very pleased to see it reinstated.

“Although there is just one service a day proposed at present (departing for London at 5.25am) , we hope it will lead to a more regular service in the future.

“It will certainly encourage more business links between the Fylde and London.”

Tony Prosser, managing director of Realtime UK, based at Westby, said he would use the link from Kirkham but hoped the journey time to London Euston could be reduced from the current three hours in the future.

He said: “Myself and members of staff do visit London frequently and at the moment we travel from Preston station from where it takes two-and-a-half hours to London.

“So at the moment it would still be easier for us to use Preston station, but if eventually there are more services from Blackpool at more convenient times, if we travelled from Kirkham it would be better as we wouldn’t have to change trains.”