Capital effort to be back on track

A Pearly King and Queen, and Sherlock Holmes disembark at Blackpool station. Virgin Trains has brought these familiar London characters to Blackpool to celebrate the launch of its new direct train service.'Covent Garden street performers showcase their talents on Central Pier after Virgin Trains brought them to Blackpool to celebrate the launch of the new direct rail service.'Sherlock Holmes greets the crowds on Blackpool Beach after Virgin Trains brought him from 221b Baker Street on the new direct London Euston to Blackpool North train line.

A Pearly King and Queen, and Sherlock Holmes disembark at Blackpool station. Virgin Trains has brought these familiar London characters to Blackpool to celebrate the launch of its new direct train service.'Covent Garden street performers showcase their talents on Central Pier after Virgin Trains brought them to Blackpool to celebrate the launch of the new direct rail service.'Sherlock Holmes greets the crowds on Blackpool Beach after Virgin Trains brought him from 221b Baker Street on the new direct London Euston to Blackpool North train line.

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“This Monday will mark a special day in the history of our railways: we’re putting Blackpool back on the Virgin Trains map,” says Gary Iddon, Virgin Trains’ general manager for Anglo-Scottish services.

The first train to depart Blackpool North for London at 0525 will take us into a new era, re-establishing a direct rail link to the capital and fulfilling a long-held ambition of Blackpool’s residents.

It hasn’t been an easy journey getting here.

We’ve seen some setbacks along the way, and had to work really hard with Network Rail to identify slots we can use on the West Coast Main Line – Europe’s busiest mixed-traffic rail route.

It’s important to acknowledge that, without the unwavering support of The Gazette and you, its readers, we wouldn’t have arrived here. So thank you.

As a railwayman with 24 years’ experience in the industry, I know the importance of direct rail links and the role they play in supporting economic growth.

I’ve seen the transformation Virgin Trains has brought to towns and cities on the West Coast network, and the shift in passengers’ expectations of what they should expect from a train journey.

We’re immensely excited that we’re now going to bring that Virgin Trains magic to Blackpool.

The service that commences on Monday will allow people in Blackpool, Poulton-le-Fylde and Kirkham and Wesham to arrive in London in plenty of time for the start of the working day and travel home the same day.

We are plugging Blackpool directly into one of the world’s strongest economic powerhouses.

But it’s not just about getting you there – we want to make sure that when you arrive, you arrive feeling awesome.

And we’re really proud of the dedication our people have to ensuring that they meet and exceed your expectations on every journey you make.

And let’s not forget that this is not the final stop on our journey.

We know that the service commencing Monday is not the summit of Blackpool’s ambitions, but the base camp from which we can build a strong future.

We’re looking forward to making that journey together. And, from Monday, welcoming you onboard.

Jon Rhodes, editor of the Blackpool Gazette, added: “Too long has the nation’s premier seaside holiday resort been without a direct rail connection to the capital. When the connection was lost in 2003 it came as a major blow to the businesses in the area.

“Now, after a 15-month long campaign to persuade the powers-that-be that Blackpool should be put back on track for London, the day has finally come.

“There was delight in September when the Office of Rail Regulation approved Virgin Trains’ plan for the additional service on the West Coast Main Line. On Monday, the first Virgin Voyager train will roll out of Blackpool and head, via Poulton and Kirkham stations, among others, to the capital. While it might not be the full speed ahead Pendolino service everyone craves, it is a start, and a good one too for Fylde residents looking for a day out in the capital.

“Let’s hope holidaymakers in London will return the favour and use the direct connection to come up and spend their time off with us and the great entertainments offer we have here.

“It will put us back on the railway map, and we have to thank Virgin Trains for their faith in Blackpool and for persevering when others in the railway system were not convinced of the need or the space for a direct service to the fun capital of the nation.

“Thanks must go to you, the readers, too for backing our long-running campaign and our petition.”