Dreams of reopening the railway line towards Fleetwood from Poulton have a long way to go before they become a reality, rail chiefs said today.
Network Rail, the authority responsible for the country’s rail lines, has not ruled out the line being brought back into service – but said it would not happen any time soon.
It said it had been contacted by three different groups interested in re-opening the line, each with different uses in mind, but no concrete plans had been put forward yet.
One group keen on seeing trains running along the line again is the Poulton and Wyre Railway Society (PWRS).
And its chairman, Eddie Fisher, insists as long as things went according to plan, the line could be open as soon as two years’ time.
Earlier this year, the group was given permission to clean up the track – something that would be necessary if it is to reopen.
PWRS has also submitted a detailed business plan to Wyre Council and Lancashire County Council for approval.
The idea has previously been welcomed by council bosses.
Mr Fisher said: “The stakeholders came back with some questions and comments about the business plan. We have gone through the process of answering those questions, and that document will be delivered to the stakeholders in the next couple of weeks.”
Mr Fisher said the group believed the section of the line will be cut off from the national network once the electrification of the line at Blackpool North is complete.
The group wishes to take on the line as a privately operated railway.
Mr Fisher added: “Our plans relate to the infrastructure, which is owned by Network Rail, being sold, most likely to Lancashire County Council who would, in turn, lease it back to an operating body.” Mr Fisher said the group still had a lot of work to do, even after winning approval from Network Rail, but was hoping to be able to hold a meeting with the stakeholders next month to discuss the plans.
“There is a possibility that with a good wind this could happen within about two years,” he said.
“This is probably one of the most important projects on the Fylde coast outside of Blackpool.
But a Network Rail spokesman said getting the support of the local authority was only one of many hurdles the group still had to overcome.
Network Rail is likely to hold the keys for anybody looking to bring the line back into use.
The company’s spokesman said: “The first thing we would need is to agree the plan was going to work and would be worth the money. They would also have to confirm they can get the funding.”
It means even if PWRS gets the thumbs-up from the borough or county council, it would still need to convince Network Rail its business plan is robust.
It would also have to secure the necessary funding – which would likely come from central government – and find a rail operator willing to run the service.
Network Rail spokesman added: “They would have to convince us the scheme was viable. Whichever way you look at it, there is quite a lot of work to do to get it off the ground.”
PWRS has been working to re-open the mothballed line since 2006.
It has claimed the plans would have wide-reaching economic benefits for the area.
Mr Fisher said: “It is important it remains as a railway because in the future we may need to reinstate it back into the national network or even turn it into part of the tramway network.
“Our role is to preserve it and restore it as much as possible so that it has a future in society.”