Campaigners today praised a rail company’s fresh bid to restore a direct rail service between Blackpool and London.
Virgin Trains has announced a new application to run twice daily services between the resort and the capital from May next year, after its initial bid was refused by Network Rail, a decision which was upheld by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) last month in spite of a Gazette campaign which saw more than 5,000 people sign up in support of the idea.
The ORR turned down Virgin’s plan to revive the link, which was cut in 2003, citing Network Rail’s original assertion there wasn’t enough capacity on the West Coast Main Line.
But Virgin says that obstacle should be removed from May 2014, after Network Rail pledged major improvements on the line by then.
Virgin’s decision has been met with widespread support across the Fylde coast.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “I’m delighted Virgin are re-thinking their application.
“No doubt they will want to address some of the issues that Network Rail put to them in the first place but it’s crucial that we keep the pressure on and, on the back of that, I will be taking this up with the Transport Secretary when Parliament returns and I’m sure my colleagues will as well.”
Transport enthusiast and Conservative councillor for Anchorsholme, Coun Paul Galley, said: “This gives us a great opportunity to support Virgin in what they’re trying to do and we need to make this a point of issue for every politician from every party that comes to Blackpool between now and May next year in supporting our bid. The significance of getting a direct service back means increased numbers of jobs and investment.”
The decision has also been welcomed by businesses.
Steve Pye, chairman of the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It would be brilliant if they can do that but I don’t know how they’ll get around Network Rail. Transport is vital and I hope Network Rail do look at it again. We welcome any decision by anybody that will help bring this direct route between Blackpool and London.
“You’ve got to appreciate what Virgin are doing for us, they see a need for it and that needs to be met.”
Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “I am delighted to hear Virgin Trains have not given up the fight and are submitting a fresh application.
“Businesses and residents in Blackpool have shown a clear desire for the link which could have a huge impact on tourism and business which, in turn, would be excellent news for our local economy.
“We will do everything we can to support the proposals.”