Today The Gazette launches a major campaign to get Blackpool’s direct rail link to London back on track.
Passengers, campaigners and community leaders were left shocked and angered after Network Rail threw out Virgin Trains’ plans to restore the route between the resort and the capital this week.
They say the bombshell decision will hit tourism in Blackpool and cost companies across the Fylde coast millions in potential lost business.
Now The Gazette is leading the fightback.
Backed by councillors, MPs, rail campaigners and Virgin Trains itself, our On Track To The Capital campaign aims to mobilise our army of readers - and let rail bosses know this line is wanted and needed.
In the coming weeks we will be speaking to the Fylde’s movers and shakers about how and why the line, which will bring people from London to Blackpool in just two and a half hours, should be restored a decade after it was last used.
But we need your help.
Virgin has until July 5 to appeal the decision, which Network Rail said was taken because the West Coast Main Line is already too busy, to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) and show that Network Rail’s objections should be overturned.
And we want our readers to back that cause by signing our petition online or returning the petition coupon included inside today’s paper.
We will then deliver your response to bosses at the ORR as they consider the appeal.
Arthur Leathley (pictured), Virgin Trains’ director of communications, said: “We welcome the fantastic support we have had from The Gazette, MPs and the people of Blackpool. We still hope we can change this decision.
“It is really important that people set out their views.”
A spokesman for Virgin Trains added the company was “disappointed” by Network Rail’s decision.
“There is a process where we can challenge the decision and we fully intend to do that. We have not given up hope,” he added.
“We run 324 services a day and we are talking about four extra paths into Euston. Those paths are already there, we are just not using them.”
Virgin originally axed the Blackpool to London service in 2003, leaving passengers to change to a Blackpool or London-bound train at Preston.
The new route would have involved two trains a day - a morning and an afternoon service - and Virgin bosses had hoped to expand that to five by 2016.
PICK UP A COPY OF FRIDAY’S GAZETTE FOR MORE ON OUR RAIL LINK CAMPAIGN.