Rail upgrade is ‘on the cheap’

Paul Nettleton
Paul Nettleton
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Concerns have been raised that the Fylde coast’s rail upgrade could be carried out ‘on the cheap’.

Network Rail is currently finalising plans for the electrification of the line between Blackpool North and Preston.

However local campaigners have voiced fears promised improvements along the line will not materialise.

Paul Nettleton, chairman of the Fylde Rail Users Group, believes Network Rail is planning to scrap proposed speed increases along the route.

He has also expressed concerns over plans to revamp Blackpool North station and remodel the railway at Kirkham.

Mr Nettleton, who has seen some of the proposals for the route, is worried Blackpool’s rail passengers will end up short changed.

He said: “There are various things which point to the fact Network Rail is trying to cut down the costs. They originally said they were going to increase speeds between Kirkham and Preston from 75mph to 90mph.

“It seems that now is not going to happen.

“We are going to have new electric trains but not have the track to take full advantage of the improvements they could bring.”

Mr Nettleton says Network Rail is not planning to remove two slow junctions at Kirkham, which all Blackpool North-bound trains must cross.

But he fears additional tracks which allow services to overtake will be removed,

He said: “The plans for Kirkham appear to involve a new platform but the removal of the avoiding lines.

“While that is happening it seems they will be removing the junction at Poulton which connects to the Fleetwood branch.

“That would increase speeds from 25mph to 40mph but what is the point when most services stop anyway?”

Mr Nettleton also has concerns for a proposed revamp at Blackpool North. He said:”They are going to lengthen and straighten the platforms. That is fine but there are no canopies to protect passengers. It’s not the welcome you want to give people, especially in the winter.

“I am just concerned the improvement is being done on the cheap.”

Network Rail did not deny any of Mr Nettleton’s claims but a spokesman said: “As part of more than £1bn of railway investment in the north of England, upgrading and electrifying the railway between Preston and Blackpool will deliver significant benefits to passengers. All factors have been considered to provide an increase in services and faster journey times which will be delivered efficiently and quickly.

“The investment covers infrastructure upgrades but funding isn’t available for station improvements. However, we will always speak to third parties about funding for further work to provide passengers with better facilities.”

The upgrade works are due to be completed by May 2018.