Call for county council to stump up funds to get Fleetwood to Poulton rail link on track
County Hall chiefs are being urged by Conservative councillors to commit funding for the next stage of a vital rail revival project.
Last year Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps revealed the Government was investing £100,000 to study how the line between Poulton and Fleetwood could be re-opened. With work on that initial report nearing completion, there is a strong desire to keep the re-opening plan firmly on track.
Now, councillors Alan Vincent and Stephen Clarke, supported by MP Paul Maynard, have asked Lancashire County Council to put up the cash needed to advance the project as quickly as possible.
The initial report is expected to be published shortly, the first step in the process towards the restoration of rail services.
Coun Stephen Clarke, whose Fleetwood West and Cleveleys West district would directly benefit from the revived line, wants to see County Hall officials set the wheels in motion on the next stage of the process.
He said: “The first stage of the process is a report which will tell us this is feasible, we can do this.
“I’ve no doubt there is a strong case for bringing back rail services, we need to be pushing on to the next stage, to not only be able to say we can do this, but to establish precisely how.
“People want to bring the railway back to our towns and I share that strong desire.”
Coun Alan Vincent said: "Knowing how committed the Conservative run county is to this project, I am confident they will continue to back it"
“The economic case is clear. Restoring the rail link for communities like Thornton and Cleveleys will connect thousands of households to the national network. It will help take traffic off our roads and bring investment into our towns.
“That’s why Stephen and I have asked County Hall to put finance in place now to press on with the next stage of the process.
“We want to see services back along the line as soon as possible.”
Funding for the initial study was provided as part of the Government’s Beeching Reversal Fund, the investment secured after campaigning from Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard. Unlike other schemes granted funding from the fund, the Poulton to Fleetwood study will consider light rail conversion as well as conventional rail options.
Among the options being considered is extending the Blackpool tramway. Alternatively, provision was made in the Government’s £250m upgrade of the line to reconnect the Fleetwood branch to the existing tracks.
Mr Maynard added: "Whether part of an expanded tramway or an extension of our rail network, what is really important is that we get this line open for people on the Fylde.
“Getting a financial commitment from County Hall now would put us in a great position to press on. Both the Prime Minister and the Transport Secretary have personally endorsed the proposals, and the initial scoping report is well under way. Taking the time to do it right is better than not doing it at all."
County Councillor Michael Green, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Environment and Planning at LCC, said: "The first phase study into the Fleetwood to Poulton rail link will outline the benefits, and potential challenges, of the various options, which include rail, tram, or a combination of both.
"We are very supportive of this project at Lancashire County Council, and I thank County Councillors Stephen Clarke and Alan Vincent for their strong support for the project.
"The County Council has allocated a project manager to oversee the preparation of a new study into the options and we are working with government officials and Network Rail to maintain the momentum of this ambitious scheme.
"It's important that any option which is taken forward has a strong business case, in order to receive the support which would be needed from the Department for Transport to deliver it.
"We look forward to considering the next steps when we receive the study in the coming weeks.
"Assuming that the study is favourable in terms of identifying that reinstatement of the link is feasible and demonstrates reasonable benefits, I will ensure that the County Council will assist to make the Fleetwood to Poulton rail link a reality."
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