Extension key to tram boost
Blackpool Transport bosses are promising a boost in services on key sections of the resort's tramway, should an extension be approved.
This week the scheme, designed to link Talbot Square to Blackpool North station, passed its first political hurdle when proposals were agreed by Blackpool Council’s executive.
The plans will come under closer scrutiny next week when they go in front of the full council.
They are being asked to approve an application for an order under the Transport and Works Act which would take care of all land purchase and planning aspects of the £18.2m scheme.
If given the green light next week, the works could be completed by 2019.
Blackpool Transport bosses believe the timing would be perfect to tie in with a multi-million pound revamp of the resort’s rail services.
The main line into Blackpool is set to be electrified by May 2018, opening up the possibility of more direct trains to London and faster regional services with more seats.
Bob Mason, service delivery manager at Blackpool Transport, is clear what a benefit the new link would bring.
He said: “The tramway extension is something we are keeping a very close eye on.
“We are very much hoping that it will be open by 2019.
“That is very good timing with what is happening on the heavy rail network.
“We are expecting more services and more passengers coming into Blackpool.
“Having a tram directly from the station would help us further increase passenger numbers.”
Blackpool Transport is hoping to top the 5m mark for tram passengers next year.
And that figure could be boosted further by tramway extension schemes.
Mr Mason said the extension would allow Blackpool Transport to better serve key parts of the route.
He said: “What this will do is allow us to have even more capacity from Bispham to North Pier and from North Pier to the Pleasure Beach. “These are the core parts of the route and the busiest parts of the route.
“We are already operating a service every 10 minutes.”
The tramway extension plans have not been welcomed by all.
The group representing Blackpool’s taxi drivers has been particularly vocal in its opposition to the plans which it is claimed would lead to more congestion in the town.
Should the full council approve the proposals, an application will be made to the Transport Minister for an order.
The process of granting permission could take 18 months or longer if it is decided a public enquiry is needed.