Fylde Coast visitor numbers rising despite rail disruption

Figures released by Blackpool Council today suggest visitor numbers are holding up despite fears disruption to rail services could deter tourists.
Figures released by Blackpool Council today suggest visitor numbers are holding up despite fears disruption to rail services could deter tourists.
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Figures released by Blackpool Council today suggest visitor numbers are holding up despite fears disruption to rail services could deter tourists.

Patronage of council car parks has increased by between eight and nearly 16 per cent and the number of passengers using the trams is up by around 14 per cent.

But town hall chiefs consider the figures could have been even higher if trains had not been cancelled.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn has called for compensation for businesses affected after journeys on Northern services in Lancashire, Cumbria and Greater Manchester were hit by delays to electrify the line.

Hundreds of trains were cancelled following the implementation of new timetables in May.

Figures show 105,805 vehicles used council car parks in May this year, compared to 91,408 in May last year - an increase of 15.8 per cent.

Council car park usage for June this year has increased to 94,791 compared to 87,196 last year, an increase of 8.7 per cent.

The number of tram passengers reached 467,023 in May, up 14.1 per cent from 409,409 in May last year.

June saw passenger numbers increase to 472,253 this year, compared to 417,903 last year, an increase of 13 per cent.

Blackpool Transport said its investment in services was paying off.

Sally Shaw, director of people and stakeholders at Blackpool Transport, said: “We’re delighted that the ongoing effort of our teams to provide a seamless transport journey across the Fylde Coast is attracting more and more visitors to the tramway each year.

“The increase in customers numbers comes at a time where Blackpool is investing heavily in its infrastructure to deliver a modern, integrated public transport system which will support the town’s development for years to come.”

Tourism chiefs are hoping to build on last year’s success which saw a total of 8.35 million adult visits between January and December, up 540,000 compared to 2016.

The number of passengers who used the trams throughout 2017 rose by nearly 119,000 to almost 5.2 million, while ticket sales in council car parks were up nearly 22,500 to more than 1.1 million sales.

This year it is hoped multi-million pound investments including the new ICON rollercoaster at the Pleasure Beach and Project Elephant new elephant house at the Zoo will help draw in additional visitors.

The annual two-day air show will be another highlight. Singer Britney Spears is also due to perform on the Tower Festival Headland this year, although the Livewire Festival, featuring Mariah Carey, has been shelved.

Coun Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council: “The sheer number of people in the resort during May and June bears testament to Blackpool’s pulling power. A combination of a prolonged heatwave, events and new attractions and hotels have provided compelling reasons for visitors to come here.

“This is in spite of the ongoing rail disruption which has clearly had an impact on people’s travel plans. What we will never know is how many more people would have come to Blackpool had the rail services been operating normally.”