MP questions if new London trains will stop at Fylde stations

Paul Nettleton's photograph showing work starting at Poulton station. The former, longer length of the platforms can be seen.
Paul Nettleton's photograph showing work starting at Poulton station. The former, longer length of the platforms can be seen.

Concern is growing over rail operator Virgin’s plans for direct services from Blackpool to London when electrification is completed later this year.

Rail users have spotted new services advertised on Virgin’s webpage which show there could be up to four new direct services for the summer season.

An image of the Virgin ticket website showing new direct trains from  mid May

An image of the Virgin ticket website showing new direct trains from mid May

But despite this huge boost for the resort, passengers at Poulton and at Kirkham and Wesham stations could miss out as the new trains do not appear to be scheduled to stop at the two stations.

Kirkham has had major work carried out on it to improve access and its platforms increased in length.

Poulton too has had improvement work but its platforms have been shortened as the line to Blackpool North is upgraded and many residents think that longer Penodlino trains won’t be able to stop there.

At one of the regular meetings Network Rail hold to let residents know about the progress on the line, people at Poulton civic centre were angry to hear that there were currently no plans for direct trains to stop at the town.

Now Fylde MP Mark Menzies, who has been fighting for improved access at Kirkham station for some time along with park and ride facilities, wants Virgin to reveal its plans.

He visited Kirkham on Friday to look at the new foot bridge and work on installing two new lifts. He said since the direct train stopped at Poulton and Kirkham before the upgrade, then it would make no sense to have a worse service afterwards with no stops at the two stations where many commuters get on the trains.

He said: “As someone who got on the inaugural direct service to London at Kirkham when it was reinstated, I would be incredibly disappointed that just at the time when we have spent a serious amount of money at Kirkham and Wesham station, including lengthening the platform, that Virgin might be looking to discontinue stopping at Kirkham and Wesham station.

“It does not make any sense and the sooner that Virgin come clean and let us know their thought process the better.

“If it is a platform length issue when we have just built a new platform then I will be very disappointed.”

Virgin Trains said they could not comment until they had confirmation from the Office of Rail Road about the new timetable due to come into force in May.

Paul Nettleton from the Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users Association said if the platform lengths were the problem then Network Rail had questions to answer.

He said: “In my photo, you can see just how much of the platform has been swept away and it’s obvious that it is nowhere near capable of taking a full length Pendolino.

"The station once had one of the longest platforms in the country, it was there to cater for Fleetwood/Blackpool trains dividing and joining. Network Rail came along and decided that because the full length of the platform wasn’t used and had fallen into disrepair, they would shorten it.

"This is one failure of rail privatisation which has caused fragmentation. Network Rail work to a preconceived plan at an agreed budget.

"They really aren't too concerned whether the plans favour the passenger, after all that's down to the individual train operating company. Whereas in the good old days of British Rail, everything was under one umbrella and all aspects were considered."