Civic dignitaries, business leaders and commuter early birds today hailed the start of a new direct train service between Blackpool and London.
The first train to leave Blackpool North station on the first direct service to the capital for 11 years pulled out at 5.25am.
Graham Leech, Virgin Trains’ commercial executive director, welcomed the passengers on board with help from a fanfare from Blackpool’s town crier Barry McQueen and said he was delighted to be able to retun the service to the resort.
It means a train will leave the resort at 5.25am arriving at London Euston at 8.34am, with the direct return at 4.33pm arriving at Blackpool North at 7.31pm every work day from Monday to Friday.
Mr Leech said: “I am very excited about the new service, its a great day for Virign Trains and a great day for Blackpool. I hope the business community and general public get behind it and make it the success it deserves to be.
“I know how much this mean to people in the area and I have to thank the community and the Blackpool Gazette for their support to get it reinstated.
“We wanted to do this years ago but circumstances did not allow, but we are glad to be able to launch the service today.”
Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “For business commuters this is a great time to start, giving them plenty of time to get to early meetings in London.
“It might be a bit early for other people but it is fantastic first step and we are delighted with Virgin for bringing the service back. We are willing to work with Virgin if they wish to build on this service and expand and, from what I have heard in talks today, there could be spare capacity in the timetable for more services in the future if this one is a success.”
Norman Tenray president of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “This sort of direct service is crucial, connectivity is key for the growth of buisness.
“It can only be good for Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde. With the changes we have seen at the airport recently this direct connection will be a much needed boost for moral in the area.”