BLACKPOOL’S potential new direct rail link to London is back in the hands of Sir Richard Branson.
Virgin was yesterday given a 23-month contract by the Government to continue running the West Coast mainline service.
It came after an inquiry into the original bidding process for the contract found “serious problems”.
Firstgroup had been awarded the contract before the deal was scrapped, and now rail users and MPs have called for Virgin – and it’s boss Sir Richard – to deliver a direct service from Blackpool to London.
Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “Residents have waited many years for this, and there have been numerous false alarms, but let us now hope this allows for everyone to plan for the future.”
Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, added: “I hope the Blackpool to London service will be introduced in 2013, but this isn’t mentioned in anything Virgin has said, and it’s one of the things we need to know.
“If it is introduced, it needs to be frequent, faster than the existing route, and it can’t be more expensive than what is already available.”
Natalie Wyatt, Managing Director of Marketing Blackpool, said: “A direct route would potentially increase our family visitors even more and is a great opportunity for us to encourage increased business tourism.
“Having such a service will also make a difference to the visitor experience.”
Diane Ollier, 53, regularly comes to Blackpool from London to visit her mother in hospital.
She added: “If there’s not a direct line to Blackpool then it puts people off coming here because they have to change.”
Peter Wright, 67, of Keswick Road, Blackpool, said: “It’s a shame Virgin won’t run trains straight through to London.
“I can’t see why if one company does it another one can’t.”