'Damaging' rail delay will impact on tourism, says MP

The rail electrification works started in 2017
The rail electrification works started in 2017
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Delays to upgrades on Blackpool’s main railway line - meaning no trains into Blackpool North Station over Easter - have been slammed as “appalling news” by an MP.

Gordon Marsden says the setback will have a major impact on tourism and is critical of rail bosses for the way the information was “dribbled out late on a Friday.”

The Labour representative for Blackpool South will raise the issue at Westminster on Monday.

READ MORE: Bad weather blamed for three week delay on rail upgrade
In an e-mail to Northern Railway director Sharon Keith, shared with the Gazette, Mr Marsden said the “alleged reasons for this delay appear to be extremely vague and ill defined at this stage.”

On Friday, Network Rail blamed bad weather and the breakdown of its own engineering train for the delay which means services will not resume until April 16.

Mr Marsden said: “This is a particular blow to Blackpool at the start of our Easter holiday season , and especially on the back of the detailed assurances which both yourselves and Network Rail have continued to give right up until now.

“The net result will be inevitably damaging to us and our surrounding areas that depend significantly on visitors and tourism.

“Next week ironically is English Tourism Week and as Chair of the all Party Parliamentary Tourism Group I will be speaking to a Conference and reception in Parliament on Monday.

“This is hardly going to be good news to them and the abject failure of the companies concerned to relay this information properly makes that worse.”

Services had been due to recommence on Monday March 26 after being suspended on November 11 last year for work to electrify the line between Blackpool North and Preston.

Speaking on Friday, Andrew Morgan, senior sponsor for Network Rail, said: “While we’ve made fantastic progress in upgrading the line over the last six months, the recent bad weather and unexpected maintenance of critical machinery has hampered us slotting in final pieces of this important jigsaw."

The upgrade has involved rebuilding 11 bridges, remodelling 11 station platforms, replacing 11km of track, upgrading railway drainage and installing 84 new modern signals.

A rail replacement bus service which has been running since then will continue, and trains are running on the Blackpool South line.