Jubilant rail supporters give new links thumbs up

Grand Central Pendolino
Grand Central Pendolino
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Rail campaigners have today called new train services from Blackpool to London a huge boost to tourism for the Fylde coast.

Alliance Rail Holdings, through Great North Western Railway (GNWR), will run six return services each day, including weekends, in a deal which starts in 2018 after receiving approval from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

Paul Nettleton

Paul Nettleton

The move, announced on Friday, will create 120 jobs and see rail company Arriva invest in a fleet of new tilting trains.

Chairman of Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users Association, Paul Nettleton, praised the ORR for passing the plans.

He added: “I am very, very pleased and pleasantly surprised as well.

“We had all the fuss about trying to get Virgin Rail to agree a train a day to the capital, but Alliance Rail is now giving us six a day.

“It opens up endless tourist opportunities.

“It gives businesspeople opportunities to get down to London as well.

“We also have some competition on the line. It was really what privatisation was all about.

“It is long overdue. We have never seen it before.”

GNWR has received approval to operate six off-peak return services between London and Blackpool North from Monday to Saturday, and five on Sundays.

Virgin Rail currently runs two services a day between the resort and the capital following a Gazette campaign which saw more than 5,000 people from the Fylde coast back the idea.

It is hoped the new service will connect to London Euston, but GNWR has been given firm rights to stop at Queen’s Park.

Stephen Brookes, chairman of the Blackpool Passenger Users’ Panel, said he welcomed the news, but raised concerns the Blackpool line would be electrified in time for 2018.

He added: “There is of course, the ‘problem’ factor of delays to the electrification of the line will put operation of this service at risk, and I note that the service will not terminate in London but would be at Queens Park, which is a small station some distance from Euston where a change to the Underground or Overground services for the remaining two miles into London.

“We now need Network Rail to be open and honest about the dates of or delays to the Blackpool/Preston electrification rather than the uncertainty they have caused so far by their unacceptable silence to ensure this service is deliverable.”