Plans to turn Preston station into a hub for the high speed rail network must also make it easier for passengers to connect to Blackpool, one of the resort’s councillors has said
.Fred Jackson, cabinet member for transport on Blackpool Council, described the current arrangements at Preston as “a nightmare”.
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He was speaking at a meeting of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) transport committee, which heard that the station should seek a complete revamp when its platforms are lengthened to accommodate HS2 services.
Cllr Jackson said any redesign should bear in mind Blackpool-bound travellers .
“It’s a nightmare for families to get from whatever platform they arrive on [in Preston] and across to the Blackpool platform,” Cllr Jackson said.
“That is especially true for families with young children.
“Although we can't prove it, I think we have lost a lot of trade because of the difficulties passengers have [in Preston]. I’m hoping this development will answer some of those questions so that [all of Lancashire] benefits.
“It will obviously help Preston most, but as the number one tourist destination in the country, Blackpool also wants to benefit,” he added.
Although the new high speed rail line itself is not extending as far as Preston, the city’s station is expected to become a hub for connecting passengers to the HS2 network to the south. Meanwhile, high speed trains heading heading north will slow down to join the existing West Coast Mainline south of Wigan and continue to Scotland - passing through Preston as they do today.
A report by economic consultants Genecon forecast that an HS2 hub in Preston could add as much as £5.5bn to the wider Lancashire economy by 2050.
While most of the benefit is expected to be felt within Central Lancashire, LEP members were told that the hub could also have a positive impact on a total of 33 areas served by railway stations in Lancashire which connect to Preston - of which Blackpool North and South are two.
That benefit is expected to be most concentrated within half an hour’s travelling distance of Preston, the meeting heard.
Committee member Phil Riley, cabinet member for growth on Blackburn Council, said he was “nervous” that the HS2 project could become “part of some negotiation with the new leader of the Conservative party”.
“In the UK, we have a short-termism, we have no track record of delivering projects of this nature - just one of getting them started and knocking them on the head.
"If that were to happen, we would have to find ways in the various places we sit to beat the drum - because in the end, this must [be made to] work,” he said.