BLACKPOOL’S rail link to the capital has been put on hold.
Business leaders today reacted with disappointment after the Office of Rail Regulation announced it would wait for a full redraw of the region’s train timetable before considering whether new rail operators could link Blackpool to London with a direct service.
The three bidders – Virgin Rail, Grand Central and Alliance Rail Holdings – have all been informed the timetable recast is highly unlikely to go ahead before the end of 2013.
This effectively gives Virgin Rail an extension to its monopoly on the line for times and pricing as its franchisee.
The look at the timetable should allow the best possible use of the track, but the review has raised many an eyebrow – being called after firms were invited to tender for the services on offer.
Howard Lewis, chairman of the Blackpool Business Leadership Group said: “This is disappointing. The sooner we get these services up and running, the better.
“At least we know when they do get up and running, it will be the best possible service.”
And Steve Pye, chairman of the Fylde coast branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We are very disappointed about this decision to delay a much-needed direct link to London.
“Both tourism and business have been suffering the consequences of not being able to attract people to come to Blackpool in a convenient and comfortable mode of transport.
“One of the main grievances we have is that when visitors change trains at Preston to come to Blackpool, large numbers of visitors end up being crammed into smaller trains like sardines, and this will ruin a visitors travelling experience along with their view of Blackpool.
“We will be campaigning vigorously to reverse this decision and to see if there are alternative options available”
A spokesman for Grand Central Trains said: “There will be many communities along the route of the proposed new service that will share Grand Central’s deep disappointment about the announcement.”