The chairman of a Fylde rail group today claimed new figures showing soaring passenger numbers should lead to a better service for commuters.
Coun Tony Ford, chairman of the South Fylde Community Rail Partnership, said new information showing a rise in passenger numbers on the south Fylde line from 2012/13 to 2013/14 was pleasing – but called on authorities to increase services from Preston to boost visitor numbers.
He added: “I welcome the increase in numbers but I am only too well aware that we need a passing loop on the line to facilitate two trains per hour instead of the current one per hour which means passengers waiting around on a draughty and less than welcoming Preston station.
“Connectivity is important and having to wait 45 minutes or more at Preston for vital connections can understandably be a distinct disincentive to some travellers.”
This month The Gazette won its campaign for a direct rail service from Blackpool to London and Coun Ford said he welcomed the Government’s plans to reduce the number of ageing pacer trains.
He added: “The South Fylde Community Rail Partnership will continue to campaign for route upgrades and are only too well aware that the poor quality of rolling stock also disappoints passengers.
“With the announcement by the coalition government that pacers are to be phased out we look forward to more modern rolling stock with increased capacity for peak time passenger numbers.”
Facts and figures of the rail passenger increase
At Squires Gate passenger numbers increased from 20,394 to 23,312 in the last year, while at St Annes there was a rise from 12,088 to 13,262. At Blackpool Pleasure Beach figures rose from 85,914 to 90,960, while at Blackpool South figures increased again from 132,356 to 136,768.
In Lytham, figures went up four per cent from 86,414 to 90,110.
A drop in numbers was experienced at Kirkham esham, from 246,534 to 242,272, but Coun Ford blamed this on a reduction in services.
The most significant drop was at Ansdell and Fairhaven station with numbers falling by 25 per cent, but these figures took into account visitors for The Open Golf Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 2012, when around 180,000 people visited the resort.