A report commissioned to look at options to improve train services on the South Fylde line has been presented to the Department for Transport.
Fylde Council has submitted detailed findings which explore steps to improve local transport including the possibility of delivering half-hourly services between Blackpool South and Preston, along with measures that improve the reliability and punctuality of the service.
The South Fylde line, which goes through Lytham, St Annes and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, was reduced to a single track from Kirkham in the early 1980s and the report recommends the construction of a ‘passing loop’ which would double the service from the current one train per hour.
The report also identifies a range of other measures to improve the service including upgrading the level crossings at Moss Side as well as considering the South Fylde Line as a ‘test bed’ for the affordable electrification of secondary railway lines.
A South Fylde Line train at St Annes station
In addition, the report also discusses a possible second phase of development including linking the South Fylde line to the Blackpool Tramway.
Among the benefits expected from the improvements are increased visitor numbers to the south Fylde coast, the use of sustainable, decarbonised transport and tackling deprivation through better access to education and job opportunities as well as encouraging new businesses and tourism.
If the Department of Transport decides to take the ideas forward, a further detailed report may be commissioned to assess which options should be funded and delivered.
Known as the South Fylde Line Strategic Outline Business Case, the 55-page report identifies a wide range of issues associated with transport and connectivity.
It was commissioned after Mark Menzies, MP for Fylde, and Scott Benton, MP for Blackpool South, successfully secured funding from Round 2 of the UK Government’s Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund.
The report, which also includes making Moss Side a ‘request stop’, identifies key transport problems on the South Fylde line including low service frequency, unreliability, long journey times, lack of capacity at peak times and the need to change at Preston for longer train journeys.
It also recognises the high levels of car use in south Fylde, which causes congestion and parking pressures, as well as the wider impact of transport on employment, education, tourism and commercial development opportunities as well as on people’s health, the environment and local communities.
During the research, local residents, businesses, tourism bodies, rail industry representatives and public sector organisations were consulted for their views.
In a survey of Fylde residents and rail users, 84 per cent said they did not use the train service as often as they would like because of services being cancelled, punctuality and because trains were sometimes terminated before reaching their end destination.
Coun Karen Buckley, leader of Fylde Council, said: “This report is the first stage of looking at how to improve journey times, reliability and punctuality along the South Fylde line.
“It identifies the transport problems, sets out the transport objectives and has shaped a phased package of improvements to public transport in the south Blackpool and south Fylde areas.
“The study also considers the wider impact of transport problems on society as well as Government aspirations to promote ‘levelling-up’ and net zero emissions by 2050.
“The completion of this report is an extremely positive first step and we have now presented these findings to the Department for Transport for further consideration.”
Mr Benton said: “This project would make a real improvement to the transport network in Blackpool South and could double the number of trains which come into our stations.
“This will make it easier for people to travel here and boost our local economy, helping to create more investment and jobs. It will help drive more visitors into our tourism economy including through the station serving Blackpool Pleasure Beach, one of the country’s best and biggest tourism attractions.”
Mr Menzies said: “Delivering a passing loop is crucial if we are to improve rail services on the South Fylde line.
“Doubling the frequency will help drive economic growth, making it easier for people to reach businesses across Fylde by rail, encouraging people out of their cars and onto the train.
“We need a more regular, more reliable service and that is precisely what these proposals will deliver.
“The conclusions of this business case support the passing loop scheme Scott Benton and I have been proposing and this is an important step towards making that a reality.”
The £65,000 report was funded by the Department for Transport with match funding from Community Rail Lancashire, which secured a grant through the Community Rail Development Fund, Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Fylde Council.
The studies were overseen by a project group including representatives of local Members of Parliament, the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Northern Trains, Community Rail Lancashire, Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Fylde Council.
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