Blackpool’s plea over direct London rail service

INVESTMENT chiefs in Blackpool have warned the continuing lack of a direct rail route between the seaside town and London could have serious consequences for the local economy.

Network Rail is blocking plans by Virgin Trains to reinstate a direct service, which was previously halted in 2003, on the grounds that the West Coast main line is already too busy and the proposed new service will impact punctuality on therest of the West coast main line.

Currently passengers wishing to visit Blackpool have to change at Preston.

Virgin, which wants to run two direct services a day, is lobbying the Office of Rail Regulation in protest at Network Rail’s decision and plans to appeal the ruling too.

The Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Development Company (EDC) said that if the decision is not overturned it could have a huge impact on future investment in the area.

Rob Green, head of enterprise and investment at the EDC, said: “The re-establishment of a regular direct rail service to London is of vital importance to the economic well-being of Blackpool and the whole of the Fylde coast.

“Currently, whether you are visiting Blackpool for business or leisure you cannot make that journey without the inconvenience of changing trains at Preston.

“If this is to continue it affects Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre significantly because without this link business confidence will undoubtedly be damaged and the lack of a direct service will make it particularly difficult to attract the new inward investment that is so badly needed to help re-balance the economy.”

Mr Green says opportunities to create new employment within the emerging energy sector may be lost or delayed as a result of the lack of the direct rail link.

He added: “I’m confident there will be very significant patronage of new direct London services and the planned December start date would have provided evidence of a need to campaign for the far greater frequency of services that this area warrants and deserves.”