Competing views have been presented on whether the disused railway line between Fleetwood and Poulton should be restored for use by trains or trams – while a divide has also emerged over how to do this. either perspective a reality.
This follows a debate at Lancashire County Council’s budget meeting last week in which a Labor opposition proposal to engage in a feasibility study was rejected. The motion called for £50,000 to be spent on studying how to better connect Fleetwood to the region’s rail network.
There was a broad consensus that the city needed better transport links – but that’s when the consensus hit the pads at County Hall. Some elected officials have hitched their wagons to traditional trains, while others have embarked on the idea of light rail.
And in the fallout from the political debate, two community groups interested in the issue also appear to be heading in different directions.
The Poulton and Wyre Railway Society (PWRS) has dedicated more than a decade to the cause of restoring the line, which was closed to passengers in 1970 as part of the now infamous network cuts carried out by the former chairman of British Railways, Dr. Richard Beeching.
The group received special permission to access the line and its members cleared years of overgrowth from important sections of the track, which continued to be used for freight until 1999. Its short-term goal is to create a heritage rail service between Fleetwood and Poulton, with a longer term vision for the re-establishment of a commuter service.
But PWRS chairman Brian Crawford says there are more pressing priorities than a feasibility study – like acquiring the land that would allow rolling stock to start making short trips from a base at Burn Naze.
“We need Wyre Council to buy the land from Network Rail and then lease it to us. It’s too early for a feasibility study as we don’t have that lease yet – and the costs change over time anyway,” says Brian.
“We are ready to roll, we just need someone to cut the tape and say ‘go’. Once we are established and prove we can operate, we hope to be able to persuade the council to acquire more land. along the hallway.
A spokesperson for Wyre Council said the authority is “currently in dialogue with Network Rail…and is looking at a number of different options but nothing has been decided yet”.
Brian believes the line will pay off in the long run, especially if it is also used for freight. And while he expects people will one day be employed to operate it, he says the group’s volunteers – which include rail industry workers – could start operations as soon as clearance is granted. in place.
But Back On Track chairwoman – Fleetwood City Council member Mary Stirzaker – says she is “impatient” and wants a feasibility study to specifically look into the possibility of running hybrid tram-trains on the line, powered by the latest hydrogen fuel cell technology. .
His call follows last month’s suggestion from Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard that the section of track from Fleetwood to Poulton should not be restored for heavy rail, but rather be part of a line wider loop for trams on the Fylde. But Mary says that would be the end of the line for the Heritage Department.
“Tram-trains can run without overhead wires, but not trams. If trams are used on this line, no heritage trains could run – and that would send the work of all the volunteers back to them – it would be cruel,” says Mary.
“It will cost more in the long run to use trains as a commuter service – I think tram-trains are the best option for that.
“But I’m just making an educated guess – and without a feasibility study, that’s all we can do.”
However, Brian Crawford says there is room for the trams to run on separate tracks alongside the railway – and it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Back on Track supported PWRS work on a section of the line near Jameson Road in Fleetwood, with volunteers helping to fill a gap in the track there and ensure future services could eventually connect to a new station, Fleetwood Central, near Fleetwood Marsh Nature Reserve.
There may be differences of opinion on the most appropriate rolling stock to run on the upgraded line, but there is consensus that the collective effort made so far should be recognized – and rewarded.
“Volunteers have been out all year, all winter long, for the past 12 years,” says Brian.
“We work in hope, but if we don’t make it a reality there will be a lot of broken hearts.”
Lancashire County Council Leader Geoff Driver has asked officers to report back to the Conservative Authority’s cabinet with a costed proposal for a feasibility study, after dismissing the Labor Party’s suggestion as a “political position of unrealistic party”.
Opposition Labor leader Azhar Ali said his party’s plan “would make a difference”, adding: “Let’s get to it”.
Advisors clash over connectivity
The debate around a feasibility study on reopening the line between Fleetwood and Poulton showed that elected officials were divided on the final destination of the project.
Here’s what they had to say:
Beavers of Lorraine, Labour, Fleetwood East:
“I am proud of my town and the people who live there, but my town is dying – one of the reasons is the lack of investment in transport links. Fleetwood needs its trains back. We have one in and one out road for a town of 28,000 Public transport doesn’t work if you live in Fleetwood Preston is 2 hours away by bus and Lancaster on public transport is too much of a hassle to try and to explain.”
Charlie Edwards, Curator, South Morecambe:
“I completely agree [that] this town needs to move again. But I had meetings with Transport for the North and the [solution] can’t be a heavy rail, because it will require a level crossing – so the only [option] is a light rail on this part of the network. So I can save you £50,000 now because a feasibility study will say a heavy rail link can’t work.
Stephen Clarke, Curator, Fleetwood West and Cleveleys West:
“I totally agree with this feasibility study. Without proper liaison with Fleetwood the industry will not invest because the transport links are so poor. There’s no reason we can’t have level crossings on the main lines – only down the road at Carleton there is a level crossing that Virgin Trains pass through. There is a huge amount of [freight] which could come to Fleetwood by rail.
John Fillis, Deputy Leader of the Labor Opposition, Lancashire County Council:
“I have now heard three different proposals [for this line] – so shouldn’t we do a feasibility study to see which one works? Manchester is investing in trains that will run on light and heavy rail, but we need a boost to make our case before Transport for the North kicks in. If we in Lancashire don’t support not [this project]how can we expect the rest of the North to do that? »
Alan Vincent, Curator, Cleveleys South and Carleton:
“MP Paul Maynard has put forward an innovative and positive vision for a tram extension and I think we need to look at that as an alternative. There are huge problems getting a rail connection to Fleetwood, not least because commercial operators are very uninterested in handing one over.
4.75 miles – distance from Poulton Station to the proposed Fleetwood Central
2 – online stations between Poulton and Fleetwood: Thornton and Burn Naze
£1.7 million – ‘major project costs’, as estimated by the Poulton and Wyre Railway Society