MY WEEK IN WESTMINSTER

ONE topic which has been quite hot these last few months has been our local railway network.

I’ve heard views on many aspects of the current system from some complaints to extremely positive feedback during my first six months as an MP.

And, of course, I have become a regular commuter to London on the rail network.

Now before I start I must say that, to my mind, the current Preston to London service is pretty good.

But things seem to be progressing rapidly and I was delighted at a couple of developments last week.

The first, of course, was the headline-grabbing news that the Government are to invest £8bn in electrification of the network, new carriages and other improvements that will go a long way to tackling overcrowding and speed up journey times.

This includes confirmation that the Blackpool line will be electrified.

That’s great news for the whole of the Fylde coast and will both excite commuters like myself and, hopefully, boost the region’s tourism industry by giving visitors quicker and more convenient access.

I also met this week with Grand Central, one of three companies who have launched a proposal to run direct trains from Blackpool to London.

Their proposal, which would include four journeys a day as well as tickets from just £40, certainly sounds very exciting.

And crucially for Fylde residents they plan to run through Kirkham which, for me, is absolutely imperative.

I firmly believe that Fylde residents should have access to direct London travel and, my understanding is, the other bidders are not planning to do so which would be a bit of deal breaker.

Grand Central also proposes to run through Wyre via Poulton which I know will delight our neighbours further up the coast.

Colleagues from the North East and Yorkshire, from which they run direct trains to and from London, have spoken in glowing terms about the firm’s reliability and customer service which also bodes well.

The Government, I understand, are keen to open up competition for the running of North West to London routes and the Office of Rail Regulation will be responsible for analysing the three companies bidding for a share of the route.

I’m sure, ultimately, there may be room for everyone and I certainly think competition can only be a good thing; widening consumer choice, hopefully driving down fares and driving up standards of service.

I’m excited to hear more as this bidding process progresses but the future certainly looks bright for our rail network.

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