Fylde MP in fight for rail improvements

FYLDE MP Mark Menzies today said he would continue to fight for the South Fylde Line after the Government launched the tendering process for the northern rail franchise.

Ministers today sent Invitations to Tender to a shortlist of bidders with the aim of transforming the service and bringing it into the 21st Century.

Mr Menzies has been a strident campaigner for improvements to Fylde’s local line to improve connectivity for local residents and businesses and to boost tourism.

He said: “I have long campaigned for improvements to the South Fylde Line which would see improved carriages, better timetables and more frequent services between Preston and Blackpool South and am delighted to see the Government demanding only the highest quality bids from any future operator on the network.

“I will continue to push for the best deal for the line, including the introduction of a passing loop so it can facilitate more services.

“The route could also be vital if we are to see Blackpool Airport reopen as a commercial airfield, something which I will continue to campaign for.”

The news comes after it was revealed one potential bidder proposed to recycle parts of former London Underground trains for use on the network.

Mr Menzies added: “At first glance I was as shocked by those proposals as anyone as I would find it unacceptable that the northern franchise receives substandard rolling stock.

“But with only a small amount of research you can see that the proposals would mean recycling useful parts from the shell of those trains but only to help create modern carriages fit for the 21st Century.

“However, the announcement by the Transport Secretary may put paid to that proposal as it specifically states that the old Pacer trains should be replaced with new-build vehicles.

“Some people love to propagate the myth of a north/south divide but I will never accept that desire to cast the proud north as some kind of victim and I have been delighted with the commitments the Government has recently made to our region.”

The Invitations to Tender are the result of the Government’s work with Rail North, representing local transport authorities across the north, and require the shortlisted bidders for the two northern franchises to show their ability to transform the service.

Bids must include:

-          A modernised fleet of northern trains, including full replacement of the unpopular Pacers and the introduction of 120 new-build vehicles by January 1, 2020.

-          More frequent services, including on Sundays.

-          More seats at the busiest times.

-          Dedicated funding for investment in northern stations.

-          Significantly increased funding for community rail.

-          Challenging targets for increases in customer satisfaction.

-           Wi-Fi capability on all trains, providing free connectivity where there is coverage.

-           Working in partnership with Network Rail to deliver the government’s £1bn investment in the railway infrastructure of the north, including electrification and the Northern Hub.

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