Fylde MP Mark Menzies has welcomed a significant step towards improving rail services on the South Fylde line.
A strategic outline business plan has been submitted to the Department for Transport detailing how investment along the route might be delivered. The submission is the latest stage in the process kick-started by Mr Menzies application, alongside Blackpool South MP Scott Benton, to the Beeching Reversal: Ideas Fund.
The report, commissioned by Fylde Council and part-funded by the Government, includes detailed findings which explore steps to improve local transport. It is focused on the possibility of delivering half-hourly services between Blackpool South and Preston but includes other measures that would potentially improve the reliability and punctuality of the service.
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 report recommends taking forward plans for a 'dynamic' passing loop which would allow trains to pass on the move between Lytham and St Annes, calling at Ansdell and Fairhaven. This would allow a half-hourly service to operate and would significantly improve reliability.
Other measures identified include upgrading the level crossing at Moss Side and considering the South Fylde Line as a ‘test bed’ for the affordable electrification of secondary railway lines.
The report also suggests an extension of the Blackpool Tramway could be considered at a later phase.
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.
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.
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, a lack of punctuality and because trains were sometimes terminated before reaching their end destination.
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.
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.
Separate to the report Mr Menzies has written to rail operator Northern calling for a boost to Sunday services.
He said: "Before we can deliver these improvements we need to ensure we are making the most of this line and using the capacity that is there.
"We need an hourly service every day of the week, to ensure the train is a viable, reliable option.
"With the number of leisure passengers growing fast Sunday is an important day and communities in Fylde should not be missing out."
An executive summary of the South Fylde Line Strategic Outline Business Case report is available online. https://new.fylde.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/20211118-South-Fylde-SOBC-Report-Exec-Summary.pdf