Fleetwood can get back on track with the announcement of one of the most exciting transport link developments in years.
The Government has given its backing to a vital extension to the tram line to link into Blackpool’s North station – and trains to locations all over the country, including planned direct services to London.
Hoteliers, traders and councillors in Fleetwood have welcomed the news and believe it will be a massive shot in the arm for the town.
Recent years have been challenging for many Fleetwood traders, particularly with the lengthy disruption caused by the new tram tracks, followed by a tough recession.
But the chance for visitors to come straight off a train at Blackpool and hop on a tram to Fleetwood could bring extra visitors to the town – and more business.
The tram link is part of a major £230m investment for Lancashire unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron this week, which sees a raft of schemes set to help kick-start the economy on the Fylde coast.
Fleetwood MP Eric Olleresnhaw said: “Clearly this is good news for all of us in Fleetwood.
“It will provide a much-needed link to the national railway, especially once the Blackpool to London link starts at the end of the year.
“However, I do hope this funding from the Government will encourage Lancashire County Council to have a re-think on access for NoWcard users from Fleetwood who want to use the trams.”
Fleetwood Chamber of Trade secretary Derek Eaton added: “It’s absolutely brilliant. Anything that will make it easier for people to get to Fleetwood has to be good.
“I wish they had said improvements to the A585 could be included, but just the news there will be an extension to the tramway is good.”
Eric Smallman, of the Savoy Hotel, said it would be five years before the scheme is up and running, but added: “We do get a lot of guests, particularly those who are at the Nautical College, who come from Blackpool North by taxi and they are stung with the prices.
“A link to the train line will be a great benefit to them.
“The ultimate idea though is to bring back the rail link. It’s already in place, it needs a couple of platforms but it won’t cost that much money to do.”
Fleetwood Market trader Robert Brown, who runs Market Pet Supplies, said: “This will be a major help for us, without doubt.
At the moment visitors to Blackpool have to go all the way across town to get to the trams and going to Fleetwood may not be top of their list, but with this link we will be just a quick journey away.
“To make maximum impact though, Fleetwood’s connection will have to be marketed properly. We can’t miss this opportunity.”
Leader of Wyre Council Peter Gibson said of the entire £230m package of works: “We welcome anything like this in Wyre.
“People don’t see political boundaries that some politicians see so anything that benefits the Fylde coast – whether Fylde or Wyre – will benefit all of us.”
The tram scheme and other projects for Blackpool and Lancashire have been earmarked for 2016/17.
Whitehall claims the historic package will create 5,000 jobs in Lancashire.
No dates have been set for work to commence on any of the projects with some several years from getting off the ground.
The Strategic Economic Plan was compiled by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to set out the county’s growth ambitions for the next 10 years.
Ministers have set up the fund in order to give regions more say over how Government cash is channelled down to the projects which they believe will bring the most economic benefit.
Neighbouring Blackpool will be a chief beneficiary of the regeneration plans, but the rail/tram link will be good news for Fleetwood.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Growth Deals are a crucial part of our long-term plan to secure Britain’s future.
“For too long our economy has been too London-focused and too centralised. Growth Deals will help change all that.”
Edwin Booth, Chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is a significant announcement for Lancashire and builds on the LEP’s work creating the right environment for businesses to thrive. The Growth Deal will establish a new six-year investment package worth more than £360m with the potential to create more than 4,000 new jobs in Lancashire over the coming years.
“This is great news for residents and businesses in Lancashire.”