Rail link could run next year

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Trains could be running on the abandoned Poulton to Fleetwood line as early as next year.

Trains could be running on the abandoned Poulton to Fleetwood rail line as early as next year.

Poulton and Wyre Railway 
Society’s business plan has been given encouragement by Lancashire County Council and Network Rail, the land owners and transport authorities – which will help with funding bids.

Now the Society is pursuing its 10-year plan which would see the creation of a heritage diesel service linking Poulton railway station to Fleetwood, initially running four times a day, two days a week.

Over the 10 years, the Society say the scheme will cost just £300,000, with the expense being so low because much of the physical labour will be undertaken by the group’s army of more than 25 unpaid volunteers.

Initially the link would reach as far as Fleetwood’s Jameson Road bridge, where existing tracks come to an end.

But it is hoped that eventually the route can extend as far as land close to Wyre Dock in Fleetwood.

Funding bids are currently being prepared, backed by the business plan, and the Railway Society is also using cash generated themselves. It is hoped that once up and running, the service would pay for itself.

And consultation with residents who live along the line will also begin shortly.

The Society believes the railway plans can bring in huge amounts of tourists to Fleetwood and Wyre.

As a private venture, Wyre Council does not have any consultational role in the scheme, but the borough authority supports the initiative in principle, citing a boost to tourism.

Eddie Fisher, chairman of the Society’s charitable trust which would run the service, said: “The first phase is to get a short rail link running between Thornton Station, off Victoria Road East, and Burn Naze, where the tracks and the basic station infrastructure is virtually ready to use.

“Ideally we would hope to get a train on this line by next summer, running short pleasure trips between the two points.

“Next we aim to extend that link to Jameson Road bridge, and then from Thornton to Poulton.

“Once we have extended it to Poulton, we will effectively be linking up Fleetwood to the national rail network.”

Passengers from elsewhere would disembark at Poulton,cross to another platform, jump on the heritage train with its 1950s-style carriages, and travel to Fleetwood. The heritage theme would also include plans for the stations to have a 1930s feel.

And commuters can go the other way – embark on the heritage train at Fleetwood and get to Poulton station, then link up with the main railway service.

Poulton was last week announced as a station with a direct link to London, thanks to Virgin Rail’s new Blackpool North to London weekday service.

The possible link further along to the Wyre Dock would take longer, as that land belongs to Associated British Ports, while the other land is owned by Network Rail and Wyre Council.

The group says the first phase of the scheme would cost no more than £30,000 to implement, with the help of a small capital investment.

This would be £20,000 for the final work on rail tracks and platform. An additional £10,000 would be the cost of hiring the engine/carriages from a private owner and running and fuelling it for an initial 12 months.

The actual train would be brought onto the track on flat back lorries – not by rail.

Mr Fisher says the group is basing its model on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in West Yorkshire, which runs a five-mile heritage steam and diesel service covering Keighley, Haworth and Oxenhope.

The Society hopes to eventually set up a commuter service seven days a week, but this would involve higher running costs.

Prior to the first train running, the Society would hold public meetings to inform local residents of the plans.

Mr Fisher added: “If we had objections, we would do our best to deal with any concerns.”

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said the authority had looked at the group’s business plan and was pleased with the business case for the line.

He added: “We support the railway society’s efforts to reopen this line and our officers have been pleased to lend their time and advice.

“We would like to see the old transport infrastructure being brought back into use, and a heritage scheme could add real value to the tourist economy.”

A Wyre Council spokeswoman added: “The council supports the principle of a heritage railway line between Poulton and Fleetwood that would potentially bring employment and visitors to Wyre.”

Network Rail, which owns and runs Britain’s rail infrastructure, said it was aware of the plans, and the extent of its involvement is not yet known for the Fleetwood scheme, with heritage railway input from them varying from case to case.