A bus ‘hub’ will be built as part of Blackpool’s £24m tramway expansion.
Talks are under way between Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport over the plans – but council chiefs say a full bus station will not be built.
The interchange will form a series of bus stops close to Blackpool North Station, bringing trams, trains and buses close together for passengers.
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “The second phase of the central business district has the potential to link up public transport services in the town for the first time in decades, something which Blackpool has been crying out for.”
And Bob Mason of Blackpool Transport added: “It makes sense to bring buses, trams and trains together in one place.”
Coun Blackburn said: “We are also in discussions with Blackpool Transport about using an area of the site as a ‘bus hub’ where people can interchange between bus services, as well as having direct access to the tram and train lines.
“That won’t be a multi-million pound bus station or a replacement of the old one under Talbot Road car park, as our research and experience shows their cost far outweighs their financial benefits. What the bus hub would do however is provide a number of stops in one location so that it is easier for people to change services easily, similar to the one currently in the town centre.”
One example of a bus hub in Blackpool is on Market Street opposite Revolution and MFA Bowl.
Blackpool Bus Station, on Talbot Road, was closed as part of the redevelopment of the Talbot Gateway scheme. It is now a car park with leisure units beneath.
Blackpool Council is hoping to connect the current line to Blackpool North station as part of the second phase of the central business district.
A new tramway terminus will be built close to Blackpool North station on the site currently occupied by the Wilkinsons store.
Blackpool Council is paying £4.7m towards the extension with central Government putting up the remainder of the funding.
Transport chiefs say the scheme, which has already secured funding from the Department for Transport, will improve connectivity with rail services, encourage use of public transport and boost economic growth.
But the tramway extension, providing a link to the national rail network, has not been universally welcomed.
Taxi drivers have expressed concerns over increased delays while a number of members of the public have raised concern about cars and trams sharing the busy street.
The Gazette has received scores of letters and emails from readers saying it is a waste of money – with no bus station as part of the plans a big mistake.
Council leader Blackburn said: “Let’s be really clear about the finances of this scheme.
“The maximum total cost of the scheme will be £24m, including all preparation work.
“Already, at this early stage, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), of which I am a director, has agreed to contribute £16.4m – so let’s be clear that the maximum cost to Blackpool Council can be no more than £7.6m – but I am confident that (a) we will bring the scheme in at less than £24m (based on the evidence of the promenade tramway), and that (b) we will secure additional contributions from a variety of other sources, including additional LEP funding.
“I would be surprised and disappointed if, when the project is completed, our contribution ends up being much more than £2 to 3m.
“That investment will be repaid by the extra tram fares and passengers that the scheme generates – and will provide a reliable source of income for the Blackpool Transport, the town and the council, for generations to come.
“It is a shame that our detractors do not have the amount of vision shown by the town’s founding fathers, or the level of commitment to the town’s future that people like the Thompson family, Merlin Entertainments, and hundreds of other local businesses and small investors demonstrate on a regular basis.
“The second phase of the central business district has the potential to link up public transport services in the town for the first time in decades, something which Blackpool has been crying out for.
“In every forward-thinking city I visit, I get off the train and immediately meet with bus and tram services that can take you on to your next destination.
“Those interchanges make it easier for visitors and businesses to get around, which in turn help to boost local economies and create jobs.
“Linking the trainline to the tramway will vastly improve connections for the almost two million passengers who use Blackpool North train station every year.
“The plans for the central business district look really exciting and will make a huge difference to the transformation of an area that only a few years ago consisted of surface car parks, run down shops and a whole patch of desolate land.
“It’s easy to forget how far we have come since those days but I am looking forward to phase two creating an entrance to Blackpool that everybody can be proud of.”
Mr Mason, service delivery director at Blackpool Transport, confirmed the company was working alongside Blackpool Council to produce a better integrated transport network, with the tramway extension forming part of their plans.
He said: “We are working with officers from Blackpool Council and one part of that is producing a more integrated transport scheme for Blackpool.
“It makes sense to bring buses, trams and trains together in one place.
“The tramway extension up to Blackpool North Station is just one part of that.
“This will hopefully bring a lot of the resort’s public transport together in one place.
“The nature of our services mean 80 or 90 per cent of bus services already cross the town centre.”