Government go-ahead given for Blackpool tramway extension from North Pier to the Railway Station, along Talbot Road.
Blackpool Council’s confidence in successfully securing Government approval to allow a major Blackpool regeneration project to proceed has been rewarded. Permission has been granted, following the council’s ongoing reassurances that the ‘green light’ would be given.
Legislation to build and operate a new extension of the Blackpool Tramway, from North Pier to Blackpool North Railway Station, has been officially confirmed by the Secretary of State for Transport.
Approval from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership was granted earlier this year, to allow work to commence. It’s expected to be completed and opened in 2019.
Regeneration of Blackpool North Station area
The £22m extension will also form part of the larger Talbot Gateway regeneration project at Blackpool North train station. It includes a new tramway terminal, a four star Holiday Inn and office and retail units to let.
The cost of the extension also includes two brand new Flexity2 trams to run on the tramway to cope with the extra passenger demand.
Traces of the Past
These photos of works in the Talbot Road area capture traces of the original tram lines which once ran there.
They were taken by Visit Fylde Coast contributor Juliette Gregson.
Old tram on Talbot Road Blackpool, photo from visitthepast.co.uk
Excellent News for Blackpool
Cllr Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “This is excellent news and is a huge step forward in continuing to regenerate the Talbot Gateway, creating more jobs for people in Blackpool and creating a stronger economy for everybody in the town.
“Almost two million journeys go through Blackpool North train station every year and rail journeys to the resort are growing. This extension will not only capitalise on the electrification and growth in rail travel but it will make journeys for residents, commuters and visitors from the train station much easier.
“Over five million people already use the current tramway every year. That number is growing and passengers are extremely happy with the service they get from our modern day, accessible trams.
“That demand for tram and train travel proves just why we are so confident in the tram extension’s success and this will be a huge boost to the resort when the extended tramway opens.
“The extension will also work as a linchpin at the centre of the second phase of the Talbot Gateway. We have already come so far and the view that meets visitors coming out of the station now is massively improved from what was there in the past. This expansion will allow us to build on that even more, changing the landscape of the gateway in to Blackpool, while at the same time putting more local people into work and creating even better economic conditions to attract business investment.”
Jane Cole, Managing Director of Blackpool Transport Services, who operate the tramway service, added: “What a boost for Blackpool this will be.
“Not only will the tramway extension have huge benefits for locals and commuters moving around the town it will also massively improve access for visitors coming in to Blackpool by train
“Two extra Flexity2 trams will allow us to cope with the extra demand and add on the extra services needed, which is also a huge bonus.”
Last year, passenger journeys on Blackpool trams increased by 3.9%, while passenger revenue increased by 15.4%, with a total of 5.1m journeys taking place in 2016/17.
The 11 mile tramway re-opened in 2012 following a major £101m replacement of the track, creation of a new tram depot and arrival of 16 new Flexity2 trams. The new trams have level boarding, making them accessible for all disabled users, allowing for faster journey times and a more energy efficient service.
At the same time, the previous stock of heritage trams still run as a tourist attraction along the same network during the summer and for special events during the winter.
Tickets for journeys on the trams start from £1.60, with Blackpool1 tickets allowing passengers unlimited travel on buses and trams over 24 hours for just £5 for adults and £2.50 for children.
Four year Blackpool Tramway upgrade, completed in 2012
The full upgrade involved a new tram depot at Squires Gate, 11 miles of new track, 16 new Bombardier Flexity trams, electrical infrastructure and signalling. The total cost was £100m.
As you might expect, the improvements heralded an increase in passenger numbers from 2m in 1008/9 to 5m people in 2015.
Within this huge project the facility was built in to allow the expansion of the tramway in the future.
Find out More
Plans for a Tram Extension
A tramway extension is planned to link the track from North Pier to Blackpool North Railway Station, travelling along Talbot Road.
The tramway did once follow this route but it was closed in 1936.
Visual shows a tram entering Talbot Square
The tramway extension is an £18.2m project which will see the tramway integrated within the highway in the same way as it is on nearby Lord Street in Fleetwood, with two-way traffic retained. As part of the project the highway and footpaths of Talbot Road will be reconstructed to improve the street scene and built environment.
There are no closures planned for the existing tramway while this project is delivered, indeed some of the required infrastructure (for example at the junction at North Pier) was put in place during the upgrade works.
The work would be sequenced to minimise disruption and would ensure that access was maintained to businesses and properties along the route during the period of the works.
Visual shows a tram entering the new terminal at the current Wilkinson’s site
Logistically, it’s proposed that the traffic signals are returned at the junction at North Pier, and there will be a tram stop at Talbot Square. The tram will travel the length of Talbot Road and there will be a stop at Topping Street as near as possible to the railway station. It’s proposed that there will be a tram service every 10 minutes to the station, so it’s likely that more trams will be required to join the Blackpool fleet.
1.8m people per year arrive at Blackpool North railway station and 80% of them travel on to the Fy1, FY2 and FY4 postcode areas, so the facility to be able to join the north/south tramway to this major source of footfall will be a huge advantage to all of the Fylde Coast area. Don’t forget that the mainline railway is being electrified and that will only improve the service into Blackpool and therefore increase the amount of rail passengers who arrive here.
The proposed tramway extension will leave the existing route at North Pier, via a two way double track junction. The route would cross the Promenade highway and enter Talbot Square, which would be remodelled to provide segregation of trams and highway traffic.
The existing pedestrian signals on the Promenade would be replaced by a signalled intersection. A new eastbound tramstop would be located in Talbot Square, to allow interchanges with the existing North Pier tramstops.
Beyond Talbot Square, a double track alignment continues eastwards in the centre of the highway.
Along this section of the route eastbound highway traffic will be diverted along Clifton Street. The signalled intersection with Abingdon Street will remain and the highway movements will not change.
The proposed route continues along Talbot Road to a new signalled intersection with Topping Street. This section of the route will be shared with highway traffic and on street parking, loading and taxi bays will be provided.
Tramway Terminus (Wilko)
The proposed tramway terminus is planned to form part of the redevelopment of the current Wilko store site.
The terminus is planned to be located in the centre of the development, close to and at the same level as the existing underpass to Blackpool North Station.
Permissions and Timescales
However as a local authority Blackpool Council can’t just dig up the roads and build a tramway – an application for an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 is required, for powers to construct, operate and maintain the extension, which would be granted by Central Government.
For the relevant Secretary of State to reach a favourable decision and grant permission can be a lengthy process. The order is on schedule to be submitted by mid 2016 – and from there the timescales are expected to be fluid. The hope is that approval will be granted by the end of 2017, for construction to take place during 2018 with services to North Station commencing by April 2019 – but the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men and all that.
This is an exciting project and will be another huge improvement to Blackpool – one which all of the surrounding areas of the Fylde Coast will benefit from. So watch this space for more information.
The Blackpool tramway extension is one of six infrastructure projects to be delivered in the county by Transport for Lancashire – the body formed in 2015 to develop, approve and fund major transport schemes with a multi-million pound budget to be devolved by the Department for Transport from 2015/16.
£16.4m towards the estimated £18.2m total cost of the project will be met by Transport for Lancashire – whose group includes the region’s three transport authorities, Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council, together with the private sector led Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The proposed scheme is also subject to final funding approval by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. It is anticipated that final funding
approval would be sought at the end of 2017.
Talbot Road, Blackpool