Below is a short report outlining an alternative proposal by the Poulton & Wyre Railway Trust, to the layout of Poulton-le-Fylde station on the soon to be electrified line to Blackpool North. Also included are artists impressions and schematics, showing clearly how Poulton-le-Fylde station and junction could look if proposals by the Poulton & Wyre Railway Trust are taken forward.
Poulton-le-Fylde Station – Future Layout
Poulton-le-Fylde station on the Preston to Blackpool North railway line serves a population of approximately 75,000 and is the only station in the historic Borough of Wyre. The station as well as serving Poulton, also serves Thornton-Cleveleys (two miles) Burn Naze (three miles) Fleetwood (5 miles) and the over Wyre villages of Hambleton, Presall and Knott End (five, nine and ten miles respectively) At one time all of these towns and villages (with the exception of Hambleton) had railway stations however, since 1950 they have been progressively closed, the last being Fleetwood in 1970.
The line to Fleetwood is still more or less intact, was last used for freight in 1999 and is the subject of a serious heritage railway proposal by the Poulton & Wyre Railway Society (PWRS) The PWRS have also worked up a realistic proposal to use the line as a community railway during peak hours, to help relieve congestion on the parallel A585. While the heritage / community railway is an excellent locally supported scheme, it can only reach its full potential if the station layout at Poulton is developed in a way that would allow for a convenient interchange.
Fylde Coast Transport Masterplan 2015
This transport masterplan produced jointly by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Blackpool Unitary Authority, clearly states that the PWRS would be supported in its efforts to access Poulton Station if possible. It also states that the station requires a decent car park to enable it to reach its full potential, this in turn would help to reduce severe traffic congestion between Singleton and the M55 during peak commuting hours.
The line from Preston to Blackpool North is to be electrified from 2019, with work due to start in 2016/17. This excellent scheme will deliver, higher line speeds, new platforms and crucially four more train paths an hour in each direction. Most of these new services (if taken up) will call at Poulton, offering the people of Wyre half hourly services to Manchester, hourly services to Liverpool, Leeds and York, two hourly services to London and potentially seven trains an hour to Blackpool. This level of service has not been seen since the golden years of the mid-20th century and should be welcomed by all.
The station car park comprises of 17 spaces including one for disabled drivers and is located next to the station on a former part of the railway track bed. It is poorly surfaced, unlit and extremely tight, so much so that a turning circle has had to be created at the far end to allow drivers to exit the car park without having to reverse onto the main road. As far as we know there are no plans to increase the size of the car park and looking closely at the NR plans it may have to be closed, as the Preston bound (up line) will have to be slewed outwards towards it.
Currently most commuters park on the narrow streets around the station which is in a conservation area. The historic ward of Breck was not designed to take the amount of traffic currently trying to access it and a solution must be found before the new rail services add to the severe congestion.
Network Rail (NR) and the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) regard themselves as responsible businesses. Their literature states clearly that the communities and passengers they serve come first however, this is not the case at Poulton and a cheap, quick fix and ill thought out scheme that clearly dismisses their neighbours and customers has been proposed.
The Poulton & Wyre Railway Trust (PWRT) working on behalf of the PWRS have come up with an alternative proposal. It is slightly more expensive than the current NR plan however, it answers all the questions posed above and delivers a station car park and community rail interchange fit for the 21st century. Included are artist’s impressions of how the station could look, schematics of both NRs simplistic proposal and the PWRTs alternative plan and some historic pictures showing clearly the space available.
Both schemes include the removal of the low speed 20mph junction however, whereas the NR scheme allows for a line speed increase from 20mph to 50mph the PWRT scheme allows for a 70mph line which will inevitably reduce the risk of delays to what is going to be a busy railway. The alternative proposal clearly shows a new platform 3, with lift and steps however, the extra cost of modifying the current Preston bound platform should be taken into account and is thought to be far more expensive than building a new modular platform to replace it. Remember we are in a conservation area, any modifications to the current platform will have to be carried out sensitively using original materials. New modular platforms are easily installed and can quite cheaply be made to fit sensitively in historic settings.
The new Blackpool bound (down line) is already there in the undergrowth and was one of the former station sidings. It would of course be re-laid to modern standards however, a new formation would not be required.
The alternative proposal allows for a simple reconnection of the Fleetwood line to the national network, should a viable business case be developed.
The alternative plan does not add to the cost of the signalling scheme, as it remains exactly the same bar the positioning of the signals themselves.
A new 300 space (chargeable) car park could be built with a new exit provided on Sheringham Way, this would alleviate the congestion at peak hours around the Breck area and allow for a residents parking scheme to be introduced.
During the rebuilding, this alternative proposal would allow the railway to remain open Monday – Friday and would only require closure at weekends (maximum two or three) Having not had sight of NRs planned works timetable, this report surmises that the current proposal would see the line shut for a number of weeks if not months. Any compensation (bus replacement costs etc) paid to the TOCs could in effect be put towards this alternative proposal. To put it simply, the new railway can easily be built while the current one remains in use.
Increased ticket sales for the TOCs and a share of the car park revenue.
Line speed through the station would be increased significantly reducing delays to a very busy railway.
An excellent future interchange for the heritage/community railway which has the potential to reduce congestion on the A585.
We believe that this alternative proposal is a realistic, efficient and cost effective way to deliver a railway station fit for purpose. The rail industry has far too often failed to look at the wider consequences of its actions and as a result we are spending millions of pounds to correct past ill thought out no growth schemes. Don’t let Poulton-le-Fylde become one of those failures, let’s work together to deliver something we can all be proud of.
Eddie Fisher on behalf of the PWRT/S
Our grateful thanks to Simon Miller and Simon Relf for their help in the schemes development.
A huge thank you must also go to local artist Norma Wheatley, who created the wonderful impressions of the station. The beautiful painting of our DMU next to the Pendolino says it all.
All copyright acknowledged for old photographs.