The Anonymous Widower

Northern Cities And COVID-19

If you look at the official Government statistics for the total number of cases of COVID-19, as of May 3rd, the number of cases in the two major cities in the North West as follows.

  • Leeds – 1463 out of a city population of 789,194 (0.18%) and a metro population of 2,638,127 (0.05%)
  • Liverpool – 1454 out of a city population of 494,814 (0.29%) and a metro population of 2,241,000 (0.06%)
  • Manchester – 1154 out of a city population of 547,627 (0.21%) and a metro population of 3,748,274 (0.03%)
  • Newcastle – 939 out of a city population of 300,196 (0.31%) and a metro population of 1,650,000 (0.06%)
  • Nottingham – 537 out of a city population of 321,500 (0.17%) and a metro population of 1,610,000 (0.03%)
  • Sheffield – 2191 out of a city population of 582,506 (0.38%) and a metro population of 1,569,000 (0.14%)


  1. All populations come from Wikipedia.
  2. Why is Liverpool 40% worse than Manchester?
  3. Why is Sheffield the worst?

I will add a few smaller towns andcities.

  • Blackpool – 465 out of an urban population of 139,720 (0.33%)
  • Caldervale – 252 out of an urban population of 200,100 (0.13%)
  • Hull – 469 out of a city population of 260,645 (0.18%)
  • Middlesbrough – 566 out of an urban population of 174,700 (0.32%)
  • Stoke-on-Trent – 509 out of a city population of 255,833 (0.20%)
  • York – 315 out of a city population of 209,893 (0.15%)

I’d like to see full statistics plotted on a map or a scatter diagram.

The latter is a very powerful way to plot data and often they highlight data points that lie outside the underlying pattern of the data.

May 4, 2020 Posted by | Health, World | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

£500m Fund To Restore Beeching Rail Cuts Goes Ahead Amid Criticism

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the introductory paragraph.

A government fund is to be launched later to restore historic railway lines closed more than 50 years ago under the so-called Beeching cuts.

The two initial grants are for studies about reopening the Northumberland Line to Blyth and Ashington in the North East and to Fleetwood to the North of Blackpool.

Blyth And Ashington


  • The tracks already exist.
  • There may still be some freight traffic on the route.
  • Connections to the Tyne and Wear Metro appear possible.
  • The Tyne and Wear Metro already shares tracks with other freight and passenger services.
  • New stations and probably new signalling will be needed.
  • The distance between the proposed Northern terminals and the connections with the Tyne and Wear Metro are under twenty miles, which could make battery operation easily possible.
  • The Tyne and Wear Metro is currently procuring a new fleet of trains.

I believe that these branches could be integrated into the Tyne and Wear Metro, providing that the new trains have the right specification.

Light rail vehicles like the Class 398 tram-trains being procured for the South Wales Metro should be able to run these services.

But other manufacturers might have better solutions!

Fleetwood Branch

This extension would need the following.

  • Restoration of the existing track between Poulton-le-Fylde and Fleetwood.
  • One or more new stations.
  • Probable resignalling.

In a simple installation, there is probably space to put a bay platform in Poulton-le-Fylde station, so that a shuttle service could be run to Fleetwood.

But services could also be extended to Preston.

Blackpool though has other rail problems like what are they going to do with the Blackpool South Line.

I believe Blackpool could use similar solutions on both the Blackpool South and Fleetwood Lines to create a bigger solution for the whole of the area.


It looks to me that the government has started with two schemes that are possible and where the track still exists.

It is to be hoped that the two studies come up with easy-to-build and fundable schemes, which are the first of many.

January 28, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Blackpool Tramway Is Reaching Towards The Station

On Saturday, I went to Blackpool and rode the Blackpool Tramway to Fleetwood to see Ipswich play.

This Google Map shows the current walking route between Blackpool North station and the North Pier tram stop.


  1. The station is in the North East corner of the map.
  2. The North Pier tram stop is by the North Pier!
  3. The main tram route passes North-South across the map, close to the shore end of the pier.
  4. The walk is along Talbot Road.
  5. Close to the station is a branch of Wilko.

The new tram tracks will be laid along Talbot Road and these pictures show the current progress of the new tracks.


  1. The spur is twin-track.
  2. The first two and the last pictures appear to show the tram tracks going into Wilko.
  3. The tram tracks appear to share the road with other traffic.
  4. There is a full triangular junction where the spur meets the main North-South tramway.

A few extra facts and thoughts.

What About Wilko?

The Wilko store will either be demolished or modified and the space will be used by a tram stop.

  • It will be reached by an underpass from the station.
  • I suspect it will have two platforms.
  • One platform might be for trams to the North and the others for trams to the South.
  • There will probably be a few kiosks and small shops.

Done well and it would give passengers a good welcome.

The Track Layout

The track layout with the full triangular junction and a double-track to the station gives a lot of flexibility.

  • Trams can go between the the tram station and the North.
  • Trams can go between the the tram station and the South.
  • Trams could even come from the North, reverse in the station and go out to the South! Or vice-versa!

I also think it has been designed to be ready for expansion of the Blackpool Tramway.

A Tram Stop At Talbot Square

I have found a document on the Blackpool Council web site, that says this.

A tram stop on Talbot Square would be developed while road layouts are being examined so the new scheme would interfere as little as possible with drivers.

There is certainly enough space.

Could Tram-Trains Connect At Blackpool North Station To The Blackpool Tramway?

This Google Map shows Blackpool North station and the nearby Wilko.

I think it would be possible for tram-trains to come straight through the railway station and connect to the Blackpool Tramway.

  • I would suspect that a frequency of between four and six trains per hour (tph) would be possible.
  • The Tram-trains would have a battery capability with a range of perhaps twenty or thirty miles.
  • The tram-trains would obviously come from Preston.
  • But would they go on to Blackburn, Burnley, Clitheroe, Colne, Ormskirk, Southport and/or Todmorden.

The designs of the tracks, Blackpool North station and the proposed Blackpool North tram stop, would not seem to rule out the creation of a tram-train network with the Blackpool Tramway as the Western terminus.

Tram-Trains To The South

The new tram link at Blackpool North station will link the station to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and other attractions South of the North Pier.

To not annoy and discourage visitors, the frequency should be at least six tph or one tram every ten minutes. as little Harry and little Summer won’t late any longer!

Tram-trains to and from Preston and beyond, would have the following effects.

  • A lot of visitors wouldn’t have to change between train and tram.
  • They would reinforce the service between Blackpool North station and the Southern terminus at Starr Gate.
  • They might cut the number of cars needing to park in Blackpool.
  • Blackpool would become the only place in the world where you could see heritage trams, modern trams and tram-trains using the same system.

This tram-train link would surely improve the economy of Blackpool and the \Fylde Coast.

But the tram-trains don’t need to terminate at Starr Gate.

This Google Map shows the Blackpool Tramway’s Southern terminus and depot at Starr Gate and the nearby Squires Gate station.


  1. Starr Gate Depot on the West side of the map.
  2. The turning loop for the trams outside.
  3. Squires Gate station four hundred metres to the East.

I don’t think it would be difficult to connect the two rail systems.

  • Tram-trains would be able to more freely between the Blackpool Tramway and the South Fylde Line to Kirkham & Wesham and Preston stations.
  • The route between Kirkham & Wesham and Preston stations is electrified.
  • The length of the section without electrification between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South stations is just over twelve miles.
  • The route West of Kirkham & Wesham station is single-track, but could probably be capable of handling more trains per hour, with some improvements like sections of double track.

I can’t see why tram-trains with a battery capability, which could be similar to those destined for the South Wales Metro, couldn’t run an extended service between Preston and the Blackpool Tramway.

  • Tram-trains would change systems at Blackpool North station and Squires Gate/Starr Gate.
  • Tram-trains would call at all stations and tramway stops in both directions.
  • A frequency of at least two tph in both directions would be my preference.
  • Tram-trains could easily handle the section without electrification on batteries charged on the existing electrification.
  • It would provide improved public transport links to the important golf course at Royal Lytham.

I also feel that running battery tram-trains on the South Fylde Line could be an affordable solution to improving public transport in the area.

Tram-Trains To The North

The same arguments that can be used to allow tram-trains to go South along the Blackpool Tramway, will also work, for allowing tram-trains to go to the North.

But there is no railway in good condition to create a loop, as can be done to the South.

Perhaps, two tram-trains per hour could go to Fleetwood Ferry tram stop and use the loop to return to Blackpool North station.

Fleetwood would regain a rail service to Preston, that appears to have been discontinued in the 1960s.

Reinstatement Of The Fleetwood Branch Line

The Association of Train Operating Companies has proposed the reopening of the Fleetwood Branch Line, which would connect Fleetwood with Poulton-le-Fylde on the electrified line to Blackpool North station.

The branch is also being developed for heritage purposes.

I do wonder though, that a tram-train solution, where tram-trains run between Preston and Fleetwood via Kirkham  & Wesham, Blackpool North and the Blsckpool Tramway, may give a higher return.

Obviously, a full study needs to be done.

Other Issues

On my trip to Fleetwood, two other issues were obvious.

A Distinct Lack Of Shelters

I took this picture, as I returned to the trams after the match.

At the time it was chucking it down!

Perhaps, they’d increase ridership, if passengers had some more shelter.

Bank Card Ticketing

I rarely carry cash these days, as I generally use contactless payments, for all payments under thirty pounds.

But on the Blackpool Tramway, you have to use cash!

That is so Nineteenth Century!


Blackpool Tramway can be built into a much more comprehensive and more customer-friendly tram and tram-train network.





October 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Gone Wrong With The Blackpool To Preston Electrification?

On Friday this news item appeared on the BBC web site. It is entitled Balfour Beatty pulls out of Lancashire rail electrification.

The article starts like this.

The main contractor behind plans to electrify the railway line between Preston and Blackpool has pulled out.

Balfour Beatty confirmed it was leaving the scheme after a review said the work was unlikely to be on time and budget.

Network Rail insisted the electrification was still due to finish by spring 2017 and a new contractor would be “appointed shortly”.

On the Saturday, on my route from Liverpool to Preston, I took a detour up the Blackpool branch and took these pictures.

The aim was to see, if I could get a clue as to what has gone wrong.

For a start, I saw a succession of bridges that appeared to have been recently replaced or refurbished. Often with electrification, the cost of getting bridges and stations ready for electrification is a major part of the cost.

Even Poulton-le-Fylde station  appeared to have acquired a cafe from when I saw it in May this year.

At Blackpool North station crowds of people were leaving, as the weather was atrocious, so I took the next train back to Preston.

As to why, Balfour Beatty have given up the contract, there were no clues.

I think there could be two reasons for the delay.. In this section on Electrification for the Wikipedia entry for Blackpool North station, this is said.

This will result in the semaphore signalling at the station being replaced by modern colour lights controlled from the WCML North Rail Operating Centre in Preston and will also see the station track & platform layout altered (the current eight curved platforms will be reduced to six on a straighter alignment than at present). Work has begun to raise many of the intermediate overbridges to accommodate the overhead wires and the project was due for completion by May 2016, with the line onwards to Manchester following by the end of the year. This has since been pushed back to March 2017 so that the track remodelling & resignalling work can be carried out at the same time as the wiring, reducing disruption to passengers (as only one period of closure will be required)

So could an over-complicated project or lack of resources be the cause?

Look at other Wikipedia entries for lines in this area and it gets more complicated with aspirations to reopen the Fleetwood Branch Line.

Or could it be that there are so many ideas about what to do in Blackpool with the trains, the planners at Balfour Beatty can’t keep pace with all the changes? So backing out is the esiest thing to do!

I think there is a need to take a long hard look at all the possibilities, like the Fleetwood Branch and linking to the Blackpool trams and the way they actually perform any track changes and electrification.

Perhaps everything from the West Coast Main Line to Blackpool and Fleetwood should be devolved to an elected mayor or someone, who gets voted out, if the project fails.

I know Blackpool reasonably well and if ever an are needs an upgraded transport system, with an electrified line to nearby cities, it is Blackpool.


August 23, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Good News For Blackpool

Blackpool hasn’t had much good news over the last few years, but could this news article in the Guardian, be the start of better times for the town.

The article describes how Great North Western Railway has been given permission to run six return trains a day between Queen’s Park in North London and Blackpool. This is an extract from the article.

GNWR has been granted firm rights to run services from Blackpool North to Queen’s Park in north-west London, calling at Crewe, Preston and Poulton-le-Fylde. GNWR intends to run its services beyond Queen’s Park into the mainline terminus at Euston, but this is contingent on Network Rail agreeing to grant the slots when the scale of disruption of work to construct the new HS2 line becomes clear.

It also intends to call at Milton Keynes, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley and Kirkham and Wesham, depending on the conclusion of other works by Network Rail.

The services will be run using new Class 390 Pendolino trains.

I think there are two possible outcomes.

The trains are delivered and six services a day are run between Blackpool and London.

But Virgin Trains already operate trains two services a day between Blackpool and London, so I would assume they will use every trick in the book to see that GNWR don’t get a successful service running on the route.

The only way to probably fight off the interloper, would be to run a comparable service.

So in either way it is good news for Blackpool.

To me, the interesting idea, is to use Queen’s Park as a London terminal, if Network Rail can’t find paths to get access to Euston.

It would appear that Queen’s Park station has plenty of space and platforms. Also because of the Bakerloo Line it has good connections to Central London.

So could it be a station that is used to take pressure from Euston during the building of HS2, by perhaps being the London terminus for some London Midland services, even if it is not used for GNWR’s services to Blackpool and other places.

It’s certainly not a problem, I would want to solve, as many won’t want there services moved from Euston.

On a personal note, the Queen’s Park to Blackpool services will be something I will use, as it is proposed they will stop at Milton Keynes, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley, Crewe, Preston, Poulton-le-Fylde and Kirkham and Wesham.

Also for me, Queen’s Park is not a difficult station to get to from where I live in Dalston.

I shall watch GNWR’s plans unfold with interest, as just as they will have a positive effect on Blackpool, they should benefit me too!


August 7, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

The Scenic Route From Preston To Blackburn

I didn’t take the direct route from Preston to Blackburn, but decided to explore the East Lancashire Line that stretches from Blackpool on the coast to Colne deep in the hills.

It is one of those rural lines, that has a lot of the flavour of the Valley Lines in South Wales. Trains are elderly, but well-turned out Class 142 and Class 150 trains, running between a series of stations, many of which have been recently upgraded. To get a better feel of the Burnley area, this is a Google Earth image of the centre of Burnley.

The Centre Of Burnley

The Centre Of Burnley

The two stations; Central and Barracks lie on the rail line that goes across the top-left corner of the image. For most of that way, the line is on a viaduct with a station at each end. Turf Moor, the home of Burnley FC is at the far right of the map.

The East Lancashire Line is very much down the list of electrification priorities, but as it has interchanges at Preston, Blackpool and Rose Grove, that are electrified or will be in a few years, the costs of electrification will be eased by the supplying of power being already there.

Some work needs to be done on the stations, but a lot is informational like the signage and local maps at Mill Hill. Some like Mill Hill and perhaps others, need improvement to their disabled access.

There is pressure to extend the line past Colne to Skipton. and it is description under South East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership. The Wikipedia article says this about the link.

The missing section of railway between Skipton and Colne is 11.5 miles in length; it was closed in January 1970 although it was not a target under the Beeching Axe.

Dr. Beeching is a hot topic, but when he said a railway shouldn’t be closed, history has in some cases like  the Varsity Line, shown him to be right.

At least with Colne to Skipton, the trackbed hasn’t been built on.

Having seen tram-trains working successfully in Germany and France, I think that if the Class 399 trains prove successful in their trials between Sheffield and Rotherham, that vehicles like this may offer a cost effective way of linking between two electrified lines. Skipton station is electrified, but Colne is not. However from Rose Grove to Preston and on to Blackpool is planned to be completely electrified in the next few years.

So as Burnley Barracks and Central, Brierfield, Nelson and Colne will effectively be on a single line branch from Rose Grove could it be electrified to perhaps only a tramway standard with occasional passing places and extended to Skipton? Intriguingly, at the other end of the line at Blackpool South the trains could then transfer to the Blackpool tram system.

It may sound all rather fanciful, but it might be easier to slot a tram track through Colne, rather than build a new railway, especially as this Google Earth image of Colne station, shows that there is the dual-carriageway A6068  and a football pitch in the way.

Colne Station

Colne Station

It would surely be cheaper to cross the main road with a tram rather than a railway track.

Surely another advantage of using tram technology is that it will be easier to add extra stops on the line.

I do think that this neglected line from Blackpool South to Colne via Preston has scope for improvement. Judging by some of the ideas in various forums on the Internet, there are a lot of ideas that get proposed by politicians, rail professionals, enthusiasts and train users.

Three things though are going to help decide what happens to this line.

If the incoming government does what is threatened at the present time and electrifies the Calder Valley Line from Preston to Leeds via Blackburn and Burnley, there will likely be a sound economic case for electrifying from Blackpool South to Preston and from Rose Grove to Colne, as both lines are mainly single track.

Electrification will also make sound sense, as there will be more than a few electric trains available, as Crossrail and Thameslink are  getting new trains and the displaced trains will be cheaper to refurbish than build new diesels.

I believe tram-trains will be a success and that these could prove ideal to extend the Blackpool tramway. Incidentally, I’ve found a report on the Sintropher website, which details how the Blackpool tramway will be made compatible with tram-trains.

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poulton-le-Fylde Station

Poulton-le-Fylde station is a station on the Blackpool North branch line. After my troubles at Oxenholme, I decided to use my ticket to explore some of the stations on the branch. These are some pictures I took.

Although the station looks rather disabled-unfriendly, it does have a lift.

There is still a track from here to Fleetwood, which in some reports might be reopened as an extension to the Blackpool tramway. It is clearly visible in this Google Earth image.

Poulton-le-Fylde Station

Poulton-le-Fylde Station

As the Blackpool tramway has been made tram-train ready, this might mean that tram-trains run from Fleetwood to places further inland.



May 1, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Blackpool?

Blackpool tramway is unique in the United Kingdom in that it runs a mixture of modern and heritage trams, which I’ve only seen done on a big scale in Lisbon, where like Blackpool, the heritage trams are a tourist attraction.

It may also be unique in that it is already tram-train ready in terms of dimensions, power supply and other details according to this report on the Sintropher web site.

Blackpool’s trams have two major problems.

The obvious one is that the trams do not serve the main railway station at Blackpool North.

The second is that the trams don’t connect well to any of the stations served by the Blackpool South to Colne service. The best connection is  a two hundred metre walk between Squires Gate station and Starr Gate tram stop.

The branch to Blackpool North is being electrified and this should be completed in 2017. The final report of the North of England Electrification Task Force has also recommended that the lines from Burnley to Colne  and Kirkham to Blackpool South be electrified in the Tier Two group of lines to be wired.

So it would be reasonable to assume that in a few years Blackpool will have two stations with electric trains to Preston, Liverpool and beyond.

This is a Google Earth image of the area between the two stations.

Blackpool North and South Stations

Blackpool North and South Stations

Blackpool North is indicated by the red arrow and Blackpool South at the bottom of the image, about five hundred metres or so from the sea front and a short walk south of the football ground and extensive car parking for visitors. Neither the football ground or the car parking are well served by the current tramway.

Blackpool South

This Google Earth image shows the area north of Blackpool South to the football ground to a larger scale.

North of Blackpool South Station

North of Blackpool South Station

I feel that it should be possible for a tram to start northwards from Blackpool South station, go past the car parks and the football ground and then thread its way through to the main tramway route along the sea front.

To the south of the station the rail line is single track all the way to Kirkham and Wesham station, where it joins the main Blackpool branch to Blackpool North.

As this line is now slated for electrification, there are probably cases to electrify it to either main line standard or make the line an extension of the tramway.

If tram-trains successfully pass their trial between Sheffield and Rotherham, then surely using tram-trains to work the services between Blackpool South and Colne, will be looked at seriously.

One factor that could come into the discussion about upgrading of the Blackpool South branch is the important golf course at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, as Ansdell and Fairhaven station is adjacent to the course and is used to transport spectators for important tournaments.

So when will the next Open Championship be staged at Royal Lytham?

Blackpool North

At Blackpool North station, the tram extension is now funded and is being planned.

But will the announcement of electrification to Blackpool South and hopefully successful trialling of tram-trains in Rotherham, add extra possibilities to how the extension to Blackpool North station is implemented?

This is the Google Earth image of Blackpool North station, which is indicated by a red arrow, to the sea front.

Blackpool North Station

Wikipedia also indicates that the spur to the station will join the main tramway north of the North Pier, which is the pier shown in the image.

One possible way of building the spur, would be to make it compatible with tram-trains so that some trains arriving at Blackpool North could transfer to the tramway.

The Karlsruhe Model

If both Blockpool stations were to be served by tram-trains that then ran between the two two stations, then would be an example of the classic Karlsruhe model that has been successfully working in the city since 1992.

Between the two stations, they would work as trams and once clear of the tramway, they would work as normal trains.

Advantages Of Using Tram-Trains Between The Two Blackpool Stations

The tram-train services would probably be on a simple loop between the two stations, with tram-trains turning back at either Kirkham and Wesham or Preston stations. Alternatively, services could be something more substantial serving the wider area. Certainly some tram-trains would go all the way to Colne to replace the current service.

But whatever is done, if tram-trains are used to link the two stations, various advantages will be seen.

1. Long distance services into Blackpool North would have easier access to the tram network, which would probably be step free.

2.As Preston would probably have more trains to Blackpool, this would give Blackpool better access to other long distance services to say Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Birmingham.

3. Local services running tram-trains from perhaps Preston and Colne would have immediate access to some of the central tram stops in Blackpool, as these stops would be on the link between the two stations.

4. Blackpool South station would become a simple tram stop.

5. Space might also be released at Blackpool North station, depending on how much space was needed for the tram-train stop.

6. Extra trams would be running on the busiest central section of the tramway.

7.If the football ground and the main car parks were on the central loop, this would improve transport links to the town.

Probably the most difficult thing to get right would be the ticketing method, which London has shown must be based on a contactless bank card.

Implications Of Tram-Trains On Services To Colne

With the announcement that the East Lancashire Line is to be electrified to Colne, there would be no problem running tram-trains through both Blackpool stations and then through Preston and on to Colne.

The line from Rose Grove to Colne appears to be mainly single track, with some stations looking like tram stops, with a pile of bricks at the track-side.

If tram-trains were to run on the Colne Line as trams, this would actually be a service upgrade, despite the apparent downgrading of the line from trains to trams. If the powers-that-be thought that more stops were needed, these would be simple affairs, with a low platform on one or both sides of the track, with perhaps a simple shelter and a ticket machine. As on other tram lines in the UK, passengers would walk across the line rather than use an expensive footbridge. To see what is possible on a good tramway, look at this post about good stop design for trams and tram-trains.

But the two biggest improvements would be a much more frequent service, that probably ran at least twice an hour on weekdays and hourly on Sundays, that used new comfortable electric low-floor tram-trains something like the Class 399, being used for trials in Sheffield.

As to speed, the increased acceleration of the tram-trains would mean that stopping wasn’t as time-consuming as on say a Class 142 train. also outside of urban areas and some way from stops, they would be able to run at a more appropriate speed using the railway rules currently in force on the line. Incidentally, some UK trams like Croydon and Edinburgh go faster than you think when the track allows.

Tram-trains would appear at a cursory glance, to be a simple and affordable way to improve services in this neglected part of Lancashire.

Improving Transport In Burnley

Burnley is one of those places most famous outside the local area for football, but it is a market town of over seventy thousand people. The town probably needs improved transport connections, despite having four railway stations, the most important of which; Burnley Manchester Road has recently been rebuilt.

A big improvement will come by electrifying all of the lines, which will mean that Rose Grove and Manchester Road, will be on an important electrified artery between Leeds and Preston. The other line is the Colne Branch of the East Lancashire Line and this has three stations in the town; Rose Grove, Burnley Barracks and Burnley Central.

This Google Earth image shows the four stations as they relate to Burnley.

Burnley And Its Stations

Burnley And Its Stations

Rose Grove is at the West, just to the south of the M65 motorway and is served by both lines. The Colne Line curves to the north with the two stations at Barracks and Central to the western end of the town centre, which is indicated by the red arrow. Manchester Road station is at the southern edge of the image, a steep walk up the hill from the town centre.

If the Colne Line were to be run by tram-trains, would this create a better and more accessible railway for Burnley.

As an example of what could happen, north from Burnley Central , the Colne Line follows the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, so are there possibilities to use a tram-train to give better access to the countryside above the town?

Using tram-trains on the Colne Line could improve public transport in Burnley and the other towns like Nelson and Colne, without laying a metre of new expensive railway.

But why stop the trains at Colne?

The final report of the North of England Electrification Task Force has also recommended that the lines from Skipton to Carlisle via Settle be electrified in the Tier Three group of lines to be wired.

The Skipton – East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership is also campaigning for the line between Colne and Skipton to be reinstated. This map of the missing part of the line is taken from the Wikipedia entry.

Skipton To Colne

Skipton To Colne

Would the missing link be easier and more affordable to build, if it continued as a modern, single-track tramway?

This type of line would also be less visually intrusive, if it used 750 V DC overhead wires, which are all that would be needed for the Class 399 tram-train.

Building this link between Skipton and Colne would further connect the electrified lines in the Leeds area, with the soon to be electrified ones of North Lancashire. As the map shows, Skipton is on the iconic route through Settle between Leeds and Carlisle, which is also in the queue for electrification.

Skipton is the key to the success of any scheme to improve the Colne Line and link it to the town. The town is known as the Gateway to the Dales and already has direct services to London. This section in Wikipedia shows that there are impressive plans for services in the future.

But that was written before the North of England Electrification Task Force reported that Skipton to Carlisle through Settle was an electrification scheme for Tier Three. This was probably included more for freight reasons, as it creates a new route for electrified freight trains from Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the Electric Spine from Southampton to Scotland.

And to think that the line was nearly closed, but a certain Michael Portillo didn’t sign it off!

So will we see electrified passenger services from the South coming up via Leeds and Skipton to Carlisle? I think we will and if the Borders Railway is a success, then I think in perhaps 2040, these trains will reach Edinburgh.

So I think this all means that the tram-trains to Colne, should be used to create a link to Skipton.

Services Between Blackpool And Liverpool

Currently there is just a measly single train each hour between Blackpool and Liverpool.

Ormskirk to Preston is another line that could be chosen for electrification and it is likely that under the Liverpool rules it will be served by four trains per hour.

So I think it is reasonable to assume that when electrification to Blackpool North is complete, that the frequency of Liverpool-Blackpool services will be increased. After all when electrification is complete various routes via Ormskirk, Wigan, Newton-Le-Willows and St. Helens will all be possible.

But the possibility also exists for the use of tram-trains on this route, which will then go round the loop in Blackpool.

Obviously, passenger numbers will determine what services are worth trialling.

There is also the possibility of linking Royal Lytham and St. Annes with the other high-quality golf courses south of Southport.


The Blackpool tramway could use tram-trains to connect the electrified stations at Blackpool North and South, and over a wider network, especially over the Colne Line and its possible extension to Skipton.







March 7, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Extending The Blackpool Trams

My ride on the Blackpool trams yesterday, got me thinking.

In the first place, I think that concerning the link to Blackpool North station, a trick has been missed. Opposite the station, Sainsburys have built an impressive store.

Sainsburys Opposite Blackpool North Station

Sainsburys Opposite Blackpool North Station

Surely, the whole area should be part of one development with the trams coming up Talbot Road from the North Pier to a covered interchange giving level access to both the station and the superstore. With electric trains arriving direct from Liverpool, London and Manchester, and places farther afield, this would make Blackpool North a true destination station.

When I go to see Ipswich play Blackpool at Bloomfield Road, I sometimes go on the single track railway from Preston via Lytham to Blackpool South station, as it is an easy walk through the car-parks to the ground.

But this means, I have to endure one of Northern Rail’s scrapyard specials and there is nowhere along the walk, to even get a cup of tea. I also walk through masses of car parking for visitors, which like the football ground, are a walk of a couple of hundred yards from the promenade and the tram. This map shows the area.


The football ground is clearly at the top and the red arrow at the bottom indicates Blackpool South station, with the car parks between. The tramway at this point runs between the beach and the road along the front. The two blue dots are the tram stops at Waterloo Road and South Pier.

If you look further south, the rail-line and tramway get closer together.


Near Blackpool airport, Squires Gate station (red rail arrows) is perhaps just a couple of hundred metres from the Starr Gate terminus of the tram (blue dot in top left).

It strikes me that the whole of this could be pulled together.

Applying my naive logic, it strikes me that to extend the Blackpool tramway to Lytham, as is a stated as an aim in Wikipedia, one way to do this would be to convert the Blackpool South line to a tramway as far as Lytham. At the Northern end, it would branch off the existing tramway somewhere slightly North of the football ground and then pass through the car parks to take over the rail line at Blackpool South station.

From what I have read in the latest edition of Modern Railways more electrification centred on Liverpool, Manchester and Preston area, is on the cards after the current schemes are completed.

In some ways making the Blackpool South branch, an extension to the Blackpool tramway takes part of this line out of one expensive large project and into a simple stand-alone project, that extends the tramway.

You might even extend the tramway through Lytham to Kirkham and Wesham station, where the branch diverts from the Blackpool North branch, which is being electrified.

Kirkham and Wesham is a larger station, that could probably easily accommodate a simple turnback platform for the tram. It will also be on an electrified railway to Preston, Liverpool and Manchester, and possibly even London.

I would doubt, that whilst the tramway extension was being built, it would have any effect on the operation of the Blackpool North branch.

One extra saving might be, that sense would probably dictate doing both extensions around the same time, the extra trams needed could probably be ordered together.

Incidentally, I’ve found a report, which says that the Blackpool South branch could be converted to tram-trains.

Tram-trains might be an option, but I’m a great believer in extending what you’ve got, rather than bringing in too many different systems, as this means you have the convenience of a uniform fleet and you don’t confuse the passengers.

Tram-trains and other new systems appeal to governments, as politicians and civil servants get nice paid-for trips to see the systems at work.

My only worry about my analysis is, am I being bold enough.

I believe that an urban transport system should link the railway stations to the main visitor and sporting attractions, shopping centres and public services like the Council Offices and hospital.

Could for example the spur to Blackpool North station profitably serve anywhere else?

November 2, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Blackpool On The Way Up?

In previous visits to Blackpool, I’ve found the place rather depressing and dirty. Generally, I’ve arrived by train, to give myself time to get to the match and then got the first train out afterwards. I have also called Blackpool the most pedestrian-unfriendly resort in the UK.

Also, when I mention I’ve been to Blackpool, like I did once to a lady on a bus in Leeds, I have often got a comment saying no-one goes there now!

But was it the fact that the sun was shining yesterday, that made the place seem so much better. But visitors and residents were adamant that the town had improved in the last few years.

The promenade is so much better and must rate architecturally with some of the best in Europe. Although, I would think that the obvious food offerings, are a bit too gluten-rich for me. If I go again, I might do a bit of searching, to see if anybody can cope.

But living in Dalston, an area of Hackney, that has been transformed by a refreshed North London Line, I would think that Blackpool’s refreshed tramway has done the same for the resort. After all, many of Blackpool’s visitors are like me and not in the best state they could be. Surely, a step-free low-floor tram is one of the best prescriptions, that isn’t available on the NHS.

I think to be fair, we haven’t seen the end of the rise of Blackpool. Just as Liverpool took more than a few years to rise from its nadir, Blackpool won’t get back to the top overnight.

The biggest thing that will happen is connecting the town to the electrified rail network as part of the North West Electrification. Network Rail’s report says this about progress in linking Blackpool to Preston by 2016.

A fully electrified route between Preston and Blackpool will connect the area to the west coast main line, the key rail artery linking the North West with London and Scotland.

We’ve upgraded all 15 bridges whilst carrying out safety improvement work to parapets. Overhead line equipment will be installed in 2015/16.

This electrification should improve the perception of the resort, as refurbished Class 319 trains are so much better and bigger than most of the trains working the line now.

It will also further improve the direct services to Liverpool, Manchester and London.

The tramway should also be linked to Blackpool North station in the next few years, as it should have been years ago. Nothing annoys me more, when I arrive by train in a town or city and find that the buses and/or trams are not connected to the station. Blackpool will rectify this omission, but I hope they get the tram capacity right, as many arriving by train will want to get straight on a tram to perhaps have a sightseeing run up and down the promenade.

One factor affecting the extension of the tramway to Lytham is the Open. Golf has staged its championship four times at Royal Lytham Golf Club in the last twenty-five years. As it last staged an Open in 2012, it should probably be due another. Ansdell and Fairhaven station is close to the course, so if another Open was to be staged at Lytham, then this station would probably play a large part in getting spectators to the event in a carbon-free manner.

I would suspect that Lytham are pushing hard for another Open and they are stressing the 2016-electrification to Preston in their bid. They can probably link an improved train or tram service to the course into the mix as well!

One interesting asset well connected to the trains and the tram is the old Blackpool International Airport, which recently closed. I’m sure that the town will use it to their advantage and I suspect various stakeholders have ideas in mind.

Blackpool has certainly had problems, but I would hope it is now on the rise!




November 1, 2014 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , | Leave a comment