London route is ‘long overdue’

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Commuters in Fylde were celebrating the long-awaited news this week that direct services between Blackpool and London had finally 
returned.

On Monday, Virgin Trains received the green light from rail bosses to run direct services from Blackpool to London Euston after an 11-year absence.

The new direct service will begin on December 15 – with Kirkham and Wesham being one of the stops on the new West Coast Main Line route.

Coun Elaine Silverwood, chairman of the Kirkham and Wesham Business group, has welcomed the news and believes it to be long overdue.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled to hear this fantastic news.

“I know there has been lots of lobbying done by Mark Menzies MP and Coun Liz Oades to secure this.

“For Kirkham to be a part of this route is brilliant news.”

The Express’ sister paper – The Gazette – launched a campaign to secure the service which saw 5,000 Fylde residents sign a petition.

The service will depart Blackpool North at 5.25am and is due to call at Kirkham and Wesham at 5.40am, before arriving in London at 8.34am.

The return service from London Euston departs at 4.33pm and arrives back at Kirkham at 7.14pm and in Blackpool at 7.31pm.

Lead executive for Virgin Trains Philip Whittingham said: “It’s an exciting time for everyone involved with Virgin Trains.

“We have worked hard with our industry partners to gain the approval for these new services. Special thanks must go to the ORR, Network Rail and the Department for Transport. We thank them all for this big vote of confidence.”

A spokesman for Network Rail added: “Direct trains between London and Blackpool will be a valuable addition to the services which already connect both towns to the rest of the rail network.

“They will provide greater business and leisure opportunities and will support and develop local economic growth as a result of improved access to the capital.”

However, Coun Silverwood hopes the news this week will mean extra investment in Kirkham and Wesham station in order to cope with the inevitable higher 
demand.

She said: “I do hope as a result of this news, there will be some investment into making sure the station becomes compliant within the rules of the Disability Discrimination Act. Huge improvements are needed to ensure that the station becomes more user-friendly.

“Although I am really excited to hear the news, this has got to be good news for all the local businesses in the Kirkham area and the many local commuters like myself that make the journey on a frequent basis.”