Supporting Blackpool's economy
Blackpool Council aims to control congestion, improve the public realm, reduce pollution and decrease accidents on the town's roads by working with local transport operators and agencies, making Blackpool better for residents and businesses.
Up to 17 million visitors per year also come to enjoy the town's attractions, coming from from all over the country and beyond, for which reason the resort needs high quality access to national transport networks.
On arrival, visitors must have excellent gateways into Blackpool to gain a good impression, encouraging repeat visits and investment.
A local transport plan implementation strategy document explains what the council's transport policies are. The current plan will be in force between 2018 and 2021.
The strategy addresses the needs of all transport modes and their users. Effective transport is essential to the resort's economy and vital to its regeneration, particularly as new developments including the Winter Gardens conference centre come on stream.
It is a challenge to fit all the facilities that are needed - bus stops, taxi ranks, on-street parking, loading bays, pedestrian crossings etc - into what is a densely built-up place.
Maintaining highways assets
The local transport plan programme (LTP) includes schemes to repair roads, footpaths and bridges to the value of resources available of around £1 million per annum. These have been insufficient to prevent decline in recent years. In response, a programme called Project 30 using prudential borrowing to fund repairs to roads and footpaths was delivered and which is now finished. The council continues to look for extra money to pay for repairs.
A bid to the Government's Local Highways Challenge Fund to repair the resort's bridges was successful. Together with Local Growth Deal money, controlled by the Lancashire Economic Partnership (LEP), this has enabled an £11.365 million programme to bring seven strategic bridges to a good standard. This will be completed by spring 2019 when work to the Devonshire Road bridge is finished.
As it is such a high strategic priority, the council has dedicated considerable LTP programme monies to support this work. The first bridge repair at Princess Street was completed on schedule prior to the tourism season's start in spring 2016, followed by the Plymouth Road bridge in 2017. Harrowside was finished in February 2018 and Squires Gate in March 2018. Work on the final major bridge at Devonshire Road is on site at the time of writing.
The council was successful in its bid to the government's National Productivity Investment Fund for resources to maintain further sections of the vital Yeadon Way highway. This success makes £3,350,000 available to spend on important repairs.
Government occasionally makes additional funding available to repair pot holes or respond to the damage that severe winter weather can cause.
In February 2017, Blackpool Council was pleased to be allocated £494,000 from the government’s National Productivity Investment Fund, which has been spent in 2017/18 in accordance with its Local Transport Plan objectives. The funding has contributed to four schemes that will add resilience and longevity to the highway network and improve public transport:
- The transport hub on Market Street to improve interchange for buses and ranking for taxis, now complete
- Making Cookson Street two-way between George Street and Caunce Street, integrated with the town centre quality corridors programme
- Structural maintenance on the Promenade, as certain key stretches of this strategic road are in urgent need of repair
- Essential maintenance to key structures that are not covered by the bridges investment programme
The council is committed to maintaining and improving public rights of way and has worked with Lancashire County Council to develop a new Rights of Way Improvement Strategy that runs between 2015 and 2025. The strategy is available here.
Encouraging sustainable development
Good transport links to the wider economy are crucial to encouraging inward investment in Blackpool. Residents and businesses need good access to workplaces, shops, schools, education, health care and roads or public transport services to neighbouring towns. When any large developments are proposed in Blackpool, an assessment by the council is required to outline what transport arrangements will be made throughout the duration of the works and after they have finished.
Following completion of the north fylde line's electrification, Virgin Trains restored three daily return journeys between London Euston and Blackpool North railway station from 21 May 2018, using the Pendolino train. One of these trains has been named 'Blackpool Belle'. These services are in addition to the early morning service already in place. The resort also benefits from a one-way Saturday morning service from Birmingham. Access to London, Scotland, the West Midlands and other large conurbations is recognised as a key consideration for those who might invest in Blackpool. The council is keen to see improvements to the Preston hub railway station, as so many people change trains there to come to the resort.
The council is working with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership to implement a scheme called Town Centre Quality Corridors, which will improve the town centre public realm.
It has been determined that Church Street, Cookson Street, Dickson Road, Topping Street, Edward Street, Deansgate and Talbot Road will be priority areas for this investment of Local Growth Deal and LTP resources. Church Street works were completed during 2017. It is hoped that the Talbot Road scheme will be integrated with the tramway extension scheme on the same corridor. After final designs had been developed, the scheme went on site early in 2017 with a target completion in 2020. The Town Centre Quality Corridors programme will finish in the spring of 2020 when works in Deansgate/Topping and Edward Street are finished. In addition to highway surfacing improvements, this project also includes the Blackpool Property Improvement Fund intended to finance shop front improvements, subject to approval and a match funding contribution.
The council has worked with Lancashire County Council to develop a Fylde Coast Transport Masterplan. This document can be viewed here.
Supporting transport innovation
Blackpool Council and Lancashire County Council have worked together to renew the tramway from Blackpool to nearby town Fleetwood, enabling a fleet of 18 modern 'Flexity 2' trams to help people travel between Fylde Coast destinations.
Heritage trams continue to use the system, providing a service for tourists and enthusiasts and making a fine sight as they ply the Promenade.
The two councils now wish to extend this system. The Blackpool Tramway Extension Scheme connecting the tramway to Blackpool North railway station from the promenade is on site at the time of writing, with an anticipated spring/summer 2019 opening date. The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has provided funding. This scheme will improve public transport access to Blackpool's seafront hotels and attractions, particularly the Pleasure Beach, and connect the North Fylde to the national rail network. It provides an essential public transport link between the developing Blackpool Central Business District and the wider area. The tramway extension will provide a valuable light rail complement to the bus network and can help reduce congestion and parking pressures on the town centre.
The Fylde coast councils have been partners within the SINTROPHER (Sustainable Integrated Tram-Based Transport Options for Peripheral European Regions) project, providing 7.2m Euro from the European Union Interreg IVB initiative to study ways in which the tramway might be extended. This concluded that a scheme to initially extend the tramway to Blackpool North railway station should be pursued and it has proved possible to do this.
A second phase SINTROPHER project headed by Lancashire County Council with Blackpool Council's support, has considered how the South Fylde Line might be improved to best meet the Fylde Coast's regeneration needs. This single-track line provides a vital local rail service and brings many visitors to Blackpool from East Lancashire, to the extent that there has been over-crowding on the trains. The study's conclusions are available on the SINTROPHER website.
New traffic flow management technology can help to reduce congestion, pollution and accommodate the traffic growth that is likely to follow from economic regeneration, including growing town centre employment. In addition to rolling measures to improve and fine-tune existing traffic control systems, two integrated schemes have been implemented for which external funding has been awarded following successful council bids.
The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has granted approval for Local Growth Deal resources to fund a Blackpool Integrated Traffic Management Scheme. This uses a sophisticated parking guidance system that operates variable message signing to reduce wasteful car park search trips and thus lessen network congestion, particularly within the important Promenade public realm area. This came into operation early in 2018 and is anticipated to make a significant visitor economy contribution during its operation.
A bid to the Department for Transport's Funding for Innovation: Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems competition was submitted on 30 September 2016 . In January 2017 it was announced that this bid had been successful, making a total budget of £260,000 available to enable state of the art traffic guidance and queue management systems to be installed on the road network, with the aim of reducing congestion across the resort. This project has been completed, its technology gathering information to be used to improve traffic flow around the town. The council is continuing to work within a Department for Transport working group intent upon promoting digital traffic management technology, particularly SMART parking guidance. This is a continuing process to maximise technology's benefits to the Blackpool community.
Supporting local public transport
Blackpool benefits from a high-quality bus network. The council's intention is to increase the number of residents and visitors using the bus, in line with the Local Transport Plan. Services are provided by Blackpool Transport Services, Stagecoach Bus, Preston Bus and Catch22 Bus. Timetables, useful apps and other information can be found on these companies' sites. Stagecoach Bus is now operating contactless card payments on its vehicles, removing the need for change.
More people commuting by public transport means less congestion, less air pollution and an improved environment, including for cyclists and pedestrians. The vehicles, services and payment options are in place to make this happen.
The council always keeps town centre bus stop arrangements under review. In the absence of a bus station, it is essential that the best use of on-street stops is made. A transport hub focused on Market and Corporation Street with good service information is being implemented; phase 1 in Market Street complete. Funding has been apportioned within the 2018-2021 LTP programme and at the time of writing phase 2 in Corporation Street will go on site as soon as possible. On completion these works will allow buses to be removed from Clifton Street and be better focused in the transport hub area.
There is no site to provide a bus station at the moment and such would be a major undertaking when no obvious funding source is available, also requiring the network to be re-routed.
The council recognises the important role taxis and private hire vehicles play in supporting the visitor and night-time economies. The role landaus play in providing pleasure trips is also acknowledged. Regular dialogue occurs between representatives of the trade and council officers concerning network and ranking issues, ensuring that appropriate ranks are available. Taxis and private hire vehicles reduce the need for car ownership for the occasional car user. They provide an essential link between transport hubs, hotels and attractions.
A successful bid to the Government's Clean Vehicle Technology Fund was submitted. This has allowed 25 older buses to be fitted with polluting emissions control technology, improving town centre air quality. These vehicles came back into service in their improved configuration during 2015 and 2016. Blackpool Transport Services has embarked on a programme to re equip with Euro 6 emissions standards compliant 'Palladium' branded vehicles and this is well advanced. New vehicles for the 3 and 4 routes were launched on 25th June 2018.
Public transport offers a real alternative to car for commuting purposes for many. The council seeks to encourage further bus use as this would ease peak time town centre congestion and at other key junctions.
The coach industry continues to bring many people to the resort and this is valued. Drop off and pick up facilities are provided at the Central car park site, which also accommodates year round scheduled National Express services. It's intended to improve the facilities' aesthetic appearance for the 2019 season, including the booking office. This office run by the Tanzo Go organisation, which also supports local coach operators.
Coach parking locations are identified on an interactive map in the parking services section of this site.
The need for new and better coach facilities is kept under ongoing review. Given that parts of the railway network are often closed at the resort's peak bank holiday periods, coach can provide an alternative to trains for visitors who do not drive and seek value for money travel to Blackpool's attractions.
The VisitBlackpool website provides advice to coach passengers and coach operators.
Blackpool has several cycle routes. Cycling on the Promenade is a popular activity, particularly using the Jubilee Cycleway to the North. This route and others are intended for leisure and commuting cycling at low speeds and not racing, training or other fast riding, particularly as pedestrians including children are also using this space. With recent sea wall works at Anchorsholme now complete, it is possible to cycle with care all the way between Starr Gate and Fleetwood on the Promenade.
Cycling is permitted in all town centre areas, with care and indicated by cycle symbol 'flags' let into the ground. A Blackpool cycle map is available on this site.
The council participated in the Cycling England Cycle Towns programme (2008 and 2011), providing new routes and sporting facilities. Work to build on this legacy continues. Improvements to the A587 corridor were made using resources from a successful bid to the Government's Cycling Safety Fund. Further minor works are funded from the local transport plan programme, including cycle parking. It continues to promote cycling for transport, sport and leisure.
The council has worked with Northern Railway to provide cycle parking at Layton station. Northern Railway has provided excellent covered cycle storage at Blackpool North railway station.
The Blackpool Cycling Forum has now been disbanded, following its final meeting in June 2015.
Around a million visitors arrive by train each year and summer services can be crowded. Following the North Fylde Line's electrification over the winter of 2017/18, electric trains will increasingly be used to provide services. The York service will benefit from new diesel trains with far better facilities than those that have been used previously.
Since April 2016, Northern Railway has provided services at Blackpool North and Blackpool South stations. The company's franchise requires it to provide direct services to Manchester Airport, Manchester stations, Liverpool, York and Preston/Colne (South Fylde Line), when the full timetable is in place. This company's website provides all timetable information. As noted, Virgin Trains has joined it in operating from the refurbished Blackpool North station.
Rail infrastructure operator, Network Rail, completed North Fylde Line electrification in the early part of 2018. Blackpool North railway station's platforms were rebuilt and re-signalled to allow more efficient operation and therefore more trains in the future. Electric train services started at Blackpool North station on the 20th May 2018. At the time of writing, it has been announced that the May 2018 timetable will be rolled forward in December 2018 and the implications of this decision for Blackpool are being monitored. New trains to serve Blackpool will be starting to arrive at this time. With the electrification between Manchester-Bolton-Preston due to be completed and the line operational for the spring, rail services for the 2019 tourism season should be vastly improved.
The Alliance Rail 'open access operator' has been granted approval to commence operating six daily services using refurbished electric trains from Blackpool to London from September 2019. It is intended that these services call at Poulton-le-Fylde, Kirkham and Wesham, Preston, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes.
The council lobbies the railway industry for more investment in Blackpool rail services. It is a member of the West Coast Rail 250 group, which has been instrumental in improving the vital West Coast Main-line, bringing visitors from Scotland and the south and connecting the resort's businesses to London. Recently the council has supported the Rail North organisation, which will be helping manage the northern rail franchises, and is a stakeholder in the Transport for the North organisation, which is looking at new strategic transport links to benefit the whole of the north.
The council has supported the South Fylde Line Community Rail Partnership for many years. It is also a partner with Lancashire County Council in the Sintropher project's connectivity study on this single-track line line, with a view to seeking investment in the future.
Transport policy promotes equality and helps people to contribute to society. An LTP strategy Equalities impact assessment [PDF 76KB] has been prepared.