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As Covid-19 virus restrictions have now eased, it is hoped that people will return to using public transport freely and that more will join them. Continued home working and the virus's economic impact will have unpredictable transport consequences. As a consequence of changed working patterns, operators have made flexible fare products available, complementing existing season products.
In line with its climate emergency, transport and planning policies, the council is keen to promote sustainable travel modes (public transport, cycling and walking) with the public realm, de-congesting and air quality benefits this has. Nevertheless motor vehicles are an important part of the Blackpool economy and a well maintained and functioning road network is a central corporate aim.
The overall aim is to ensure that both visitors and residents can get to and move around the resort freely, using a variety of transport modes. A modal shift to sustainable modes will assist the council in achieving its net zero goal.
Blackpool Council aims to control congestion, improve the public realm, reduce pollution and decrease accidents on the town's roads by managing traffic effectively, working with local transport operators and agencies, making Blackpool better for residents and businesses. Effective transport systems are essential to the resort's economy and vital to its regeneration, particularly as new developments including the Winter Gardens conference centre and the Blackpool Central project come on stream.
Up to 18 million visits per year are made to enjoy the town's attractions, coming 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 to encourage repeat visits and investment.
A local transport plan implementation strategy document [PDF 292 KB] 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. Also, the council has worked with Lancashire County Council to develop a fylde coast transport masterplan [PDF 2.08MB].
It is challenging to fit all the facilities that are needed - bus stops, taxi ranks, on-street parking, cycle parking, loading bays, pedestrian crossings etc - into what is a densely built-up place.
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. The council continues to look for extra money to pay for repairs.
Traffic lights are managed under the Community Lighting Partnership. Any faults with traffic lights or pedestrian/cycle crossings can be reported here. The Local Transport Plan apportions resources to upgrade road junctions and traffic control systems.
government makes additional funding available for specific purposes such as repairing pot holes or responding to the damage that severe winter weather can cause. £667k has been made available to repair potholes during the financial year 22/23.
The council has worked with Lancashire County Council to develop a Rights of Way Improvement Plan [PDF 880KB] . This runs between 2015 and 2025.
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, the council assesses what transport arrangements will be made throughout the duration of the works and after they have finished.
The council has worked with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership to implement the town centre quality corridors scheme, which has improved the town centre public realm. Church Street, Cookson Street, Dickson Road, Topping Street, Edward Street, Deansgate and Talbot Road were identified as priority areas for this investment of Local Growth Deal and LTP resources. This project is now completed. Further such opportunities will be sought, including from the government's Levelling Up programme.
The Town Centre Quality Corridors project also included the Blackpool Property Improvement Fund intended to finance shop front improvements, subject to approval and a match funding contribution. Properties in Talbot Road, Topping Street, Edward Street and Deansgate have been improved.
The council full business case submission to the government's Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, in partnership with Blackpool Transport Services, was successful. The business case was submitted to the Department for Transport on 28 January 2022. This success means that a 115 strong state of the art electric bus fleet will be provided, together with a depot rebuild and refurbishment. The first electric buses are scheduled to arrive in Summer 2023 with the project completed in 2025.
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. The renewed system had its 10th anniversary in April 2022.
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 have collaborated to extend the tramway system, benefiting the entire Fylde coast. At the time of writing, The Blackpool Tramway Extension Scheme, connecting the tramway to Blackpool North railway station from the promenade, awaits completion of the Central Business District 2 scheme following the former Wilkos store demolition. New platforms within the site are being constructed for a 2023 opening. 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 a public transport link between the 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.
Concerning road traffic, 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. Variable message signage is now directing drivers to the car park spaces that are available and Bluetooth technology to monitor and manage traffic flows is in use.
The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership 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.
The partner Department for Transport funded scheme has complemented the Integrated Traffic Management Scheme, enabling a state of the art traffic guidance and queue management systems to be installed, to reduce 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 the government's Transport Technology Forum 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 and this is anticipated to play a growing role.
Funding for a Town Centre Access Scheme (TCAS) intended to increase road network resilience, improve public realm and support cycling and walking is being sought from the government's Levelling Up Fund. If this bid is successful, work might start in the autumn of 2023.
In its Bus Back Better document, the government presented a National Bus Strategy intended to force the pace of improvement in bus services and increase people’s use of this road congestion busting and ‘green’ transport mode. At a local level Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) will set out how this will be achieved, and local transport authorities (LTAs) including Blackpool Council have been asked to prepare these. Blackpool's first plan was submitted to government for the 31 October 2021 deadline.
Blackpool residents can view the plan revised in 2022 using the link below. The plan now forms the basis of an enhanced bus partnership that is being put in place. This is a formal agreement with operators to improve local bus services. Unfortunately Blackpool's plan has yet to receive any additional funding therefore the measures it proposed cannot be implemented. However, it is hope that they can proceed if further resources do become available. The plan will continue to be revised on an annual basis.
Blackpool Council's bus service improvement plan [PDF 798KB]
The council declared its intention to prepare and make an Enhanced Bus Partnership to local operators. Following an operator objection period, the council now intends to extend public consultation as required under legislation.
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 Coastliner Buses. Timetables, useful smartphone apps and other information can be found on these companies' sites, including bus service real time information. Stagecoach Bus and Blackpool Transport Services Ltd are operating contactless card payments on its vehicles, the latter a tap on/tap off system, removing the need for change. Using season and flexible bus fare products reduce bus travel's costs significantly in comparison to walk up fares.
A trial real time information (RTI) screen has been installed in the former Blackpool Transport Services shop on Market Street, Blackpool, providing information for transport hub services. A further fourteen RTI screens are planned to be installed in town centre bus shelters.
If travelling into Blackpool, the PlusBus system offers seamless interchange between rail and bus/tram services. Simply ask for the Plus Bus add on when you purchase your train ticket, or take up the prompt if buying on line or via an operator's app. For Blackpool visitors, this offer is for both bus and tram. Soon the tramway will come right to the railway station's door and with PlusBus the passenger will be able to transfer smoothly from train to tram for their onward journey.
Additionally, Northern Railway now offers through ticketing from train to Blackpool Transport Services Ltd bus and tram services. Ask for this when you buy your train ticket for seamless public transport into and around the resort.
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. Together with more people cycling, this is becoming more important to combat air pollution and achieving net zero.
The council always keeps town centre bus stop arrangements under review. A transport hub focused on Market and Corporation Street with good service information was completed late in 2019. These works have allowed buses to be removed from Clifton Street and be better focused in the transport hub area, making it easier to find the right bus. Further services use Abingdon Street and Queen Street stops.
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 promenade 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.
Blackpool Transport Services has a fleet of Euro 6 emissions standards compliant 'Palladium' branded vehicles, which offer a very high ride quality and passenger environment. As noted above, it is intended that electric buses replace these vehicles.
During the Covid pandemic period, the government supported the council's Rideability Community Transport Service. The table below shows the amount of this support:
Rideability CBSSG claim
Rideability CBSSG Claim
Public transport offers a real alternative to car for commuting purposes for many, particularly if discounted season products are used, which may be purchased using operators' smartphone apps. The council seeks to encourage further bus use as this would ease peak time town centre congestion and pressure on parking. As town centre employment grows and more people inevitably drive in, highway and parking resources will be managed carefully. Town centre focused employment means that rail may be a more viable commuting option for many, particularly as new and more spacious trains with wi fi connectivity have now been brought into service. Avanti trains offer direct services to London Euston and Birmingham New Street.
The coach industry continues to bring many people to the resort and this is valued. The Central car park site, provides for year round scheduled National Express services and scheduled seasonal services.
Coach parking locations are identified in the parking services section of this site. This also provides information on the paybyphone app that enables 72 hours free parking for coach vehicles. Foxhall Village, Seasiders and South facilities are all marked for coach. For a more town centre location, Banks Street is also so marked and is signed.
The need for new and better coach facilities is kept under ongoing review and is being addressed within the Blackpool Central project. Coach can provide an alternative arrival mode 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.
Minor works for cycling can be funded from the Local Transport Plan programme, including cycle parking. The council is working with Lancashire councils to establish cycling and walking plans in line with government policy.
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.
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 now provide three of the four regular hourly services. The York service now benefits from the class 195 diesel train with its far superior facilities compared with its predecessors. The introduction of new electric and diesel train on Blackpool's rail routes was completed over the course of 2020.
Since April 2016, Northern Railway has provided services at Blackpool North and Blackpool South stations. These are direct to Manchester Airport, Manchester stations, Liverpool, York and Preston/Colne (South Fylde Line). This company's website provides all timetable information. In September 2020 the government announced that it would abolish the rail franchising system and replaced this with management contracts.
The Avanti West Coast company assumed the West Coast Partnership franchise from December 2019 and continued the three direct London services and early morning service that the former franchise holder had undertaken. This company has moved to develop its services, providing greater access to Birmingham as well as maintaining access to London.
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. It is also seeking direct trains to Scotland, which the resort has lost and are seen as economically very important.
The council lobbies the railway industry for more rail investment. 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, the south and connecting the resort's businesses to London. The council is a stakeholder in the Transport for the North organisation, which is looking at new strategic transport links for the entire north, together with technology based transport solutions.
The council supports the South Fylde Line Community Rail Partnership. With support from local MPs, a strategic outline business case proposal to make improvements to enable the line's frequency to be increased to two trains per hour, has been submitted to the government's Restoring Your Railway Fund and is now being worked through. Although it is not in Blackpool, the council also supports the Poulton and Fleetwood line reopening project, which has received money from the Restoring Your Railway fund for feasibility appraisal work.
Transport policy promotes equality and helps people to participate in society. An LTP strategy equalities impact assessment has been prepared and is available to view on request.