Blackpool to London link hits the buffers

The proposed direct rail link between Blackpool and London, which was intended to run as often as five times a day, has been axed after Network Rail decided its lines were already too busy.

Virgin TrainsVirgin Trains, which had planned to operate the service, said it will appeal the decision and it has the backing of two local MPs.

Gordon Marsden, Labour MP for Blackpool South, said: “We need urgently to have some detailed analysis which justifies this decision, not an arrogant throw-away line about a trade-off with punctuality.

“Network Rail cites the performance of the West Coast Main Line not being good enough, but that is surely a reason for them to get their own house in order rather than blocking a direct service to the people in Blackpool who could do with one.”

Paul Maynard, Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, added: “I am utterly horrified that Network Rail has penalised Blackpool and the wider Fylde coast.

"Network Rail has declined Virgin’s application on the grounds that it can find no path for the service to use. This is despite the secretary of state’s very clear message that he wanted to see services to Blackpool.”

Virgin last ran a service linking Blackpool to London in 2003. It had hoped to reinstate the service, offering a morning and afternoon route, before possibly increasing the frequency to five routes per day in 2016. Currently passengers must switch at Preston.

However, Network Rail said that it was impossible to accommodate the extra route on already crowded lines.

A spokesman said: “There are twice as many trains using the West Coast Main Line as a decade ago and, just like a busy motorway during rush hour, more trains mean that if something goes wrong, the knock-on effects can be significant.

“We have acknowledged that performance on the West Coast line is not good enough and we are taking steps to improve performance on the route. However, adding more services onto what is already the busiest mixed use railway line in the UK would mean a trade off with punctuality. “It would have a significant negative impact on performance for the thousands of other passenger and freight services that rely on this route every day.”