Blackpool to London rail link-up promise welcomed

Virgin train
Image caption Virgin scrapped its Blackpool to London service in 2003

Campaigners have welcomed plans to restore direct trains from Blackpool to London from next year.

FirstGroup made the announcement after it was revealed the company had won the West Coast Mainline franchise from Virgin.

However, trains will still have to change locomotives at Preston until the Blackpool stretch is electrified after 2015.

The company also plans to run direct services from Bolton to London.

Paul Nettleton, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Rail User's Association, said: "It's great news. Nobody is going to miss Virgin - they ended the last service."

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said he was delighted with the announcement but added: "The challenge to the local council and local businesses is that they cannot assume that economic benefits will come automatically from this link.

Party conferences

"There has got to be a plan on how to make the most of it and people have to use the service - it would be a shame if we lost it after the connection has only just been restored."

Mr Maynard said the restoration of the London connection might help the resort regain some of its lost autumn political party conferences.

Natalie Wyatt, managing director of Marketing Blackpool, said: "It is early days as far as this announcement is concerned but the news that a direct train service will operate once again between Blackpool and London is obviously very welcome."

Virgin axed its direct Blackpool to London services in 2003.

A Virgin spokesman said restoring the Blackpool link had been part of its plans had it retained the franchise.

FirstGroup plans to run its services from Bolton to London starting in 2016.

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