Blackpool has a population of 143,000, within a Fylde Coast total of 300,000. It is one of the most deprived local authority areas in the UK. Car ownership is low, and the 2011 census reveals 36.7 per cent of households without car access. The Fylde Coast is heavily dependent upon tourism and leisure businesses, with 13 million visits per year. The tourism resorts have suffered from competition from package holidays to non-UK destinations, meaning a key regional challenge is to maintain a competitive position within a European and indeed globalised economy.
The 20km Blackpool Tramway is the oldest in the UK, dating from 1885. The surviving system’s increasing obsolescence (including lack of trams suitable for access by disabled persons) and maintenance costs, threatened its closure. Despite this, the system was carrying 4 million passengers each year, 85% of this in the tourism season.
Sintropher helped to fund a major upgrade of the Tramway to latest European standards as well as feasibility studies into extending the tramway on to the main line railway which would link to the Preston regional/national rail hub. The feasibility studies concluded with a preferred option of extending the Tramway to Blackpool North Station. Investment of £20m has been successfully leveraged for construction, with anticipated completion in 2018. Also, options for upgrading the South Fylde Line (a neglected heavy rail route with poor service) were examined, including tram or tram-train with a new connection to the existing Blackpool Tramway - and strengthening the investment case by linking this to territorial development opportunities along the corridor.