Railwatch

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Railwatch 071 - April 1997

North West

By Robert Cummings

Virgin impact Virgin's entry into the railway business has heartened rail users in North West England. A promise of new rolling stock on Cross Country has been followed by an announcement that Virgin would double the frequency of Manchester-Birmingham trains and reintroduce direct services to Blackpool, deserted by InterCity back in 1992. A Blackpool North to Glasgow service will commence on 2 June 1997. Expect a huge launch! Services to Birmingham and the South West are expected to follow.

Rail users welcome closure The recent announcement that the single line between Kirkham and Blackpool South stations would close for eight weeks to allow the 12 miles of single track to be completely replaced with continuously welded rail has delighted users in the Fylde, despite the initial disruption that will be caused. The scheme is part of a £7 million investment in track improvements at up to 70 locations around the North West, removing speed restrictions and improving ride quality. The welded rail will dramatically improve services operated by the notoriously bouncy Pacer units to Blackpool South. The RDS-affiliated Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users Association has called on Railtrack to provide a passing loop along the line while the renewal is being carried out, allowing reliability to be improved and capacity to be doubled.

Dogged The Goyt Valley Rail Users Association has been awarded a grant of £100 by the RDS to launch a campaign to restore regular train services between Stockport and Stalybridge and provide a new service between Stockport and Marple on existing, under-utilised, lines. The route between Stockport and Stalybridge has a once weekly (in one direction only) ghost train service, on which the association organised a "mass" train ride of 28 people and three dogs to draw media attention to its potential.

Folk on line An initiative to entice more passengers on to lightly used evening services has proved remarkably successful with over 50 people riding on each of the two Folk Trains so far run between Manchester and Edale. A folk band plays in one carriage of the Hope Valley train to Sheffield. Alighting at Edale Station, band and audience continue the musical evening in an adjacent pub before returning on the last train. All for the price of a return ticket and a pint or two! The success of the event has encouraged the organisers to provide future Folk Trains, while looking to expand into Jazz Trains.

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