The Blackpool Tramway extension connects the promenade tramway with Blackpool North Railway Station. It’s well on the way to completion – take a look and see how the site’s changed…
The £22m extension forms part of Talbot Gateway regeneration project around Blackpool North train station. It includes:
- demolition of the former Wilko store,
- completion of the new tramway interchange at Blackpool North Station,
- a new underpass,
- four-star Holiday Inn hotel and restaurant,
- new retail outlets.
- two brand new Flexity2 trams will provide for extra passenger demand.
Phases of Work at Talbot Gateway
The transformation of the area around Talbot Road is known as Talbot Gateway – as it’s a main route into town. And it’s a large area of land which is being regenerated – so it’s being worked on in phases.
The first phase saw the construction of Sainsbury’s supermarket, the development of offices and Bickerstaffe Square. It now accommodates more than 1,000 public and private-sector employees including Blackpool Council.
The Holiday Inn and Tramway Terminus marks Phase Two of the Talbot Gateway project in Blackpool’s Central Business District. But this isn’t the end of the transformation around here! Phase Three includes the restoration of The Hop pub and conversion into a dentists. Plus clearing land and building a new Department for Work and Pensions office block.
Even that isn’t the end – with the announcement in 2023 that the new Blackpool ‘Multiversity’ will be sited off Cookson Street as Phase Four.
Why does Blackpool need a Tramway Extension?
The Blackpool Tramway Extension is excellent news and a huge step forward in continuing to regenerate Talbot Gateway. It will create more jobs for people in Blackpool and a stronger economy for everybody in the town.
Almost two million journeys go through Blackpool North train station every year and rail journeys to the resort are growing. 1.8m people per year arrive at Blackpool North railway station and 80% of them travel on to the Fy1, FY2 and FY4 postcode areas. The extension will capitalise on the electrification and growth in rail travel. It will make journeys for residents, commuters and visitors from the train station much easier.
Over five million people already use the current tramway every year. That number is growing and passengers are extremely happy with the service they get from Blackpool’s modern, accessible trams. Growing demand for tram and train travel shows that the Blackpool tramway extension is sure to be a success.
The extension will also be the linchpin at the centre of the second phase of the Talbot Gateway. It will be a huge boost to the resort when it opens.
What will it Look Like?
When complete, the new Holiday Inn hotel will stand where Wilko once used to be. The tramway extension will take you to from the promenade to the tram stop sited at the side of the new underpass to Blackpool North Station. You’ll be able to connect from tram to train really easily with a bright, modern entrance into the station.
From North Pier, new electrical lines and new tram signals have been installed overhead.
The completed extension also means more trams on the network and more frequent services. It will connect North Station to the Promenade giving a direct link to shops, hotels and leisure attractions and easier commuting for residents. And the new tramline will be cleaner, greener, quieter and more reliable.
On the Drawing Board…
As a local authority Blackpool Council can’t just dig up the roads and build a tramway. First they had to make an application for an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992, for powers to construct, operate and maintain the extension. That was granted by Central Government back in March 2018.
Our tramway extension is one of six infrastructure projects to be delivered in the county by Transport for Lancashire. That’s the body formed in 2015 to develop, approve and fund major transport schemes. They have a multi-million pound budget, devolved by the Department for Transport from 2015/16.
£16.4m towards the estimated £18.2m total cost of the project is to be met by Transport for Lancashire. The group includes the region’s three transport authorities, Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council, together with the private sector led Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The proposed scheme was also subject to final funding approval by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.
Route of the Blackpool Tramway Extension
The new tramway leaves the promenade at North Pier to travel along Talbot Road to Blackpool North Station. With stops along the way, the regular service will improve local travel for everyone. And, to improve the look of Talbot Road, there are also new highways and footpaths.
You can read the original Blackpool Council brochure for the Tramway Extension, you can download it here.
Building the Blackpool Tramway Extension
Start at the very beginning of a long project which is nearing completion. See how long it takes to deliver something on this scale, and the steps that went into it. It’s been fascinating to watch the transformation of a run-down block into a brand new, modern facility.
First Job: Laying the New Tram Lines
Visit Fylde Coast correspondent Barrie C Woods did a sterling job of documenting the progress of construction work on the new tram track. These photos of works taking place along Talbot Road are from July 2018.
Tramway to Wilkinsons!
Another update from Barrie C Woods. As he says, the tramway looks like it’s heading straight into the front doors of Wilko’s! Photos taken on 31st October 2018.
Moving on a few months and to the junction with the promenade, this is the next stage of construction, in January 2019 –
The stretch of carriageway between West Street and Queens Square reopened in March 2019.
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Demolition of Wilkinson’s
The next job for contractors was to demolish the Wilkinsons supermarket building and car park. Now, the next phase of Blackpool’s town centre regeneration is well underway and expected to complete in 2023.
The store closed at the end of March 2020. We went along to take some photos just before the doors shut for the final time –
Preparation for the demolition began on 1 June. The first proper knocking down of the external building began on Monday 14 September 2020. We couldn’t resist going along for a look, capturing history in the making in photos and video –
Surprised at how quickly the building came down, we popped back on day three for another look.
And a couple of weeks later it’s disappearing rapidly!
Our friend Barrie C Woods took these photos of demolition, at dusk on 4 November 2020. It all seems a long time ago now!
Carrying out the Work
Blackpool Council and development partner, Muse Developments jointly appointed Robertson Construction Group. Muse entered into a Development Agreement back in March 2009.
Preparation for demolition of the Wilko store and car park, which ceased trading at the end of March, began on Monday 1 June 2020.
Construction of Steel Framework at Talbot Gateway
Key members of the development team met on site on 30 June 2021 to mark the next step of the multi-million pound development at Talbot Gateway Phase Two. The first steelwork is now in place for the 4* Holiday Inn and Marco Pierre White restaurant.
We also went to take a look for you – here’s video from that point in the progress –
Here’s an aerial view of the site from the top of the Blackpool Tower. Thanks to Steven Hughes for sending this photo, taken in September 2021, where you can see the site taking shape –
By April 2022 (below) you can really tell what’s happening with the hotel structure in place and the tramway extended into the site.
Management Company & Marco Pierre White sign to Talbot Gateway
Published November 2020
It’s official: In October 2020 hotel management company RBH and Marco Pierre White’s restaurant signed to the Talbot Gateway development.
Muse Developments is Blackpool Councils development partner on Blackpool’s flagship Talbot Gateway regeneration project. Hotel management company RBH, Holiday Inn and Black & White Hospitality (owner of Marco Pierre White’s restaurant chain) will operate the New Holiday Inn Blackpool Hotel.
Holiday Inn Blackpool will boast 144 bedrooms as well as Marco’s New York Italian restaurant. It will create up to 50 new full time equivalent jobs.
RBH is a leading independent hotel management company. Their existing portfolio of 45 branded and independent hotels across the UK already includes the Imperial Hotel.
Marco’s New York Italian
Inspired by his Italian heritage and love for New York, Marco’s New York Italian restaurant will reflect the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. Plus Marco’s passion for classic, simple, authentic food. You can look forward to a mix of Italian-inspired dishes and American classics from a menu created personally by Marco himself.
Nick Taplin is Chairman and CEO of Black and White Hospitality. He added: “This New York Italian is perfect for Blackpool. It represents friendly, casual dining and will give locals and visitors a great new place to go out and eat. It’s not pretentious, it’s just good food, served in a great environment.”
Tramway Testing in 2022
Tramway testing took place during June 2022 at the new Talbot Road extension. The track, signalling and lights were all thoroughly tested, with trams every 10 minutes. The trams will open to passengers once the hotel is complete. Take a look at the progress here
On Monday 4 July 2022, we were thrilled to be able to take a ride on one of these test trams! Capturing the moment as it made its way along Talbot Road from the new Terminus to North Pier tram stop. Come with me and enjoy the ride!
Traces of Tramways Past
Juliette Gregson is one of the contributors to Visit Fylde Coast. She captured traces of the original tram lines of the Layton route, which once ran along Talbot Road. They’re a brilliant glimpse of the past.
These photos were taken when Phase One work was carried out at Bickerstaffe House and Sainsbury’s.
The tramway did once follow this route along Talbot Road as you can see from the next photo. This route closed in 1936.
Following Blackpool’s First Major Tramway Upgrade
The 11 mile long Blackpool seafront tramway re-opened in 2012 following a major £101m upgrade project. This saw the track replaced from end to end, with new stops for accessible boarding. The signalling and electrical infrastructure was also replaced and upgraded.
16 new Bombardier Flexity2 trams arrived in the resort, housed in the new tram depot at Squires Gate. The new trams have level boarding, making them accessible for all disabled users, they provide faster journey times and a more energy efficient service.
As you might expect, the improvements heralded an increase in passenger numbers from 2m in 2008/9 to 5m people in 2015.
Provision was made at the time for expanding the tramway in the future… And here we are, 10 years later, with an extension to Blackpool North!
Important to the Town
Local people have been at the centre of the project to ensure the wider community can benefit. Robertson Construction has worked with Blackpool and the Fylde college, to provide real opportunities to people throughout the project and beyond.
They’ve established a Sector Based Work Academy (SWAP) with Build Up Blackpool and Department of Work and Pensions. The aim is to support the local community throughout the project and to promote skilled training opportunities in Blackpool. Ten long term unemployed residents have undertaken five weeks of training leading to a CSCS card (Construction Skills Certificate Scheme) over the coming months. Blackpool and Fylde College will also run virtual work experience for their T level students using the Robertson Tower City Project.
Creating New Life
Talbot Gateway is hugely important to the town. This phase of development will offer many things to the town. Brand new retail locations and an improved leisure offer to boost the night-time economy. There’ll be more choice of high-quality accommodation for leisure and business visitors alike.
With the tramway terminus at the centre of the redevelopment of the site of the former Wilkinson’s store it will support a more integrated and connected use of our transport system.
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