Blackpool trams face the end of the line

MP fights for £88m funding
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The Independent Online

Fears are growing that the Blackpool tram network, which was famously used to kill off Coronation Street baddie Alan Bradley, is facing closure.

The 100-year-old tramway needs considerable investment and campaigners claim it will have to close if the Department of Transport fails to support an £88m funding application from local councils.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden has thrown his weight behind the bid and is set to fight the tram's cause in Parliament. "There are parts of the tramway that are in danger of being completely unusable and will have to close without the funding," he said. "And it is not just a tourist attraction, ordinary workers rely on the tram system."

An initial application was knocked back by the Transport Department, but a revised plan submitted in July 2005 has now received the backing of the North West Regional Assembly. Transport minister Derek Twigg has been lined up to answer the MP's demands during an adjournment debate in the House of Commons this Thursday.

But the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, does not have a good record in supporting tramway applications. In the past year, he has killed off the Merseytravel scheme in Liverpool as well as turning down applications in South Hampshire and Leeds. Mr Darling had faced the threat of a costly legal battle over the Mersey plan but the local transport authority recently accepted that a fight would be "futile".

However, in Edinburgh, where Mr Darling is an MP, a tram network is being built despite its cost soaring from £473m to £714m. Funding for this is the responsibility of the Scottish Office.

A Department of Transport spokesman said: "We consider every scheme on its merits."