Newspaper report relating to the proposed Ribble Tunnel Scheme.
Lytham Times, 22 March, 1907.
Mr. Hardman’s proposals for linking up Blackpool and Southport with Wigan by a new railway aroused much interest at a meeting in the Blackpool Winter Gardens on Friday evening.
Mr. Hardman said it was with pleasure he conveyed to the Blackpool Traders’ Association of the heartiest wishes of the Southport Chamber of Commerce for the prosperity and success of the trade of Blackpool. The members of the Southport Chamber of Commerce had been considering for some time what would be the most feasible scheme for joining Blackpool with Southport by a shorter route in their mutual interests and to see whether they could not in reality make Southport and Blackpool one watering-place.
As the crow flies, Southport and Blackpool were twelve miles apart, but by rail the shortest route was 34 miles, and via Burscough to Blackpool Central was 42¼ miles. The missing link in the railway systems in the district was a direct line from Wigan to Blackpool passing either over or under the estuary of the Ribble, and the proposals which he submitted to the Southport Chamber of Commerce, and which their members believed to be the best scheme was a line from Wigan, following the Douglas Valley to Gathurst, through an important colliery district, then via Appley Bridge, with its stone quarries, corn mills, etc., to Parbold, a beautiful residential district; then on to Rufford, a picturesque old-world village, which would become an important centre of traffic, and from which station they could assume new lines would be constructed to Southport, and would form the junction for Liverpool, Ormskirk, etc., into Blackpool; then to Hesketh Bank, which would form the junction with he Southport and Preston line, crossing by a double tube railway underneath the estuary of the Ribble to Warton, going by a straight route to Blackpool, and obtaining running powers over existing lines or building independent lines in default of obtaining such powers. The members of the Southport Chamber of Commerce appointed a Sub-committee with a view to furthering this project, and he was appointed with Mr. Blakey on a deputation to the then Mayor of Blackpool, Coun. Broadhead, who received the deputation in a most cordial manner, and he, might say that at a Council meeting held the previous Friday the members expressed the great pleasure they would have in co-operating with their sister association in Blackpool. Obviously such a line would shorten the railway mileage in a very marked degree.
Mr. Haigh estimated the cost of the new line from Wigan to Blackpool, inclusive of the tunnel, at £1,800,000, including rolling stock and equipment. Careful statements had been prepared of the estimated traffic on a very conservative estimate of £170 per mile per week.
Then there were other stations like St. Helens, Oldham, Ashton, Stockport, West Leigh, etc., from which the new line would receive a large traffic and the mileage distances would be either similar or shorter than existing routes. The enormous mineral traffic of Wigan would obviously take advantage of the short direct route. The great advantage to Blackpool of the distance would be a saving of time in railway travelling and an automatic reduction of railway fares. Whenever a new line was made between points which shortened the mileage to get there the shortest competitive line ruled the rates and fares. Goods rates would also fall, and there would be splendid reductions in railway rates, with a large saving of time in transit of goods. Goods traffic from the South would be expedited by 24 hours, and Blackpool would get goods from London 16 hours after despatch.
He had had a very interesting interview with Mr. Sam Fay, the general manager of the Great Central Railway, and after discussing the scheme with him, he asked Mr. Fay what his opinion was as to the power of the short route to Blackpool to attract traffic, assuming three expresses started from Wigan to Blackpool at a given time, one from the Great Central on the short route, one from the North-Western, and another from the Lancashire and Yorkshire, and his opinion was the short route would unquestionably capture the bulk of the traffic. If the new line became an accomplished fact, that was by an extension from Wigan under the joint use by Great Central, Midland and Great Northern Companies, or by the two first-named Companies, the benefits they would each confer to the Fylde district would be incalculable.
First the town of Blackpool would be on the through main line, and not on a branch section, as at present. Secondly, it would also compel the present Companies (Lancashire and Yorkshire and London and North- Western), as a protection in their own selfish interests against the new competitors, to grant the full benefit of their centre line to the public use, and throw down the present restrictions. Even if this was done how fare and rate reductions would automatically follow because of the reduced mileage.
The London and North-Western at present did not push their Company’s traffic to the fullest extent to Blackpool, as they had seaside resorts on the North Wales coast which they catered for, also in the Lake District and Scotland. If the Midland and Great Central had an independent line into Blackpool, it would be to their interests to press its claims on their passengers.
The residents of Blackpool should do all in their power to further the proposed new line in order to obtain more visitors, and to secure more independent competition which would also make large towns more accessible. The completion of the Ribble “tunnel” would completely change the aspect of railway communication to Blackpool. Mr. Haigh and his friends had recognised that it was only the first link in a new system to serve the traffic of Blackpool, but it was of the greatest importance to Mr. Haigh and his friends to confine their energies for the present to the main Wigan and Blackpool line; the extensions to Southport and the north would follow. When the line was finished no doubt Northern outlets would be sought for!