Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England


Ribble Tunnel Scheme 1907

Newspaper report from 1907 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. J. Kemp, President of the Blackpool Tradesmen's Association, occupied the chair. There were also on the platform :—Messrs. T. Donnelly, J.P., Charles E. Hindle, J. Donnelly, Ald. G. W. Hellowell (Huddersfield); Mr. Hall (President) and Mr. W. H. Spring, St. Annes Tradesmen's Association ; Mr. Embley (President), and Mr. W. White (ex-President, Lytham Tradesmen's Association), Mr. Blakey (Southport), Coun. Dickinson (Secretary, Blackpool Tradesmen's Association.)

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. The following calculations were made very accurately as to the distances from point to point by the old route via Preston and the direct route.

From Wigan Great Central Station to Blackpool by new route 27
Present route to Talbot-road, L. and Y. 38
Present route to Central Station., L. and Y. 38
Present route to Talbot-road, L.N.W. 33
Present route to Central Station, L.N.W 36¼
From Wigan to Lytham via new route 21
From Wigan to Lytham via L. and Y 34
From Wigan to Lytham via N.W. route 29½
From Southport via the old West Lancashire Railway to Talbot-road  34
From Southport via the old West Lancashire Railway to Central Station  37
Southport to Blackpool via Burscough(Central Station)  42¼
Southport to Blackpool via Burscough (Talbot-road) 39
New Route to Hesketh Bank 21
Southport to Lytham via old West Lancashire Railway 29 ½
Southport to Lytham via Burscough 34¾
Southport to Lytham via new route 14¼
Liverpool to Blackpool via L. and Y. to Talbot-road 46½
Liverpool to Blackpool (Central Station) 50
Liverpool to Blackpool via new route, changing at Rufford 36
Liverpool to Lytham via L. and Y.  42½
Liverpool to Lytham via new route 29
Manchester to Blackpool by the L. & Y to Talbot-road  49¼
Manchester to Blackpool by the L. & Y to Central   52¼
Manchester to Blackpool by the N.W. to Central   53
Manchester to Blackpool by the N.W. to Talbot-road 51
New Route Manchester to Blackpool 48
Ormskirk to Blackpool Talbot-road  34½
Ormskirk to Blackpool Central 37¾
Ormskirk to Blackpool, new route 23½
Ormskirk to Lytham, L. and Y.   30½
Ormskirk to Lytham, new route   18

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, because from places like Bristol, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Burton, Worcester, Malvern, Hereford, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Derby, and from London and intermediate towns the receipts of all traffic would practically be local, and they would get the full advantage from the Great Central line. The London, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Oldham and Ashton receipts would be on the same basis. Thus those new Companies would be


whereas at present they had other places on their systems like Cromer, Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Bournemouth, Brighton, and South Coast generally. Then the new line would be of great benefit to the Fylde farmers, giving good transit to London districts of Shire horses and general live stock, also a fine competitor to Liverpool and Manchester districts for milk, vegetables, eggs, hay and straw, and as the mileage would be shortened fares and rates would be on a lower basis. It was of vital interest to traders to have the new Companies in, for as it was well known there was a 50 years mutual trade agreement between the Lancashire and Yorkshire and London and North-Western—there was in reality no competition.

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.

The Midland Company would certainly want to get Scotch visitors by their route to Blackpool. This could only be done either by a new connection via Hellifield or by Settle and Lancaster, or by a new, line from Lancaster to Blackpool. If either were eventually made, the Bradford, Shipley and Leeds districts would increase their, quota of visitors to Blackpool instead of to Morecambe. At present the Midland Company had a strong inducement to push Morecambe. Another benefit to Blackpool would be the


on the new line and stations for local rating purposes, and with the consequent development of the district by new property being erected it would also further increase the rateable values and relieve the burden of local taxation. The members of the Southport, Chamber of Commerce were debating whether Southport or Blackpool would reap the greatest benefit from the short connection between the two towns and the conclusion they arrived at was that it would be impossible to say for the purposes of the visitor to the two watering-places.

They would be, practically one as express trains could run in about half an hour, as the line from Southport was electrified up to the station at Crossens, the third station from Southport. It might result in an electric railway service from Liverpool, Southport to Blackpool, as assuming the Great Central line was extended from Wigan to Rufford, it would naturally endeavour to obtain an independent entrance into Southport. Further, one of the future developments of the scheme would be to develop a new port at Crossens on the estuary... of the Ribble, three miles from Southport, and train the Boghole Channel or South Channel of the Ribble up to Crossens, at which point the drainage of Marton Mere, or over 60 square miles of land drainage, poured into the sea, and which formed an ideal site for a new port, which might become equal to Grimsby or Goole for the coal traffic of Wigan.

It would be a strong rival to Garston, as it would be seven miles nearer to the coast. It would be the ideal site for a NEW ROUTE TO THE ISLE OF MAN, Scotland and Ireland, the best route from Manchester to the Isle of Man, and for the steam trawler fish traffic it would rival Fleetwood, and would become as important a yachting station in the north as Cowes was in the south. The opening of Crossens as a port would prove a great feeder of traffic to the railway. Already a new motor factory was being opened at Crossens, and it would develop almost as rapidly as Barrow, as it would have within a few miles one of the richest coal and iron districts in England.

When the railway was made with all connections no line in England could be constructed to tap such an enormous traffic:—two watering places like Southport and Blackpool, with the smaller watering places of Lytham and St. Annes, and linking up huge centres of population like Manchester and Liverpool, with the premier watering place of Europe, for traffic, as Blackpool was today in the season, and the possibility of a sea connection with the Isle of Man, Scotland and Ireland.

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, allowing 60 per cent for working expenses, which was a larger proportion than the expenses would work out to, as in the season there would be heavily packed passenger trains, and the 60 per cent for working expenses would not apply. The line should, immediately on opening, pay five per cent on the, cost of construction. It was bound to have very large traffic; in fact an abnormally heavy traffic in the season, and if worked as a Cheshire Lines extension from Glazebrook via Wigan to Blackpool it


and its securities should stand at high premiums; in fact it should become a tempting and a favourite investment with capitalists. There was another feature which he would like to dwell upon. If the railway was constructed at a cost of £1,800,000, at 4 per cent the interest on cost would be £72,000 per year. The saving in railway rates and fared to the Fylde district would almost equal the interest, so that if the railway did not earn a shilling of net revenue it would pay the community. He disbelieved in municipal trading or in municipal socialism, but it appeared to him that in their own selfish interests the municipalities of Blackpool and the Fylde district should support the new railway for the benefit of the community. He ventured to suggest that for Blackpool to assist the promoters of the new scheme by


if necessary to back it up, would be in their own interests. He was quite aware that he would be accused of advocating municipal trading or municipal socialism, but when he saw ,a solid reason to believe that a certain course was desirable in the interests of the community anyone who pleased might accuse him of socialism. Manchester men had the highest reputation for business qualities, and they did not hesitate to find five millions for their canal when required. In nine North of England countries, according to the last census there were no less than twelve millions of a population.

He believed no other country in the world had an equal number of persons living on a similar area of ground. It approached one half of the population of England, and was certainly more than one-half the commercial, industrial and manufacturing population which was the backbone of England's wealth and power. Imagine twelve millions of people with the improved methods of travelling almost at the very doors of Blackpool. Could there be any doubt of the scheme?

The huge industrial populations of Lancashire and Yorkshire panted to reach the seaside, and Southport and Blackpool were the lungs and playground of Lancashire. Of the many reasons showing the inadequacy of the existing companies to cope with the traffic they were better aware than lie was. There were good reasons and good grounds for the construction of a new railway, even if there was not the additional inducement of reduction of mileage distances and the reduction of fares and rates.

The late Ald. W. Smith in a speech twenty-five years ago told them at Southport how in 1854, when the line from Wigan to Southport was to be made, the Railway Company, after getting the Act, wanted to abandon it. But Squire Scarisbrick applied to the Courts for a mandamus, and it was now one of the most profitable portions of the L. and Y. system. The railway also from Liverpool to Southport was now the best bit of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. And he did not hesitate to say that if the Cheshire Lines Railway was carried into Blackpool the Blackpool extension would be eventually the


of its system. He trusted no feeling of jealousy might arise, as he might be considered to represent the trading community of Southport who hoped, and undoubtedly would reap a considerable benefit from the mutual interchange of traffic. They at Southport had a serious problem to face due to the fact that owing to the Ribble training walls the South or Boghole silting, causing the sea to recede from the, town and causing the most serious misgivings. That would have to be energetically grappled with in the near future.

He did not conceal from them the fact that Southport looked with envious eyes on the beautiful Promenade and glorious sea Blackpool possessed. If Blackpool visitors could enjoy their beautiful town combined with the opportunity of a short journey to Blackpool of one half hour it would unquestionably materially contribute to the prosperity of both Blackpool and Southport. T

hey could not at Southport offer their visitors the memories of some ancient town, perhaps glorying in its imperial minister, grey with the tender touch of a thousand years, with its battlemented walls inseparably linked with bygone days, and which from a hundred points came down to them with all the venerable associations of age and the struggles of the past ; but when their visitors did come to Southport they could show them long stretches of ,arid barren waste of sandhills, but amidst that expanse of sand, like a pearl in an oyster shell, was to be seen the new town of Southport, a town which was the creation of the industry, the energy, the intelligence of but one generation of living men.

Let them match that for them where they would. They would show them their broad streets, their well- ordered institutions, their means of maintaining their sanitary arrangements unpolluted and unstained, and of allowing the pure air around them to circulate amongst them undilated and undefiled, giving them health and vitality in that town.


Mr. White, ex-President of the Lytham Tradesmen's Association, supported a vote of thanks to Mr. Hardman, and remarked that what affected Blackpool in a matter of this kind also affected Lytham. He hoped that the scheme would be realised in a shorter period than had been mentioned by one gentleman, viz., five years, and he hoped to be at the Lytham end to welcome Mr. Hardman as soon as he came out of the tunnel. (Loud laughter.) If Lytham could do anything to help forward this scheme, he believed they would not be backward. (Applause.)