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Ghost train haunted by lack of profit set to close

Carnesky ghost train which is to close down.

Carnesky ghost train which is to close down.

It cost hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to install, sparking widespread controversy.

Now Carnesky’s Ghost Train is to be shut down for good.

The South Promenade attraction will put on its final show on April 21 before being dismantled and its interior artwork sent to galleries across the country.

Blackpool Council bosses today said the installation had “run its course” artistically and was no longer financially viable.

In the last four years it has made an operating profit of just £600 against a start up cost of £285,000.

Both the council and latterly the Sandcastle Waterpark tried to make it work, but both have decided to walk away from the project.

Blackpool Council’s assistant chief executive Alan Cavill said: “After a discussion about whether or not it is fulfilling its artistic intent to give a new and different experience we’ve concluded it no longer does that. It either breaks even or makes a mild profit.

“Given it’s 10 years old, was it worth investing again to keep it going another season? The answer was no.”

When the ghost train was first installed at the Winter Gardens in 2008, the then Conservative administration at Blackpool Council brought it in as an arts project to feature alongside the Illuminations.

But it attracted controversy after costing £285,000 to initially install.

The investment was part of £875,000 the council had to allocate from its own budget to lever in £3.5m from the North West Development Agency.

The council secured a further grant of £150,000 – to spend on an Illuminations tableau – after the ghost train moved to its new home at Flagstaff Gardens, next to the Pleasure Beach.

The expense was criticised, although council bosses at the time defended the costs as they said the ghost train helped attract vital funding for such initiatives as the now annual Showzam! festival of circus, magic and variety.

However, it made a meagre profit.

John Child, managing director of the Sandcastle Waterpark, which operates the council-owned attraction, confirmed: “Since we’ve run it (from 2010) it’s made a profit of £600.”

The ghost train employed around a dozen self-employed actors per season.

The attraction will be stripped down after April 21 for the artwork to be redistributed, with council bosses hoping some will be retained in the resort.

The future of the structure itself will be decided once bids have been made for the land.

Mr Cavill said: “We will consider all options and see what’s best for the taxpayer.

“It will be nice to get something in place by summer.”

The plot is worth between £10,000-£30,000 annually in rent for the council, dependant on its occupier, he added.

Although the attraction was reasonably busy yesterday afternoon, staff said part of the problem was a lack of customers.

One said it was “a shame” to see the ghost train go but added it was a “sign of the times”.

But Christine Gilbrook, visiting the resort from Salford, said: “At these prices (£4.50 for adults £3.50 for children) I’m not surprised it’s closing.

“I also don’t think it’s advertised well enough.”

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