JOHN'S BLOG: TRAM TALK TODAY

Disclaimer :   The opinions and commentary voiced on this page are those of the author and do not have automatic endorsement of the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust (Registered Charity) unless otherwise stated.

Follow the regular updates on the Trust's projects, comments on Blackpool's bus and tram network and transport issues around the UK and further afield.

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Councillor Callow gets it wrong

Abingdon Street in better times. A four minute frequency service most of the day to Royal Oak along Church Street, Whitegate Drive and Waterloo Road. Image : John Woodman Blackpool Council voted this week to approve the tramway extension to North Station. The Labour ruling faction voted in favour whilst the Conservative faction voted against with one exception. Councillor Callow (representing Norbreck Ward) argued in support of the taxi drivers who vocally opposed any trams running to North Station - on the grounds of traffic delays caused by traffic lights at Talbot Square/North Pier to facilitate trams turning to and from the North Station terminus (among other traffic issues). C

Bus stuff

Not Number 349 but a sample of Blackpool's current double deck fleet in 2016. Having just returned from a doctor's appointment - must exercise more or else - I found myself behind a Blackpool (BTS) bus on Talbot Road. Whilst we recognise that buses emit diesel fumes these are normally kept to a minimum by careful maintenance and legal limits. Not so this bus. For the benefit of BTS staff this was Bus 349 on the 14 service to Fleetwood at noon today. At every stop on leaving the bus spewed out noxious black fumes and an exceedingly unhealthy dose of particulates. I believe the last time I saw a Blackpool bus with a similar level of exhaust was in the 1950s when the ageing pre-war Titan

Tram stuff

The turmoil in Westminster following on the Referendum result, resignation of the Prime Minister, implosion of confidence in the Leader of the Opposition within the Shadow Cabinet are just two salient challenges facing the UK Government and all of its Departments of State. The focus of Government Departments is now on the implications to all aspects of UK policy and administration by the decision to leave the European Union. Normal Parliamentary and Government business whilst not suspended has priorities elsewhere in the coming weeks and months, with the added likelihood of a General Election before the end of the year. Consequently procedural issues affecting Blackpool's light rail exte

Trams to the Station(s)

News that the Midland Metro tramway is to be extended in Wolverhampton with a new terminus at Wolverhampton Station replicates the initiative in Blackpool which will bring the seafront tramway to Blackpool North with street track running from the promenade. Both networks are pursuing parallel goals which involve town centre regeneration as a principal objective. The Wolverhampton extension is costed at approximately £18 Million - not dissimilar to the capital cost of the Blackpool scheme. For the West Midlands operation it also means a service which runs between three principal mainline railway stations - Snow Hill and New Street in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. It will be interesting

A shock to the system

June 23rd 2016 will be more than a footnote in history. At least in Britain it will be remembered as the day when a majority of the British voting public stuck two fingers in the air to the leaders of all political parties - save one. Having been given the rarest of chances to exercise their opinion in a binding national referendum on an all embracing issue - they took it. The faultlines between the capital and its environs and the rest of England were laid bare as far as faith in the UK government and its policies were concerned. Every voting district in Lancashire overwhelmingly determined to exit the European Union - from the University cities of Lancaster and Preston, to the rural a

BLACKPOOL - BRITAIN'S MOST EUROSCEPTIC TOWN

Channel 4 devoted an important segment of its evening news on Tuesday to a report from Blackpool. The subject ? Polling analysis which concludes that this town is the most eurosceptic town in the country - by far. A fascinating series of interviews with a cross section of people (not a politician or political activist in sight) included performers at the Tower Circus, centre residents, working mens club and visitors revealed antipathy at best with the idea of Britain's continued membership of the EU. Despite the unending pleas of this government and its retinue of well-heeled supporters (mostly from the Home Counties or outside the UK) the overwhelming mood in this part of the country i

The full circle

Britain's embrace of electric trams started, more or less, in Blackpool. Some would argue that actually its origins lay on the far north coastline of Ireland and the Portrush hydro electric powered third rail operation near to Giant's Causeway. In any event the Germans had beaten us to it in 1881 with demonstration of electric power on railed vehicles. Overhead trolleypole current collection was later initiated in Richmond, Virginia quickly sweping away all of the weird and wonderful formats used hitherto. The Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad's trolleypole operation being an early example in Britain (although far from being the first). Certainly it was demonstrably far superior to the tr

Is Blackpool a better place to live and work than five, ten, twenty years ago ?

We can only measure our lives by the familiarity within our own communities and the level of comfort we experience. Invited to register our beliefs on whether the UK is better off staying as part of the European UNION places us in the middle of a tug of war between those seeking our vote to 'Remain' and the case made for an 'Exit' from structures outside the writ of Parliament now controlling our lives. Looking around Blackpool - a town I grew up in and familiar with throughout my entire life - it is hard to define the actual level of economic distress attributable to Britain's membership of the EU - and that which is the consequences of 'market forces' affecting all of us wherever we liv

Fathers Day

Fathers Day 2016 saw two FHLT Trustees at work on the Trust's collection of trams at Wyre Dock (if only briefly due to rain). Colin MacLeod opted to transfer a nesting seagull pair from their 'traditional' perch on top of Centenary 643 to the less impressive surrounds of a Edinburgh tram top deck closeby. Colin also gave a very clear indication of his personal Referendum intentions by commissioning a personal T Shirt for the occasion. Note the Marton Vambac picture in the background. I was kept busy transferring items from 643 stored there for the Trust ahead of the tram's removal from Wyre Dock next month. Trailer T7 is now the official storage area for a variety of material parts and

Welcome back Regent Cinema

A remarkable turn of fortune will see the former Regent Cinema on Church Street open its doors again for screenings of films. The landmark white tiled structure a few hundred yards further east from the former Hippodrome site was built in 1921 and closed as a cinema in 1969. Looking very much the same as its original condition (externally) just missing a canopy and illuminated 'REGENT' exterior sign - this building was very much part of the Marton tram service up to 1962. The trams needed to stop at the Regent Road traffic lights before proceeding along Church Street. On on notable occasion heavy fog meant the driver of Vambac car 10 mistook the traffic light signal (or perhaps it was t

Oh what a lovely ride

Classic buses in service on the promenade - an added Blackpool attraction. It was a back to the future morning in Blackpool when carless I was tempted to take a bus ride along the promenade and ended up spending a few hours on Catch22 buses. First along was a London Transport RML (Routemaster) en route to Blackpool Zoo - a journey I had never previously sampled so I decided to go the whole way. Inside the bus is a timewarp with London advertising cards still on both decks and the original Park Royal makers badge by the stairwell. Period moquette and windows needing to be wound open made a big change from the normal 'hopper' design bereft of neat little handles. Chrome grab rails were

Brexit looms

The continuing outpouring of doomladen pronouncements from the walk on cast of yesterday's politicians suggests just a whiff of panic amid those urging Britain remains beholden to Brussels godfathers - aka the European Commission. Unable to capture any real enthusiasm for the European Union per se - the 'Remain' side in this Referendum are left only with enormous buckets of cold water to throw over this country's belief in itself and its people. A chorus line of old familiar faces - Blair, Brown, Major, Heseltine, Mandelson and so on have been hastily drafted on stage to buttress a now tired mantra of the Prime Minister and Chancellor that we are all doomed if Britain leaves the EU : cast

Tram Ridership = more trams

One of the reassuring aspects surrounding Blackpool Transport's operation of the tram service is the steady increase in ridership over the past year. Still with the base number of sixteen trams in the fleet - the ridership nudged 5 Million riders in the twelve months up to March 2016. An increase of 600,000 over the previous year's figures and a commendable result from the additional frequency added to the base service. BTS are hopeful that passenger numbers will rise further during the current financial year to above the 5 million mark. I'm sure they will. Understandably this comes at a cost of crowded trams during the peak holiday season, bank holiday weekends and the illuminations pe

Goodbye to Copse Road Depot

The demolition crew is hard at work reducing the historic Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad depot on Copse Road to rubble. The area will make way for expanded second hand car sales parking for the Owners. At one point the FHLT were provided with a short term lease arrangement which would have allowed the Trust to develop a small tram museum within the structure. Significant limitations on usage and planning issues caused this worthwhile endeavour to stall in 2012. The adjoining Sub Station which contained original equipment installed by Blackpool Corporation in the early 1920s became the focus of our initiative to 'rescue' the sectioned control panels covering the overhead power distribution

Centenary 643

Centenary Car 643 was recently acquired for a new role. The Owner travelled to Wyre Dock this week to inspect the Centenary car as a preliminary to making arrangements for its transfer in the near future. The destination is currently confidential and the FHLT are assisting with preparations for its removal from Fleetwood. The tram is destined for a worthwhile future in the Midlands - with final details to be revealed in July. Below : The Owner inspecting his acquisition this week.

Bill's bus

Blackpool and its surrounds offers those with interest in transport history quite a mix of heritage surprises - not just on the promenade tram tours. An equal if not more 'back to the future' experience is in evidence courtesy of Catch22bus services. On the same day I found myself encountering an open platform Routemaster heading along the seafront en route to Cleveleys whilst further north on Victoria Road a pristine Blackpool Corporation Transport Atlantean was paused to allow its driver a regulated break. Below : Classic Blackpool bus and driver June 7th 2016 The driver was happy to extol the unique experience of driving a bus from an era now consigned to the 1980s when Blackpool

Trams by the dockside

Image : Copyright Smiemans Projecten The Trust's outline proposals to create a permanent heritage transport attraction at Wyre Dock were given an airing in the local media this week following the briefing to Fleetwood Town Council recently. It is important to stress that the exploratory exchanges so far with the Owner of Wyre Dock (ABP) have not taken our interest in a specific site by the dock to a formal stage. However the Trust's objectives are likely to form a part of a wider redevelopment scheme that will be reviewed with a property advisory firm being engaged by ABP for this purpose. In order to differentiate the Wyre Dock display from the 'shedlike' structures which normally hous

Lessons from Chorley's Market

Chorley Council have responsibility for the management and operation of the town's market. Competing as it does with the usual spread of supermarkets including Booths - the market is a vibrant focus for the community. A diversity of traders surround the market together with cafes and bars in a mainly pedestrianised zone. The market itself is full with hardly any vacant space - and not a mobility scooter dealer in sight. Bright colours and lighting, clean flooring and plenty of space to walk in between the rows of stands. No grazing places intrude on public walkways. All of this contrasts with the run down state of Abingdon Street Market which has seen far better times. Only the exterio

Ignorance is bliss - Vote Out

Most of the UK news media are primed to close their eyes to the increasing social unrest and economic woes of much of the EU. It is revealing that the only in depth coverage of the major dislocation to public services and energy supplies across France - is to be found on Russian Television (RT) and its UK broadcast channel. The likelihood of travel disruption on land, sea and air into and through France increases by the day with the UEFA Cup Competition now threatened by confrontation between Unions and the French Government. Energy supplies for petrol stations and power stations needing oil and essential resources (including specialist labour) are already causing significant problems. I

Crossley's Bridge is falling down

Crossleys Bridge as generations knew it : A shock announcement this week by Blackpool Council warned of the planned closure of an important bridge over the railway line to Poulton and Preston from the end of the Illuminations. Crossley's Bridge, so called because of the former sawmill and woodworks adjoining the railway close to Layton Station - is unsafe following detailed inspection of its structure. Its demolition has been ordered and a replacement road bridge to be constructed over a ten month period. Preparatory work begins next month with total closure from November when the existing structure is demolished. A new bridge will be constructed in 2017. The railway line underneath

Working to conserve for display, trams and artefacts of the longstanding coastal tramway serving Blackpool, Thornton Cleveleys and Fleetwood.

 

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