A rare sight this week has been the toing and froing of Balloon car 700 in regular service as far as Fleetwood. Whilst the seasonal heritage travel along the Promenade has become pretty much an accepted part of Blackpool's visitor scene this year - the use of double deck trams in normal service is definitely an 'upgrade' in and of itself.
Just how far this initiative will be pursued is very much an open question which only BTS management can answer. However waiting passengers at Cleveleys (and stops north) must have taken a second look at a double deck tram bearing down for all stations to Blackpool. Funding for conversion of the core double deck cars to allow them to operate as part of the light rail service was sanctioned in the total upgrade package. There can be no disputing the relevance of these cars in future operation.
Cleveleys Station - 21 October - all stops to Pleasure Beach from Fleetwood
Of course it will be especially interesting to see them roll up Talbot Road as far as Blackpool North and the proposed transport interchange when this extension comes to pass. None of the streamline cars of the 1930s ever ran as far as Layton terminus or along Talbot Road. Arriving visitors in 2019 or later being confronted with a 1930s Preston built tramcar will certainly need some explanatory signage before boarding from the station. Manchester's monolithic fleet of yellow light rail cars blend in well at Victoria. It will be a very different story when double deck 'Balloons' are parked at North Station terminus for detraining passengers arriving from Manchester or other parts of the 'northern powerhouse'.
Of course once upon a time it was possible to catch a tram to Blackpool Airport. Lytham Road tram service terminated just a short distance away from the more rudimentary airport facilities in the 1950s. In fact only in Blackpool could one find trams with Airport on their destination screens - that is until Manchester's Metrolink finally made it to Ringway (sorry: Manchester International). I believe Edinburgh's new line also serves that city's airport, much to the annoyance of Glasgow naturally. For the moment however you will need to fly to Hong Kong or Alexandria, Egypt in order to catch a ride on a double deck tram in regular service - or you could just simply get on the next Balloon car to Fleetwood...... Well done BTS