They don't fabricate track now like they used to
Hasty repairs were underway at North Pier this week to deal with a broken rail at the crossover. Blackpool Council's track team excavated the point blade box to
allow spot welding on a rail which had broken at a critical point. Comments suggested the problem was caused by drivers braking repeatedly as they approached the southbound North Pier stop with consequent stress on the rail.
The fractured rail head is being carefully repaired - this is the southbound track at the site of the trailing crossover connection used by heritage service cars.
All of the new rail used for the tramway upgrade was sourced from Austria or German suppliers who quoted a cheaper price than UK steel manufacturers. However the quality of the UK steel would have not allowed early rail fracture of the type in evidence - I was told. This begs the question 'pound wise penny foolish' in procurement of material for the tramway. So far we've seen the tram shelters either blown away and requiring anti corrosion paint applied to deter the effect of salt laden sea spray; the tram depot roof requiring extensive repair following gale force winds (not exactly an unknown phenonoma on the Fylde coast); replacement of metal plating initially inserted between platforms on the reserved track sections with non slip material; and now evidence of rail fractures, and dropped joints at key locations along the route.
Of course German tram systems operate perfectly well on domestic product and there is nothing to suggest Blackpool was supplied with anything less than the norm for its light rail upgrade contract. However as mentioned in a previous blog on the issue of UK steel producers facing difficult times - anything that Blackpool Council can do in ensuring UK suppliers for local contracts is to be welcomed. The miserable looking tram shelters along the entire line were sourced from a Polish supplier with what appears to be the least cost utilitarian cobbled together kit of parts - totally lacking in any amenity other than partial screening against wind and rain. Appearance wise they do absolutely nothing to enhance either the tramway or Blackpool's promenade. Fortunately Promenade bus services are now endowed with UK produced shelters that come with all round vision and more than a touch of class - which is sadly lacking on the tramway. When it comes to the North Station extension (more anon) hopefully procurement will take time to consider the benefits of higher quality materials all round.
The 'Permanent Way Crew' smart new modified BTS Solo - latest in a long line of former Blackpool service buses gaining second lives in the service of the tramway. Its side destination blind was set at 'ROYAL OAK'. Photos : John Woodman