The potential for an integrated metro system that incorporates services to the
diverse communities in south Wale is now looming closer to a reality. This follows announcements of invitations to operators and funders for a £600 Million scheme
that takes in both existing heavy rail lines as well as new connections and on street running.
Tram train style operations may well emerge from this latest initiative (outside of England) promoted by the Government in Wales which has ability to promote and support infrastructural projects on this scale. Hopefully without the dead hands of the Department of Transport calling the shots.
Cardiff last saw trams running through its streets in 1949. A wonderful coastal tramway linking Swansea with Mumbles and electrified with new double deck trams in the late Twenties regrettably fell victim to bus mania in the 1960s (although this is outside of the ambitious scheme announced for Cardiff and its catchment area for commuters).
There are tenuous links between Cardiff and Blackpool transport wise ! For a start Blackpool's tramway hosted the test running and demonstration of the 'CityRunner' demonstration articulated tram which was built in Cardiff. The new light rail upgrade here required the services of the Cardiff City Tramways water car to clean the railhead of some of the track before opening of the line. Currently Catch22bus is operating a number of former vehicles acquired from the Cardiff bus system - still in their Cardiff colours and complete with bilingual notices - on its 6 and 22 Services. Below : Former Cardiff bus with its roofline proclamation 'capital transport for our capital city' and rendition of the Wales dragon symbol to welcome Welsh visitors to Blackpool in 2015. Courtesy of Catch22bus Ltd. The background shops are indicators of the state of the local economy in this once thriving town centre street - Abingdon Street.
Cardiff may well join Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Edinburgh and Nottingham with an emerging light rail network much to the annoyance no doubt of Liverpool, Leeds and other conurbations setting out their own case for similar schemes in the 1990s and being rebuffed by London bean counters and politicians. Here on the Fylde coast the merits of extending and expanding the light rail operation are forever the subject of studies, consultative papers, and mostly hot air wafted around from time to time. Even the few hundred yards street extension to Blackpool's main railway terminal is forever the subject of delays and obfuscation from planners and local interests. A tram train option remains very much on the cards for the south fylde railway and potentially serving the new Enterprise Zone and Airport along Squires Gate Lane. Fleetwood has to do with a superannuated diesel set of 1960s or 70s vintage to run from Poulton to Burn Naze thanks to the efforts of a local railway preservation society - but securing a credible and realistic railway service with modern technologies is obviously a step too far (for the time being). Self government seems a wonderful thing if you live in Scotland or Wales or London.
A brave new world. Demonstrator built in Cardiff shows off its profile against the backdrop of two tired Centenary Cars. Below : Safely parked up at Rigby Road in the electrical compound.
Photos : John Woodman Archive