Nottingham's user friendly trams
Continuing on with some first impressions from a visit in Nottingham an early example of joined up planning and design is the multi faceted information and marketing of the city's two line tramway under the brand 'Nottingham Express Transit' - NET. All trams carry timetables and latest material on 'the LINE' in a monthly pocket publication promoting both the services as well as the locales and venues along the routes.
In the January 2016 issue both Notts County FC and Clifton Market are among several sports, cultural and retailing centres with current information sections. Many of the trams in the fleet are named with a mix of historical and current personalities prominently in view at each end of the tram. The latest being Vicky McClure. There are many lessons for Blackpool's tramway marketing and image by a brief encounter with Nottingham's operation.
Ticketing systems made easy with simple to use options and clean equipment to a high standard of maintenance. This is the heavily used city centre station.
An equally important asset are the station stops along the two routes. Some thought (and investment) has gone into the design and styling of the tram shelters all of which follow a common format. With no onboard farepaying the importance of providing the fullest information to visitors on ticket prices, deals and ease of purchase before boarding is self evident. Large screens and integrated signage make this all important facet more or less simple for the first time rider. As mentioned in the previous blog at the important park and ride station stops (there are seven) friendly uniformed attendants are on hand to provide guidance and a welcome to the NET tram service.
The shelters themselves have warm coloured coated seating and substantial panels that are unlikely to rattle or be blown away in high winds. Electronic IT units are installed at each platform to allow voice communication with the tramway operating centre - as well as a means of additional security. The contrast with Blackpool's ramshackle cheapjack shelters couldn't be greater. Every stop has electronic next tram arriving times on display - no failing signage I could see - which is an important feature for all users and of course allows update information when there are breakdowns or accidents delaying services.
The reserved track section I rode on was free of any litter or broken fencing and the traction poles were smartly painted or of the untreated steel variety. Road crossings over permanent right of way/reserved tracks were all controlled by signals and evidently had a short dwell time for road traffic when a tram was approaching.
The system also had island platform stops in certain places requiring double sided operation. The two extensive lines co-mingle through the city centre to give a high frequency operation along ten of the fifty individual tram stops on the system at present. As I visited on a Sunday it was difficult to judge the intensity of operation on normal working days or Saturdays - but even so the city centre never seemed to be free of either trams arriving and departing at the main stops.
Quite evidently Blackpool Council has a long way to go to attain the quality of investment which is to be found in Nottingham - and some glaring deficiencies are apparent in both infrastructure and the quality of trams. NET's 'Citadis' models are from the most successful of light rail designs in the world. A trip to Nottingham is an inexpensive way of comparing Blackpool's 'Flexity' units with their hard based seats and rattling running gear, with comfortable riding qualities in the East Midlands.