In spite of the harsh weather conditions Blackpool Council's track gang - otherwise known as the 'Permanent Way' crew have been continuously at work over the past two months - grading and putting in foundations and electrical conduits for the new Norbreck North tram stop. Whilst it may seem simplistic to build a low platform station there are far more regulatory requirements to meet under the light railway criteria than hitherto in tramway days.
Like nearly all other sections and departments of this Council - staffing and budgets have been continuously trimmed and inexorably reduced especially for the coming financial year. Maintaining the infrastructure of an eleven mile line (double track) is no easy feat for just nine staff. Nonetheless their remit this winter has included provision for installation of the first additional station stop since the light rail upgrade in 2011.
A most welcome aspect of this endeavour is news that Norbreck North will be kitted out with a new type of shelter, improving on the bog-standard products which were commissioned along the entire line as part of the £100million upgrade. Apparently the 'upgrade' didn't extend to the shelter contract. Damage inflicted on the tram shelters by both weather and vandals is not being repaired: a decision having been taken to replace the lot with a better quality design. Whether this will be done in time for the 2016 season is unclear. Below : the new southbound platform in place awaiting the shelter, railings and lighting.
In the meantime strong winds some gale force have not deterred the hardy team of workmen from getting on with delivering the new station stop infrastructure by Easter. In preceding blogs reference has been given to the 'Permanent Way' cars which provided transport and convenient shelter for the track gang. No longer. Now the Permanent Way staff are part of 'Track Services' using road vehicles to get around, including of course a former BTS bus. A glimpse of progress at Norbreck North this week - with driver training in full swing using two of the upgraded 'Balloon' cars, one of which is seen below.