Above : Talbot Square in the days when trams passed the Town Hall - a far more amenable public space than the windswept concrete desert which has emerged in recent years. In the distance the tiled facade of Talbot Road Bus Station dominates the skyline facing North Station (out of sight). The trams of course are on the Marton service - every four minutes if you please. Photos : John Woodman
Plans to extend the tramway from the Promenade up Talbot Road as far as 'Talbot Gateway' development adjoining Blackpool North railway terminal seem to be gathering pace. The Owners of the Wilko store and property have a planning application to build a new town centre outlet which should secure approval this quarter. This will release the present site and operation for redevelopment and potentially allow additional space for a double track stub terminus within a few
yards of the station. The station itself, along with its approach tracks and platforms, is due to be extensively modified to allow for electrification of the line from Blackpool to Preston, as well as handling longer units running into Blackpool.
Plans by Blackpool Council indicate application for Transport and Works Act for
the on-street extension from the promenade line at North Pier (for which a double track junction was incorporated in 2011) as far as the Talbot Gateway / North Station terminus are likely to be submitted with public consultation taking place ahead of final approvals anticipated during 2017. The existing tram fleet will need to be augmented to handle additional loadings and frequency (ten minutes) to North Station. How the North Station extension will fit in to the existing north south tram service is not known at this time.
If the orange signal changes to green in 2017 it is likely that trams will again run to
North Station from 2019 in time for the peak season. By which time the station infrastructure will have been reconfigured and more efficient access between the
bus, tram and train assets will have been put in place. Parallel with these improvements are proposals to implement 'Oyster Card' fare systems across public transport network in Lancashire/Northwest. This has major implications for
Blackpool Transport operations especially of course the trams which at present run with roving conductors. The introduction of real time tram / bus arrival information at all stops on the tramway - should certainly be a feature of improvements along the eleven mile service.
None of the above is guaranteed - but there are grounds for optimism in seeing these initiatives being realised within three years. There will naturally be need for
extensive road and utility work along the affected part of Talbot Road - much like the experience of laying new tracks (and platforms) in Fleetwood's town centre.
But given the parlous state of this area of Blackpool including Talbot Square itself - any new development can only be a major improvement to the townscape and its economy. One cannot survive on charity outlets, betting shops, drinking dens which seem to dominate this once vibrant commercial strip; whilst the town's civic heart is badly in need of a serious makeover. Ironically this may now come about with trams passing in front of the Town Hall - as they once did up to 1962. After that everything went precipitously downhill.