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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Point Break

An all too frequent sight along the tramway is the track (street scene) crew attending to repairs at point sections. The latest being crossovers at the Foxhall which require attention. A previous blog in 2015 noted the same work being carried out at North Pier. The problem lies in the lack of thermit welding on the joints themselves which would have prevented a loosening of the rail section. Bolts which affix the side plates (above) also required a nylon or similar thread to avoid track vibration wearing loose. These were requirements of the points and rail manufacturer (Austrian) and should have been part of the rail installation contracts. Apparently supervision on the part of the Council was not undertaken when track points were inserted and secured, with the consequence that initial years of use are causing original fittings to wear loose. It should be mentioned that this does not suggest a possibility of rail displacement which could lead to a tram derailment. However regulatory requirements of 'light rail operation' place clear obligations on the Council which has responsibility for infrastructure - and vehicles classified as light rail operation compliant. Not an easy task for a very small team to deal with in all weather conditions, and eleven miles of double track (and overhead) to maintain.

A consequence of this omission would seem to be an increasing number of sites

along the entire tramway (with the exception of Bispham) where new bolts need fitting onto the 'fish plate' and rail - above. Welding of the track base plate on the point section is also a further step to ensure vibration of wheels over the track do not lead to loosening of these rail connections at point junctions of which there are quite a few from Starr Gate to Fleetwood.

Combined with the lowest quality shelters installed on the tram platforms and damage inflicted by sustained high winds on this exposed coastal line (one shelter being completely blow away at Bispham) with many glazing panels blown out - the incessant noise and rattling of the wheelsets under the Bombardier tram design

shows that the Council's workforce now has plenty of remedial work to deal with at Blackpool taxpayer's expense. The failure of the roof on the new tram depot at Starr Gate on what was a supposedly efficient design for its seafront location also suggests that this £100 Million scheme falls somewhat short of the quality control expected by Government. It is to be hoped that a further £10-£12 Million of public expenditure to run trams up Talbot Road to North Station (if approval is given) gains an absolutely better level of contract oversight by professionals engaged in this important tramway expansion.

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