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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

dots wraps and vinyls - britains contribution to tram development

As the UK continues to see deliveries from Europe of million pound trams to the second generation tram systems created over the past twenty odd years (all seven of them) - it is wonderful to see local investment being added to these expensive imports before they enter service here.

All those grey dots being meticulously positioned on the sides of the German trams serving Greater Manchester must take some doing. Now the Croydon fleet is being enlivened by 'pop art' style vinyl wraps being added (locally of course) to the latest German arrivals on that system. Nottingham opts for vinyl transfers of 'names' on the sides of their light rail vehicles - French imports this time; whilst Edinburgh I believe provided their Spanish fleet with modest exterior embellishments.

Blackpool's sixteen German trams were adorned with end vinyls after delivery to Starr Gate Depot to break up the otherwise dour dark purple (funereal?) livery ordained by Blackpool Council (and not by Blackpool Transport). Not that this does much to improve the public image of the light rail fleet - with the unfortunate double deck examples becoming the objects of an even more retrograde exterior finish. Local content at its best - all those UK jobs at stake.

Artistic licence at work - livery embellishments dreamt up somewhere best forgotten to otherwise break up the dark driver's cab exterior features. These 'add on' features being the sum total of UK local content on the multi million pound contract.

As the Chancellor extorts the country to tighten its collective belt (can't get much tighter in the north) - the case for developing a UK assembly resource/plant/partnership for future light rail schemes is breathtakingly evident. Whether any of the handful of usual suspects supplying new trams to European customers would entertain such an option on their own volition? I hear pigs flying overhead. As things stand, against a backdrop of HS2 HS3, Crossrail billion pound infrastructural investment goodies for large contractors (usually foreign owned) or looking to employ contract labour from elsewhere in the EU etc - it seems unlikely that we will see new tram tracks being laid in a town or city near you anytime soon. Nothing grabs headlines more than 'Billion pound capital projects' - the modest schemes impacting on communities outwith the Home Counties having far less 'spin' for the opinion fixers down south.

Ironically Blackpool's extremely modest Talbot Road extension from the Promenade to North Station/Bickerstaffe Square/Talbot Gateway (take your pick) would appear to be a possible go, after umpteen years of consultation over a few hundred yards of street track along what is now disgraceful urban streetscape in the centre of Blackpool. The faster our visitors are transported between Blackpool North and the promenade the better - each passing year sees even greater deprivation on what was once the town centre's principal thoroughfare. Blue plaques anyone ?

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