Trams to the Station(s)
News that the Midland Metro tramway is to be extended in Wolverhampton with a new terminus at Wolverhampton Station replicates the initiative in Blackpool which will bring the seafront tramway to Blackpool North with street track running from the promenade. Both networks are pursuing parallel goals which involve town centre regeneration as a principal objective. The Wolverhampton extension is costed at approximately £18 Million - not dissimilar to the capital cost of the Blackpool scheme. For the West Midlands operation it also means a service which runs between three principal mainline railway stations - Snow Hill and New Street in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. It will be interesting to see if the local taxi drivers put up as much fuss in the latter town as they have done in Blackpool.
With the exception of Layton Station (originally Bispham) all of Blackpool's railway stations were served by tram - even Squires Gate (up to 1936). North, Central and South had tram stops immediately outside the station buildings - and in the case of Blackpool North (originally Talbot Road Railway Station) it had two seperate tram services - one heading north and the other going east along Talbot Road to Layton.
The Layton service was very short in distance terminating outside the Cemetery Gates, but the Tramways Department planned an extension running as far as the old Windmill Public House which marked the junction of roads leading east to Poulton and northwards on to Bispham. The scheme was dropped after the Great War when lobbying for motor bus services took hold in Council. Details of the Layton tramway extension can be found in Rigby Road Publications title : Blackpool Corporation Tramways Motor Bus Operations 1921 to 1932. A few copies of this title are still available.
Most electric tramways made sure their services connected to the nearest mainline railway station. However in London it is notable that both Euston and Kings Cross avoided the intrusion by trams. In fact the economics and social benefits of tramway and heavy rail interchanges are evident in most towns and cities across Europe (if not the world). In some cases trams run into the station precincts with 'seamless' transfers across platforms to and from mainline trains. I well recall arriving by Eurostar at Brussels to be confronted by signs prominently pointing to tram services just outside the station terminus in an undercroft below the mainline railway tracks (not dissimilar of course to Glasgow Central). Here a constant stream of PCC cars arrived and departed in those days. Belfast was ahead of the game in the British Isles with trams running into two mainline railway stations - with the ability of passengers to travel from Dublin up to Belfast and catch a tram home without leaving the station. But this was unique. Unfortunately topography and road infrastructure is not going to allow Blackpool's trams to similarly run into the Blackpool North terminal precinct. Early conceptual proposals suggested this might be the case and also included bus services sharing the tramway stop.
The increase in ridership arising from a frequent service (double track) from the promenade to Blackpool North is likely to be considerable and the marginal increase in the existing fleet by just two units may well be woefully inadequate in summer months. Blackpool Council have put a display in Central Library with detail of the new line to North Station and visuals on how it will look in service. With acknowledgement - a few samples :
Images : Courtesy Blackpool Council