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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Talking trams (and buses)

The type of Blackpool bus tested with driver's cab microphone and loud speakers fitted on both decks and similarly the type of Glasgow tram which also featured a trial microphone for the driver to announce next stops (and a lot more besides).

Both Images : John Woodman Archive

Blackpool's trams are the subject of fixated attention by hard core enthusiasts

monitoring every twitch of each tram in or out of the depots. This obsession extends even as far as a change in the voice over announcements on the light rail service. The novelty of hearing Bryan Lindop's charactistic tones at each stop has been recently superceded by the monotone of a local radio announcer. This has attracted reverberating comments elsewhere, by those specialising in the exotica of Blackpool's railed transport.

Personally I abhor the nanny state overkill so prevalent on this country's railways (and light railways). Not only are there visual destination signage within trains and trams with all manner of cautionary warnings added on - but now for those with

eyesight afflictions - there is this further bounty of verbal announcements as well.

Of course these are all in English. I assume it won't be long before some ethnic group raises concerns over the lack of translation into one or more alternatives.

I kind of got used to hearing Bryan repeating his warnings that I was either heading to Starr Gate (ie in a southerly direction) or to Fleetwood Ferry (the opposite) every time the tram doors closed. It has become almost part of Blackpool's tramway folklore. Having this distinctive feature arbitrarily taken away and replaced with an alien mundane voiceover removes a unique, if not beloved, onboard element.

The practise of informing passengers of where they are and where they are heading has also now morphed on to Blackpool's newer buses. Ever frequent reminders that one is about to reach Layton or a particular stop in Bispham can be quite irritating for regular riders on Blackpool bus services nearly all of whom are all too familiar with their surroundings and points of disembarkation. Previous practise was for the Conductors (if they were so minded) to shout loudly that their bus or tram was now at such and such a stop convenient for those wishing to go to the library/medicalcentre/supermarket/hotel/pub/swimming pool/town hall or other leisure activities in the immediate area. Some conductors even extended this to announce which hotels were in proximity to individual stops along the sea front much akin to the manner of fairground barkers. On Blackpool's 'super trams' this practise occasionally still occurs; although it is a far rarer experience, much akin to hearing the first skylark or songbird in spring.

Many years ago in a different age Blackpool Transport (the Corporation version) trialled a cab microphone with speakers on a double deck bus, where the driver was endowed with the task of announcing stops (ahead of arrival) for the benefit of his passengers; who were presumably unaware of where their bus was at any given point. This all too brief trial was terminated abruptly after one driver with his microphone understandably left live, gave vent to personal furies in his cab at the driving habits of a vehicle in immediate proximity. A similar tale is told of a Glasgow tram driver having the same features being tested on his 'caur' scaring the more sensitive of his passengers with colourful expletives (in Glaswegian of course) when having to brake sharply to avoid some errant vehicle crossing his path. Alas we don't have the pleasure of those colourful times and personal interface. But if we do have to be subjected to interminable voice over announcements throughout an eleven mile journey with frequent stops on the way to Starr Gate and or Fleetwood - then can we please please have Bryan back !

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