The recent blog posting on this page by John Woodman (Bits and Pieces, August 28) about Blackpool's 'Ghost Trams with Ghost Passengers' understandably created quite a stir at Blackpool Transport, not least because the Bank Holiday weekend referred to was one of the most successful we've had so far! Five day's worth of Heritage Trams began and ended with tours using our popular illuminated trams, and on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday we had 6 or 7 Heritage Trams out each day. All carrying good loads!
Although John does accede that the Boat cars will always attract the public his criticism of the specific use of some our other Heritage Trams, and particularly B Fleet Balloon 718 was harsh to say the least! I am pleased therefore that John has had the good grace to allow me to defend the case from our perspective, and also to explain the current thinking with regard to the B Fleet trams.
First of all it must be pointed out that we only have four open top trams that we can use. These were all in use. It is therefore inevitable that 'closed' trams will also be used on our enhanced weekends. However, when the sun shines the open cars will run full whilst the closed cars can be mostly empty and this is to be expected! If there was a 'seemingly minimal rush to ride on the Balloon cars or 680' it was because everyone was enjoying the sun on the Boat cars and Marton 31 (no photographs of those that weekend John?) Similarly, if it starts to rain then the reverse situation will occur. Fifteen different Heritage Trams were in use over the weekend ranging from Bolton 66 of 1901 to Centenary 648 of 1985. If this doesn't provide something for everyone then I don't know what else we can do!
Contrasting driving 'platforms' on Blackpool's trams from the 1920s to a new age with driver's actually seated in comfort and immune to the weather - whatever next?
Not the August Bank Holiday weekend - but even with grey skies Marton 'Box' Car 31 sees top deck (open) travellers descending at the North Pier terminus.
The B Fleet trams were created to allow for capacity enhancement at times of peak demand and this they do. The fact that they have been rarely call upon demonstrates what a good job the sixteen Flexities do at providing a reliable service. There are enough of these to cover the timetable even on a ten minute headway. and any spares are used as 'specials' ahead of the need to use a B Fleet car. This is how it should be. As such a number of the B Fleet have been stood down and stored. This is 'warm store' and each of the stored trams could easily be returned to use if and when required - this has just been demonstrated with 718. Those which are kept on standby need to be able to be pressed into service at a moment's notice and so it is good practise to keep them fit. Part of keeping a tram fit includes using them and so B Fleet trams are sometimes used on Heritage Tram Tours at key events and to add interest for enthusiasts who flock to these. This serves a dual purpose as those who enjoy our Heritage Tram Tours are always appreciative of a 'top deck' ride whether they are tram enthusiasts or not and its helps us to keep the trams active. It must also be remembered that apart from Hong Kong (and some double deck trailers in Egypt) Blackpool is the only other place in the world where double deck tramcars operate on a mainline system. Not to maintain this tradition would be unthinkable!
We recognise that there are differing markets: Enthusiasts are incredibly important to us and we will always aim to put on a good show for them. However it is extremely important that we attract the non-enthusiast public too as these are our 'bread and butter' customers, without whom we would not (and could not) survive. Happily through both our own advertising and 'word of mouth' recommendations we've seen a huge increase in patronage from this category. Yes, there will always be those who don't fully understand the difference between the LRT service and Heritage Tours and some people waiting at LRT platforms still hold their arm out and expect us to stop (whether the tram has 'extended doors' or not). This is in much the same way that the unsuspecting will try to hail the first bus that comes along, regardless or not as to whether it is actually in service. However we are not running service trams or 'ghost trams'! We provide a unique product - tours by Heritage Trams along Blackpool's famous Promenade - and that's what makes us special!