Whilst Blackpool Transport are going to great lengths to improve on their image through the purchase of some very high quality new buses, and the refurbishment of others to the new 'Palladium' fleet branding - it is perversely Blackpool Council which has responsibility for the 'good order' and upkeep of both bus and tram shelters, inside of Blackpool Unitary Authority's boundary.
Makeover of infrastructure which BTS (the company) have responsibility is ongoing with the recent renewal of their customer information office on Market Street, and redesign of the Rigby Road reception area. Plaudits all round for this work. Where the delivery of quality transport in the town is let down is the deplorable state of shelters - which seem to be approaching dereliction in some cases. The provision of upkeep, repair and renewal of bus (and tram) shelters is entirely in the hands of Blackpool Council and someone sitting in the glass enclosed edifice facing Bickerstaffe Square or at Town Hall offices, would appear to be unwilling to deal with this particular aspect of Council responsibility.
Missing glazing, broken shelter roofs, rusting metal panels, grime encrusted panelling and a riot of different structures from various era - serve to convey an image wholly at odds with the new vehicles and overall impact that BTS management are striving to impel for passengers and public. Where information signage on stops and printed timetables are concerned - again BTS are on top of things, the removal of overflowing waste from litter bins at stops is equally efficiently dealt with, but the condition of many (not all) actual shelters is deplorable. A classic example being at Bristol Avenue (Moorpark Swimming Pool and Library) where the once impressive green and cream themed shelters installed (I believe) in the 1970s across the town's bus services just about still stand.. Here translucent roof panelling is disappearing, metal strips to bind the panels together are adrift, protective side glazing is no more; and and and. At Stanley Park a similar shelter has fallen victim to vandalism whilst on newer installations with tempting large safety glass panelling - the shattering of these seems to be a regular sport? of local malcontents - and the process of replacement has understandably come to a halt. With the Council having to count every penny or pound in expenditure - continually replacing expensive large shelter glazing has inevitably become a redundant exercise.
The shambles that is the bus shelter at Moorpark Swimming Pool, Bispham Library and Health Centre. Where are the Ward Councillors forcing action of any kind?
Also missing from passenger 'comfort' and facilities are 'real time electronic information signage' which is a feature of ALL light rail systems in the UK and most large urban transport operators. Standing around a platform exposed to coastal wind gusts, sheeting rain and worse during winter months, whilst waiting for a delayed tram and having no means of being informed either of the cause of the delay or how long it will be until the next tram arrives (if at all) is no joke. In fact this absence of IT is a disgrace when compared to the level of cautionary messages and electronic data scrolled continuously inside the trams (and new buses). Just when someone will get a grip on these very basic aspects of modern transport operation is now a priority. With these comments I need to qualify them by adding that the faults do not lie at BTS's door. Seperation of actual bus and tram operation and the provision of passenger infrastructure lies with the Council itself. Even though BTS is wholly owned by Blackpool Council, seperation of 'church and state' as it were, means blame and criticism needs to be directed to the Council itself and whichever 'portfolio holder' happens to be carrying this particular can.
Successive cuts to Blackpool Council's imprest from central government have taken their toll in recent years - and set to continue into next year. With closure of public sector deliverables in libraries, cleansing, parks and social provisions - I can well understand that the issue of transport shelters is not one which gets priority rating. But such matters do impact on and substantively negate the image (and perception) in which a Council Owned enterprise are expending considerable investment. It is all very well the town and its visitors being treated to historic tram rides on a generous basis - but if a similar level of attention was to be directed to the provision and quality of shelters up and down the system it would have an enormous and positive impact for everyone. Even simple things like adequate seating at many stops where elderly travellers are required to wait for extended periods, particularly during winter months - would be a compassionate action on the Council's part. Outside of Blackpool Authority's boundary - the responsibilities lie with either Fylde or Wyre Councils. Here bus shelters have fitted seating that also deters 'dossing' through fixed armrests. Its all stand up please in Blackpool.
A nice welcoming touch at Stanley Park's main entrance - does no-one in Council care about this? Do local Councillors just travel around in expense claimed taxis' or their own cars with petrol allowance ?
Images by John Woodman in the past few days.