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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Points and shelters - Housekeeping

The winter months allow Blackpool Transport and Blackpool Council's Operations staff to deal with infrastructural work on the track and overhead. Not necessarily the best period of the year to spend time outside, but needs must.

The electronic controlled embedded machinery which moves point blades is an expensive piece of kit it seems - over £10,000 a unit. The effect of sea salt on some of these units, installed during the tramway upgrade, has meant rusting of metal components within the Czech manufactured equipment - to the extent that this can impact on efficiency of the actual blade movement. Fortunately it is not widespread along the eleven mile line, but corrective work is being carried out at

the Starr Gate northbound approach track this week. The original installed unit was extracted to be replaced by a bespoke new model brought in from the manufacturer. The constant unending exposure to salt laden spray has an under standably negative effect on exposed metal; and in this case even in sealed casings. Below : the exposed points control mechanism which requires replacement due to metal corrosion on moving elements.

And its replacement fresh from the factory - a far cry from simple points iron and a lot more expensive for the Council's tramway maintenance budget.

Further along the line work is in progress by BAM Nuttall and contractors to strengthen the original and somewhat ramshackle shelters installed on tramway platforms throughout the line during the upgrade. Strong westerly winds have proven able to blow over entire shelters, as well as the individual panes of safety glass. So much so that safety recommendations have required extraction of glazing in shelters on the exposed sections of the line (which is most of it). Additionally the shelter corner posts require stronger embedding within the platforms plus new preventative paint or coating sealant on the structures to minimise rusting and corrosion. This quickly became apparent early on after the line opened in 2011.

A start has been made on the southern end of the line with work ongoing at the northbound shelter at South Pier during my drive along the Promenade this week.

Issues over who is responsible for what seems to bedevil contractual aspects of the upgrade itself - with the Council apparently reluctant to sign off on the elements of the upgrade work, or so I was informed. This has caused a knock on effect on the willingness of contractors to consider undertaking work on the North Station extension - according to knowledgeable sources.

South Pier shelter northbound. Extensive structural reinforcement underway - note the newly embedded bases on the corner posts. Renewal and strengthening of the glazing sections as well as repainting of the structure to add protection from the effects of rain and sea spray. A handful done, nearly forty to be completed. On this occasion the sun was shining - the following day gusting winds, rain and colder temperatures made this work much more difficult for the contract team.

The recent disaster in Croydon - human error from investigation findings released this week - means refocussed attention is being given to all light rail operations and operators in England by the relevant rail and safety authorities. Blackpool has a good record on its tram operating procedures since light rail was introduced - and BTS are fortunate in being free of tragedies such as the event in Croydon. However constant care and attention is required in the maintenance and upkeep of track, and especially pointwork installations which are of a far more sophisticated level than the elementary manual point iron of former times when open points were the cause of any number of derailments over the years. Incidents such as the head on collision involving 705 and 706 at the Pleasure Beach loop, and ever frequent derailments at the Station Road junction on the former Lytham Road service, being just some examples over many years.

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