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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Trams to St Johns ?

One of the two 'Illuminated' Standard cars wending its way towards Talbot Square to take up service on the promenade. This would have been the site for the briefly proposed Marton tram service terminus in town opposite St John's Church and outside the Opera House and Winter Gardens complex - (together with a vibrant retail district in those days). The same location was presumably in the minds of the Conservative Council in 2004? when they considered two options for an extension from North Pier into the town centre as part of the light rail planning in its very early stages. Doubtful the modern Bombardier products would have managed to get this far given clearances and curves.

Above : Street tramway terminus point for North Station Service 1 to Fleetwood before the terminus was moved a hundred yards further north. Note the time clock and well dressed (by today's standards) passengers. No low floor requirements in those days. Below : Another perspective looking east from outside St John's Church up Church Street. The former Hippodrome is in the process of being rebuilt to become the ABC. Its a summer month with driver's cab windscreen fully open. Note the immaculate condition of the tram - being a hallmark of Marton Depot staff. Apologies for damaged negative. All Images : Copyright : John Woodman

The recent reports referenced in my recent blog 'You Must be Joking' have been further expanded and qualified by the Conservative Faction in Blackpool Council. According to the Leader of the Conservatives in the Council when original proposals were under review for upgrade of the tramway to light rail the Council Leadership under Councillor Callow were of the view that any extension into the town centre from the promenade might alternatively terminate outside the Winter Gardens after transiting up Clifton Street and Abingdon Street. This would aim at serving the entertainment and possible conferencing venues.

Additionally the objective of reaching North Station precinct was conditional on there being some form of integrated bus, tram and train interchange. The absence of such an interchange in the current development plans for what is known as 'Talbot Gateway' makes the Talbot Road tram extension questionable from the Conservatives perspective - hence their voiced opposition to the current scheme now before the Secretary of State.

Reaching back in time the idea of trams terminating in front of St John's Church was proposed in 1960 by Blackpool's Transport Manager, Joe Franklin, who was fighting a rearguard action against then Council efforts to replace the Marton tram service with buses. An interim solution to criticism of Marton trams blocking traffic and causing holdups in Clifton and Abingdon Streets was to terminate them outside the Winter Gardens and St John's Church. But this was from an opposite perspective in which the service would be running from Royal Oak to St John's Church with only a link line connecting with the promenade for depot runs etc. Regrettably this interesting scheme did not find favour with the Conservative controlled Council of the day. A similar cut back of the tram terminus on Dickson Road from North Station to a new stop close to the then Odeon cinema (now Funny Girls) was approved and operated for a few short years before that service was also closed from Gynn Square along Dickson Road in 1963.

No doubt there are renewed efforts to assuage concerns over the lack of a central bus station and the prevailing view that more joined up bus stops and transfer

facilities are needed if ? and when then trams are finally extended up Talbot Road. A previous blog illustrating the Talbot Road stops serving ten BTS bus routes is timely.

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