Turning a new leaf - views from Blackpool
Blackpool is experiencing (finally) definitive change thanks to Council actions initiated some years ago with approval of the Talbot Gateway scheme combined with railway electrification finally reaching as far as Blackpool. Recent visits to Florida by the Council Leader and Deputy Chief Executive attending the international trade exhibition event for theme park and leisure development may shortly lead to unveiling of proposals for the Central Station site regeneration - led by a US group.
South Shore promenade is finally getting a new look with an international hotel and apartments replacing 1920s properties on at least one section of Clifton Drive. Work is underway in modernising a further section, close to Harrowside tram stop (or whatever it is called now). Plans for rebuilding the 1970s structure adjoining the classic 'Woolworths' building include a new hotel as well as a rehash of the fruitless attempt to create a 'museum of Blackpool'. One which which occupied consultant minds and money for over two years in the Winter Gardens. Fortunately Council funds were not the source of lucre for a happy band of erstwhile designers in this former effort - the Arts Council signing off on a seven figures budget and no doubt more again this time round. Possibly a seafront venue might just make a difference.
Nonetheless the seafront is to witness a total makeover and about time one might say. There is far too much tatfilled neglected properties requiring attention of bulldozers in the section from Central Pier (not the pier) to the Foxhall and Princess Street area. The constabulary also are soon to move to a fit for purpose new headquarters which thankfully will see the end of the Lubyanka style block overlooking Chapel Street and much more. The Magistrates Courts buildings - an even more depressing stalinist era block - similarly will relocate to a far more credible setting for dispensing justice.
Talbot Square is hopefully finally being returned to something like its former civic focal point, complete with trams passing in front of the Town Hall, and a new hotel or structure filling the gaping wound caused by an arsonist's action which led to the demolition of the classic 'Yates Wine Lodge'. A building that gave this area at least a quality appearance. That has all gone with the wind into a plethora of wine bars and other nightlife venues now surrounding Blackpool's Council Chamber. The still classic Clifton Hotel remains in silent stupor of corporate decay under current ownership - absentee landlords its seems rule.
A walk down Talbot Road today from the once hectic traffic hub around Wilkos (due to meet the wrecking ball in 2018) was a real joy, with the entire road closed to vehicles. The potential for creating a permanent pedestrian precinct allowing for trams, taxis and buses - with green foliage from abundant new trees planted in place of the depressing rows of neglected properties and ramshackle store fronts would be a delightful welcome for visitors - and residents of the town. Of course this will never come to pass. But at least a few weeks of traffic less Talbot Road are moments to be enjoyed.
Abingdon Street this week - with guided busway?
Marton trams used to follow the same path (on tracks) years back. A somewhat updated scene today with lego barriers providing a semblance of roadway.
Blackpool Transport's newest buses queue up on Rail Replacement duties at Blackpool North station precinct. A very intensive bus service to Preston is required. More about this epic operation in due course. The new BTS buses have an added dash of yellow on the front - to aid nighttime traffic among other aspects no doubt.
Naturally all of this essential reorientation of Talbot Road, a trainless Blackpool, and much more - has given rise to problems elsewhere in and around the town. Parades of buses traversing Church Street into Abingdon Street (and vice versa) following the same route as the glorious Marton tram service of yore - give a new boost to this part of the commercial centre; whilst even Topping Street has gained a new bus stop (for the 7 Service) among the multitude of diversions and reroutings challenging bus drivers and passengers. But you can't avoid breaking eggs when making an omelette - so bring it on
And one for the tram fans. Brush Car 284 (sorry 621) with its 2017 makeover pauses at Bispham on a training duty, whilst the current Bombardier fleet 001 passes by en route to Fleetwood Ferry. A rare sighting out of season of a heritage car paused at Bispham.
Below - the bulky appearance of the light rail units compared to their earlier forebears is well demonstrated in this image below. Photos : John Woodman