Fifty Years On
The entry into service on Sunday 4 March of 017 and 018 adding to Blackpool Transport's light rail fleet prompted comparison between Blackpool's trams over fifty years with this image of Twin-Set (682/T2) in retro cream colours of the early 1960s and the current Bombardier Flexity product.
The larger dimensions of the Flexity model in width and height overwhelms the more modest British designed and built unit even though there are far more seats (and far less standing room) on the Twin-Car. Roof glazing and clear glass on the side windows provides for much better vision for seated passengers - not to mention more comfortable sprung seating as opposed to hardened 'squabs' purporting to deliver a better ride on today's light rail product. However the benefits of the new generation of trams deliver roomier and accessible space for disabled, families with 'buggies' and luggage. Something which previous generations were able to do without.
Of course the light rail fleet were not purpose designed for Blackpool except possibly for internal seating layout, livery (not at all inspiring) and cab front module design. Blackpool Council's contract for sixteen units of the Flexity2 Model was precursor to a much larger order negotiated with Toronto's transit system involving over 150 units of the same type. Many of these have now been delivered and replacing high floor CLRV four axle cars unique to Toronto's impressive operation. Delays in completion of the full contract have seemingly caused a review terms with Bombardier and a search for additional or alternative suppliers.
Unfortunately there is no contrasting sound level available on this blog to bring into focus the quite alarming level of clatter and noise emanating from most of the Blackpool Flexity2 units, particularly when running along promenade paved track. Whether this is a fault of the track installation, or of the vehicle's wheel sets and fittings underneath the modular bodywork is unclear. However Blackpool would seem to be operating the noisiest trams in the UK when compared to the almost soundless travel (on street sections) of other systems; including Bombardier built cars on Manchester Metrolink and the Spanish built trams in Edinburgh. Individual cars seem to exude louder and more extensive noise (even within the car body).
By contrast Blackpool's retained heritage trams operational are by no means smooth and silent running - but with some exceptions have an acceptable level of sound being more solidly constructed, including the 1960s era trailer units such as T2 above.