The last time I took a tram to the airport involved trundling along Lytham Road in a noisome rail coach as far as Squires Gate Lane. Blackpool was possibly the only place in Britain which had 'Airport' as a destination on its tram indicator blinds. The Airport itself was a modest affair consisting of some wartime structures repainted and given a modest makeover to double as check in desks and information area for the handful of flights (mostly to the Isle of Man) which provided regular services year round. Much later in life I was able fly direct to Prague from Blackpool in the brief period when scheduled flights out of the UK from Squires Gate were possible.
Thus it was with great interest that I found myself travelling to and from Manchester Airport by 'tram' - actually Metrolink light rail this week. The tram service to the airport involves something of an indirect meandering journey through the city's southern suburbs with a mix of reservation and street running until one nears Cornbrook. The route does not instil any sense of urgency nor speed given the frequent tight curves and road crossings along much of the route. In fact the English Electric cars careening up and down Lytham Road from memory travelled much faster even with far more frequent stops along the way.
My journey this week was enlivened at one point by close encounter with the Metrolink 'depot' and its capacious open tracks on which a trio of the first generation trams are stored in full view. They make a nostalgic contrast in styling, livery and size with the now standardised Manchester fleet. Manchester's light rail system goes from strength to strength despite legacy of high platform operation from the original line. Its trams perform an increasingly important role in the growth and development of the city - now foremost in the north of England; although other metropolitan districts might well dispute this. On my visit I was given preview of the massive new investment planned and under development around the Airport Terminals - underlining the important economic benefit of air travel with growth through this century. A pity that small terminal building at Squires Gate did not morph properly into a regional hub, albeit on a much smaller scale. Blackpool's trams might still be showing 'Airport' today.
Manchester Airport - tram terminus - the driver's view from departure
Heavy Rail and Light Rail - comingling comes easy :
Some sixty years ago Blackpool Squires Gate & Airport tram terminus 1960 :
Travel to Squires Gate was more often than not on one of the English Electric rail coaches of the 1930s. This example is crossing the Royal Oak double track junction on its way southbound. Both Images : John Woodman