top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Global Warming + Rising Sea Levels = Coastal Flooding

Surviving remnant of the Blundell Street Depot approach track leading into what is now an extending housing development on Council land. Blundell Street leads off right.

Princess Street still retains its access tram track but now seriously truncated in parts.

The heavy duty warnings coming from authoritative institutions and national agencies on the consequences for the planet of consistent temperature rise by a further 1.5 degrees plus - is something everyone has to give attention to. From global business, investment and finance, construction and development to individual property owners. This is especially relevant to communities on coastal locations and near watercourses both large and small.

The Fylde coast is one of many areas in the UK threatened with consequences of rising sea levels - no small matter that can be dealt with by piecemeal seawall defences. Nearly a century ago Fleetwood and Rossall were inundated by seawater which flooded homes and businesses, as well as extensively destroying the trackbed of the electric tramway on the line leading to Fleetwood. This was well before the current increase in global temperature and fast melting ice sheets adding huge volumes of water annually.

Blackpool's ill judged decision to site its light rail vehicle depot and maintenance facility right slap bang against the seawall at Starr Gate may prove to be an achilles heel for the entire operation, medium term. Whilst the more recent investment in the south and central promenade sea wall is handling the tidal surges experienced at certain times of the year - and similarly at Anchorsholme and Rossall - any significant sea level rise is certain to bring devastating consequences.

Another coastal tramway which similarly located its main (and only) depot at the very end of the line and directly next to the Atlantic ocean - was the Atlantic City resort. Much like at Starr Gate, a terminal loop with large depot was located a few yards from the sea wall. Atlantic City, like Blackpool, operated a long and mostly straight route mostly on street track past the sea frontage attractions and hotels. The system was unique in the US (and the World) in running a fleet of 'Brilliners' - the Brill Company's answer to the 'PCC Car' design. Closure came during the mid 1950s - and sadly no examples were preserved. As far as I am aware the depot was spared any major inundation of seawater, but that certainly would not be the case in the current century.

Originally Blackpool's Council intended that the light rail fleet would be housed on the site of Blundell Street depot. Investment in trackwork turnouts and crossovers at the Foxhall (Princess Street) location attests to the seriousness of this plan. Cars would exit at the Foxhall on to Princess Street (now that would be a fascinating site today) - and proceed into a rebuilt depot structure at the north end. Proposals envisaged the units exiting towards the existing depot and Hopton Road trackage before looping round on to Lytham Road and thence to the Promenade at the existing junction (which had been rebuilt and relaid for this purpose).

Above : A short exposed section of Princess Street reveals original cobbles adjoining the tramrail at the Foxhall Pub section. Utility work saw this all resurfaced pretty quickly.

Below : Blundell Street today still with the single tram track in evidence but not for much longer as housebuilding is set to reconfigure the area. View looking north from Rigby Road.

In fact Blundell Street would in all probability face the same issues as those at Starr Gate with potential for tidal inundation overwhelming the rebuilt seawall on central promenade. The Fylde coast offers little natural barrier to higher sea levels along its entire length. A noteworthy example of the threats posed by the elements can also be seen at Rossall which originally in Tramroad Company days had a different track alignment involving a sharp dog's leg right turn on open fields (now Rossall School playing fields). The original trackbed was sited on a raised embankment at this point to minimise flooding - and it can still be clearly seen today. This did not minimise the damage done by ingress of seawater just further north towards Broadwater (an apt name) and along the entire length of the line running into Fleetwood proper.

One wonders whether Blackpool and neighbouring Authorities are revisiting their planning processes in the light of sustained evidence of coastal erosion on a massive scale due to global warming factors now headline news. If so a Plan B Tram Depot site might emerge (somewhere). Thus far we have all been lucky. The ongoing spurt of overzealous housebuilding along the coastline is a further matter of consequence to those buying new properties on what could well be floodplain sites or facing the sea and bereft of any sea defence whatsoever.

Featured Posts
bottom of page