Preston Tram Nears Its Goal
The much talked about scheme to bring electric trams back to Preston - a town which gave up their first system during the 1930s in the frenetic push to replace trams with buses - heavily backed by nearby Leyland Motors. 'Bury a tram with a Titan' being a popular marketing slogan of that company. Blackpool buried two tram services with Titans in 1936. Layton and Central Drive lost their tram routes to the all-conquering Titan buses complete with streamlined centre entrance bodywork of Blackpool coach builder - HV Burlingham.
One Preston tram from that first generation system actually made it to the Fylde coast. The Lytham St Annes Corporation tramway bought a single double deck car to augment its dated fleet; along with a larger example from Accrington. Both ran over Blackpool tram rails during their relatively short duration in the pale blue and white colours of St Annes but here too, they were buried by 'Titans' just two years later.
The current scheme involved Preston Trampower whose diligence and initiatives have seen two prototype articulated trams tested on the Blackpool system in previous decades. Following these trials an amended and improved design has emerged with the Preston project very much in mind. A protoype body is presently stored at Rigby Road Depot in agreement with BTS whose successive management have worked with Dr Lewis Lesley the Trampower motivator.
The initial line is planned to run to Preston Station (where else) with street running in the centre of the city until it gains reserved track formerly a right of way of Network Rail and its predecessor train operators. This will bring the initial service to the north west of the city - with extensions being preplanned as the start of what would become a Preston light rail network. Funding agreements through the private sector, avoiding EU entrapping tendering conditions and assuring a British built light rail fleet at vastly reduced capital cost from the current crop of extensions underway elsewhere.
If this initiative is successful in its delivery there is potential for a Lancashire based light rail industry gaining 'traction' for the UK market whilst poignantly being launched in Preston, once home to the most important tram manufacturer - whose factory (partially) still stands on Strand Road. No doubt Blackpool's transport chiefs are watching these developments as we are for Fleetwood. Below : Two successive trials of Trampower articulated low floor trams (the first to operate on the Fylde coast) seen here passing Thornton Gate and on arrival at Rigby Road Depot.