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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool - Capacity Problems & Options

Istanbul - coupled units are the norm

Extra length of Dublin's extended single units is almost twice the size of Blackpool's trams.

Blackpool's trams are crowded and overloaded. Waiting passengers are left on platforms for the next arrival usually with the same filled doorways and little new standing room. This gets worse each year.

Dublin's LUAS tram services have similar problems which we encountered on our visit this summer - with special events and sporting finals drawing visitors to the city centre and major venues. The solution announced this week is for more cars on order and extended sections added to existing units bringing greater capacity 24/7. Another UK operators proudly unveiled a similar investment this week to augment capacity on its existing fleet. No doubt more will follow.

In Istanbul an already overloaded tram service on two important lines features coupled articulated units at all times but even these struggle to cope with peak hour demand. As we found out earlier this month on the popular T1 service.

Blackpool has an option of bringing in to service its reserve? fleet of specially modified double deck cars capable of augmenting the basic scheduled timetable but rarely used. Instead examples are transferred to supplement (or maintain) the limited heritage tours operation which rarely attracts full loads at any time - and only serves to frustrate waiting queues for the scheduled operation as they sail past waiting expectant crowds along the promenade.

It is acknowledged though that the use of double deck cars has proven problematic at all levels (outside of special tours and illuminations services). Their inability to take on buggies and mobility impaired, coupled with very limited lower deck seating (or standing) means that conductors are needed to deter such passengers at platform stops, as well as otherwise steering them to the top deck up steep and narrow stairs. All in all the inclusion of infrequent if not rare double deck trams on the regular service is more of an impediment as well as being cost ineffective given need for two conductors (plus driver) handling a far smaller capacity than low floor articulated units.

Blackpool's ability to lengthen its existing Bombardier units by adding an additional section or two a la Dublin and elsewhere, requires lengthened platforms at all stops, as does the option of running coupled units in peak times or seasons. The only further option will be to increase service frequency by acquiring additional units. Here too problems exist with limits on depot capacity at Starr Gate already at its limits with the existing eighteen units plus sundry other trams appearing from time to time. An extension at Starr Gate is possible using the land adjoining the existing structure and originally intended for a small heritage tram museum with anticipated capacity of up to twelve or so first generation trams.

Either way Blackpool faces strategic decisions on improving its ability to handle peak travel periods on the existing line and planned extension tpoNorth Station. It will be interesting to see how this conundrum is resolved (if at all) by the Operator and Council.

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