The quite dramatic changes to our lifestyle mandated in recent days by the threatening rise of a global pandemic have no precedent unless one goes back to global conflicts and the 1940s. All levels of society now find themselves threatened by shortages of foodstuffs, energy and health provisions for the very ill. Limitations and restrictions on travel are already evident in announcements by national rail operators cutting back on services and examples of London Transport and London Underground station closures. And this is before the main 'hit' and impact of the corona virus actually takes hold in this country.
The decision to end Blackpool's heritage tram tours is thus a small item on a national agenda of closures, postponements and reductions in delivery of services. Just when they might possibly return is unknown. Certainly not at the level of delivery which has been a hallmark of the operation in most recent years.
Cuts to regular services of both trams and buses is a further step still to be announced. One further change already pre-determined will be final withdrawal of the previous yellow and black corporate livery of BTS buses. While a reducing number of Trident type double deck buses is still evident on certain services the imminent arrival of a large tranche of new vehicles from ADL will see Trevor Roberts era examples finally withdrawn in the next few months. For some this will be a definite loss given their unique colorful contribution to our streetscape, however shortlived. It is to be hoped that a handful of survivors will be retained to provide 'heritage' tours in the decades ahead - much like those of the trams.
Below : A bevy of Roberts branded buses in Market Street. Image : John Woodman
2020 is likely to become a benchmark year as far as the town's seasonal calendar is concerned given enforced closure of many, if not most of Blackpool's leisure venues. Quite apart from the restrictions placed on social mobility and interaction (if that is the correct term for much of the town's leisure enjoyments). Even the Illuminations may well be constrained if not deferred if the epidemic continues on its present trajectory. Ironically weatherwise we may find ourselves enjoying a particularly warm and pleasant summer with half empty hotels and sparse crowds.
Running old trams up and down, even in the best of times, has been a struggle to draw meaningful loads in spite of promotional advertising and placards abounding. Trying to improve on or even meet these pre-virus numbers is going to be a hard task for the team in Rigby Road. This year's Fleetwood Tram Sunday event may also become a casualty of enforced cancellations along with many other crowd pulling venues such as the highly successful Great Eccleston Show. Whilst there is justifiable optimism that the present virus will eventually be overcome and eradicated in time - it may well be of lengthy duration and extend beyond the 2020 season now almost upon us.
As a minor footnote it is timely to advise readers that the planned tome from Rigby Road Publishing marking the centenary of Blackpool's Buses will now be published in 2021 and not later this year.