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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Social Distancing Rules and Impact

The latest outpouring of government edicts on what one can and cannot do across the nation impacts us all whatever our condition. Advice on avoiding public transport wherever and whenever possible has already had a massive affect on passenger numbers on all modes and regions. Blackpool's buses (like most other operating systems) has sparse loadings whilst its trams no longer run at all - giving way to the promenade bus service as alternative option.

All this may of course have a long term consequence for the trams in particular - but for the moment the hope and expectation is that the service will reemerge eventually. Social distancing requirements and spacing needs between passengers has already decimated the airline industry. Long distance rail travel requirement for online pre-booking of seats being introduced will almost certainly have deterring effect on 'impulse' travel and non essential journeys.

Blackpool's Illuminations may well have to be cancelled in 2020 given restrictions on the hospitality industry overall. The Council's budget could take benefit of a net savings from simply taken a year out from the annual display ritual this time round. Running packed tram tours along the promenade during the illuminations is definitely going to be a no no in 2020.

As a town whose economy is very much predicated on visitor numbers - Blackpool and indeed much of the Fylde coast is going to take a big hit this year. Predictions that a vaccine may not be found in the near future for this particular virus make future plans if not impossible, then highly suspect for businesses as well as public services. The novelty of doing without haircuts and standing outside shop doorways before slowly being allowed to enter - has a certain broad acceptance initially but will wear off smartly when really cold weather, rain and wintery conditions return. Limiting numbers of people entering the multiple doorways on the trams to an accepted or permitted capacity will tax even the most patient of platform staff at busy times.

Running old trams with volunteers at the same time as social distancing measures are being enforced is probably going to be more trouble than it's worth - and potentially more expensive if limits are exceeded. No doubt Blackpool Transport are looking at all contingencies for their operations, with staff and passenger safety being of foremost concern. There is little written record of how the Tramways Department coped during the great Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1919 so researchers seeking precedents for the present challenges a hundred years on are going to be frustrated.

The very need for individual physical transactions whether coinage or paper using roving conductors has become highly questionable possibly triggering automatic fare payment systems being introduced far sooner. The prevalence of automated fare payment machines at all stops on other light rail systems such as Dublin, Nottingham and Manchester suggests Blackpool cannot and indeed should not be far behind with implementation of its own system, as well as electronic screens with real time arrival and destination information - sadly lacking at present. Top : Dublin's tram network being steadily extended provides ticket machines and real time information at all if not most of its neat and clean tram station stops - all conforming to a standardised layout.

But these are nitpicking observations for the moment. The Government has announced its measures for relaxing 'Lock Down' rules on a phased basis, with many caveats attached. We must individually deal with the consequences as best we can.

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