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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Social Distancing - June 2020

Talbot Square has gained an impressive new structure to replace the lost Yates Wine Lodge anchor building. Nearing completion is a hotel of dramatic proportions (for the town centre) which faces onto the promenade and the Town Hall (behind the photographer). Talbot Road tram service will incorporate an inbound station platform stop to the left of the oncoming bus. Work on this important element of the Talbot Gateway regeneration will begin within a week but final completion after several phases of construction at the former Wilko Store site needs almost two years of development work involving new offices, another hotel, tram terminus and underpass from the terminus connecting with the railway station concourse (or approach). All images : John Woodman

Like the rest of England - Blackpool is encumbered with restrictions on people's movement and proximity whether in the home or outside. Fortunately at least the restrictions imposed in May (and previously) have been relaxed - for the moment and careful monitoring of the spread of the Covid 19 virus is now a key factor of life for government and its agencies. Transport operators have to contend with severe limitation on seating (and standing) capacity on vehicles of all kinds - which reduces the total capacity. This in turn has implications for vehicle turnout in peak periods as well as boarding restrictions needing to be imposed. Just how the practicalities translate into workable policies remains to be seen.

At present large stores, retail centres and other public venues are needing to engage security or otherwise assign staff to deal with controlling store entry for individual customers. There may now be call for a 'guard' to be added to crews in a similar manner limiting the numbers of people permitted to board at any one time. A further factor emerging from this evolving change in passenger flow is the handling of fare transactions. Whereas Blackpool's travelling public had the option of cash payments to bus drivers (and roving tram conductors) - the move towards fixed fare card payments only is quickly taking hold. Public transport delivery in the town will never be the same again.

The long familiar sight of conductors traversing the aisles of trams and buses with cash bag and ticket machine may well have already become an exercise in nostalgia. Blackpool Transport have mandated flat fares for bus travel with options for card payment and online transfer. Cash handling is on its way out and with it associated costs involved. The tram fleet in its present form is not equipped to similarly deliver cost effective fare transactions - The complete closure of the tram service in recent weeks with Bus Service 1 being provided as a ready made alternative at least allows the Company to figure out how best to bring forward a fit for purpose collection system - one which avoids need for physical contact between conductors and passengers; however fragmented.

The experience of other operators provides working examples and lessons. Special tours whether Illuminations or Heritage may similarly have to be adjusted to pre-payment with removal of platform staff other than for safety. Again this has all to be worked out and agreed before resumption of tram operation.

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