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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Political Correctness - going haywire

The announcement by Berlin's transport operator, BVG, that it is renaming a U Bahn station in the city to reflect prevailing awareness of racial discrimination in the United States opens wide retrospective political correctness. Moerenstrasse station on the Berlin underground system is being replaced - being closely associated (in German) with the derogatory term for north africans - 'Moors'. This throws the spotlight on the West Midlands and Network Rail transport gurus whether to adopt a parallel decision to rename 'Moor Street Station' in the centre of Birmingham. The origins of 'Moor Street' being of pertinent interest in today's supersensitive politically correct world. Oxford is already in the vortex of whipped up animus over the statue of empire builder Cecil Rhodes on the pediment of a college in the city centre. The rebranding of 'Rhodes Scholarship' to a more neutral title cannot be far off.

Even Blackpool faces similar conumdrums with its longstanding 'Cabin' designation on the tramway. Named for the original visitor attraction then sited on the edge of the cliffs 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' - and latterly foreshortened to 'Cabin' - the term 'Uncle Tom' has deep racial connotations in the United States. The accompanying public house 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' lost its early name becoming 'Cabin' and now has dropped this entirely in a recent change of ownership - being subsumed in the 'Ma Kelly' chain. This throws up the question of whether the transport operator should continue to call the tram stop 'Cabin'. There is already a 'Cliffs' stop nearby so renaming 'Cabin' could become a competition open to residents.

Renaming Blackpool Transport bus and tram stops is far from unknown. The important 'Central Station' tram stop became 'Tower' when that station disappeared completely in the 1970s. A slew of renaming stops along south promenade to Starr Gate from the Pleasure Beach followed on the upgrade of the tramway. The process continues to the present day. Once upon a time 'Fleetwood Freeport' was a familiar terminus for bus services - now airbrushing has brought 'Fleetwood Affinity' to bemused visitors in season. The once important 'Ash Street' tram station marking the beginning of Fleetwood's commercial centre morphed into 'Fisherman's Walk' even as the port's trawler fleet diminished to extinction. Blackpool's civic heart where the Council conducts its business in Talbot Square - is no longer in evidence as a bus (or tram) stop - being replaced by 'North Pier'. 'Squires Gate & Airport' once familiar to travellers on Lytham Road trams - is no more (literally).

The greater omission in previous decades is of course the disappearance of 'Talbot Road Bus Station' from bus destinations. At one time it seemed as if every Blackpool Corporation bus ended up inside that cavernous structure. No longer : but trams are now destined to return to Blackpool's North Station by way of compensation; not by way of Dickson Road but instead retracing the trackbed up Talbot Road which at one time ran all the way to Layton Cemetery. In fact this early tram service had as its destination 'Cemetery'. The Town's Council took exception to seeing trams arriving and departing from in front of the Town Hall for the Cemetery (a destination to which a segment of their public would have happily no doubt consigned them). A generic 'Layton' quickly appeared to satisfy civic sensitivities in the Chamber. Other now lost familiar bus and tram 'stops' include 'Hoo Hill', 'Bispham Clinic', 'Royal Oak', 'Greenlands', 'Oxford', 'Manchester Square'.

Such is the constancy of political correctness at work over the centuries. Fortunately no 'Moors' bedevil further council correctness. However one rebranding worth considering is renaming of the Fylde's principal healthcare facility to the 'Royal Victoria Hospital' reflecting its important sustaining work for the community over the years.

One of Blackpool's pre-war buses on the 9C Service from Bispham to Talbot Road Bus Station as recorded by the Late Ian Stewart for the forthcoming title on Blackpool's buses.

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