The daily headlines across all media point to a hard winter impacting all the country irrespective of geography or politics. Large falls in the financial markets today focus on sectors dealing with the leisure economy - from aircraft manufacturers to hotels and retail. The impact of the pandemic crosses all boundaries and seemingly is set to get worse as we head into the winter months. For transport operators, both large and small, the consequences of falling passenger numbers combined with stricter requirements for vehicle cleaning and social distancing measures are providing major headache for management and staff at all levels. The Government's decision today to foldup the expensive rail franchise policy instituted by the Conservative Government under John Major - is recognition that this ill judged privatisation and carve up of a national rail network has finally met Covid 19 Buffers. Public ownership or at least controlling interest in Britain's railway system is at long last dawning on Westminster and City of London and Mr Shapp's desk.
Blackpool Transport is not immune from these trends and factors. A fall off in travel on trams and buses can be seen by the numbers of passengers on a daily basis. Limits on capacity mean trams are frequently showing 'Vehicle Full' or similar messages on their destination screens - to the frustration of waiting passengers along the entire eleven mile line. So far this has been cushioned by the mild weather we have experienced thus far but colder conditions and reduced timetable frequency on both bus and tram services are inevitably going to bring social distress - especially on the middle sections of the coastal tram service and potentially outlying communities reliant on Blackpool's buses.
The case for intermediate supplemental workings during harsh weather months may be become irresistible. Short workings with added incremental trams added during the daylight hours covering sections from Tower to Cleveleys or North Pier to Fisherman's Walk (Ash Street) may well become necessary. The return of schools along the tramway mean a pressing demand for enhanced capacity during periods serving the several schools in Anchorsholme, Norbreck, Rossall, Cleveleys and Fleetwood. The alternative could be supplemental Buses on this section. It should be remembered that the Marton tram service always had two Balloon double deckers running between Talbot Square and Royal Oak in the morning peak and afternoon school closing periods. Originally these had been open balcony Standards much enjoyed by the youthful passengers of that era. The Operator was careful to put the Jubilee cars into the regular timetables to add extra capacity to the Centenary car service to Fleetwood prior to upgrade of the line in 2011 - specifically to help move the swell of students appearing at accustomed hours (and stops) during term time.
Observation of the queues which quickly appear on the Promenade Service 1 in Fleetwood are sufficient evidence of the impact of student capacity requirement during term time - mirrored on Service 14 and the tram stop at Broadwater.
While there have been fixated comments on social media of imminent 'anniversaries' meriting heritage tram operation (at weekends) satisfying the passions? of dedicated tram enthusiasts - in fact there is a stronger case for the Operator to focus on the needs of residents on the Fylde coast as a priority. Adding two or more of the double deck trams to schedules meeting the essential journey times of students (of all ages) has to be at the forefront of tram services over coming weeks and throughout the winter. The ill-judged absence of tram (or bus shelters) along the exposed northern section of the tram service at many stops is a further concern for young and old needing to travel during harsh winter extremes. Attention to this elemental customer/passenger need is long overdue - partly a responsibility of Lancashire County Council as well as both Blackpool and Wyre Councils.