Bumper Weekend and Passenger Woes
Blackpool's summer kicked off these past few days with blazing sunshine and high temperatures ensuring a bumper Bank Holiday weekend. Crowds flocked to the seafront giving the town a flavour of better times in spite of the on again off again restrictions imposed from London. The imminence of a total removal of social guidelines and limits is forecast for June 21st - although this remains subject to final diktat from health professionals.
A consequence of this uplifting weather pattern has been full loads on trams and most of the town's buses. A sampling of the seafront tram service on Monday offered firsthand encounter with the trials and tribulations of tram crews having to deal with crowds of visitors both on and off the trams. Roving conductors have an almost impossible task in safely issuing fares whilst negotiating the seemingly unlimited numbers of baby carriages, mobility aids filling out available space near to doorways. While Blackpool residents are immured to the fine art of securing seats or standing room space - visitors with accompanying family members, laden with all manner of souvenirs and must have shopping - and unfamiliar with stops or the surging acceleration and braking of trams are an especial challenge on crowded cars.
Roving conductors have their patience tried particularly in the section between North Pier and South Pier/Pleasure Beach - with seemingly endless waiting queues (or rather crowds) stand ready to pour into already loaded trams. The fixation on sticking to scheduled services with a ten minute or more interval - and total lack (or so it seems) of running 'Extras' makes the tramway a far less inviting experience for a family of four (or more). Horse drawn landau did a 'roaring' trade ambling sedately along the promenade roadway despite the volume of traffic. Challenging behaviour of riders on bike and electric scooters seemingly intent on a death wish serve to make the promenade tram track a near fatal experience for ambulatory visitors - not to mention the tram drivers themselves.
Incessant blaring of horns on the trams themselves underlines the gravitas of a tram driver's job. Given that many, if not most, of Blackpool's visitors are unfamiliar with trams choosing toe chance their lives by strolling on or next to the tram track on the paved reservations which perhaps are now ill advised. On a crowded promenade the herd instinct seemingly takes over, especially at popular stops and tourist venues such as Central Pier, South Pier, Tower and of course the Pleasure Beach. Only the continuous warning sounds from oncoming trams manages to give pause to visitors of all ages from gaining immortality under the wheels. Children being the most vulnerable and worst impediment to safe and smooth passage of trams.
Before Covid restrictions - loading at multiple points on the tram.
Tram drivers themselves should be paid danger money for the stress of continually dealing with Bank Holiday schedules - particular when sunshine is predicted. Conductors managing to get through a shift without exhibiting intentional violence or verbal threats deserve a special annual medal. The assignment of 'heritage trams' to operate as short working 'Extras' at peak times would lessen levels of aggravation from crowds of intending passengers having to deal with 'Car Full' notices on intermittent service trams - and provide welcome additional capacity which was the original intention for the modified 'Balloons'. Admittedly wheelchairs and infant 'buggies' the latter now morphing into the size of moon landing modules; prevent the use of traditional trams (of whatever type), from providing safe loading and unloading - nor allow for the storage space needed. One only has to travel on the lower deck of a Blackpool bus to see the area reserved for infants, elderly and infirm (by law). Climbing upstairs or downstairs on a moving vehicle adds further risk factors. to operator's liability.
A famous court case involving Blackpool Corporation saw damages being awarded to a passenger whose artificial limb was inadvertantly trapped between the closing centre door panels of a bus - falling off into the street after the now legless passenger had travelled some distance from where he boarded ! The doors being closed from the driver's cab in this case. Whilst a tram passenger travelling on the top deck of an open tram succumbed to her injuries from a broken trolleywheel which landed directly on her head. Another female passenger attempting to reclaim her large hat which had blown off on a tram on Central Drive, fell from the tram's staircase onto the roadway suffering fatal injuries. Such are the manifold adversities of being a transport operator. All tales from the dark side of Blackpool's bus and tram history.
Expectant crowds along the platform for the next tram to arrive. North Pier stop southbound. Not a wheelchair or 'buggie' in sight this time...