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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Heritage Tour Passenger Loadings

John Woodman

The seemingly over eager desire to run 'heritage tours' in the depths of winter begs the question where are the published ridership numbers of these seemingly never ending repetitive events month after month? In years gone by the Transport Department, as it was in former times, made a meticulous record of passenger loadings on its 'Circular Tours' which never operated in the winter months. Both by revenue and ticket numbers was a healthy review of public take up of the seasonal offer possible. This allowed the Department's managers to determine the viability of continued operations and also judge the optimum level of fares charged.

What is perplexing in the current set up is the basis by which the increasing frequency of 'Tours' is determined, especially during the continued baleful influence of a pandemic. While online viewers are provided with glorious sharp images of long familiar trams negotiating their way along the seafront line from Point A to Point B - the absence of queuing crowds at principal stops infers less than plentiful loadings to justify running elderly veterans. Had this been in the far off times of the municipal system such indulgence would have been firmly stamped on.

The most recent clash of 'best laid plans' being caught short, is the announcement this week that the street running section of the tramway in Fleetwood being closed to traffic as a result of utility works. This has meant the Fleetwood Ferry destination being cut short to Fleetwood Ash Street over the next months. Thus the fares being charged for this part of the tram route are invalid until such time as the complete street running section to the Ferry is reinstated. No doubt hardened but excitable photographers will be clustering around the Ash Street crossover (sorry - Fishermans Walk) to record this latest abberation in the 'heritage tour' agenda. Of course had the organisers respected the seasonal calendar, long observed in days of yore which scrupulously monitored leisure ridership numbers, then truncation of the tramway in Fleetwood during February and March would be of little, if any consequence.

'Familarity Breeds Contempt'. An insistence on the apparent need to run 'Heritage Tours' through much of the twelve month calendar might be sustainable if the numbers of paying riders was sufficiently robust - particularly outside of the Easter, summer and Illuminations peak visitor periods in Blackpool's calendar. However without any reliable published information from the 'TramTown' organising body or its Tour cadre - it is impossible to determine actual levels of public (as opposed to enthusiast takeup). This absence of credible data makes it even harder to judge the comparative value of any of the increasing number of Tour variants or the car types drawing especially large (or larger) ridership above observed single digits from time to time.

Having registered these observations it is also worth recording the efforts and labour provided by volunteers in support of this town's incredible history in launching electric trams at a time when most other urban operations were wholly reliant on coal and horse power. That these labours will, one hopes, end up in a transport heritage centre worthy of Blackpool's pioneering role in 1885.

The 1920s and a traditional group photo taken outside the Oxford Hotel of yet another Circular Tour passing along the Marton tramway at this point. One of thousands such examples over the decade.

Both Tram Driver and Conductor stand stiffly to attention for the photograph with a nice cross section of millinery on display plus two 'flat hats' and one 'bowler'. The rear bench passengers have been enticed? to stand on the offside running board to complete the photograph. A semi decent loading for this trip. The young man standing near to the crew is the photographer's assistant.


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