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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Manchester's Bee Network

John Woodman

Amid the headline dominating reports of sterling's value decline one interesting northern news article this week covered the plans to rebrand Greater Manchester's transport network. Announced by the city region's political leader - Andy Burnham, buses, trams, bicycles! and more are to become 'BeeLine' with an all over bright yellow fleet livery. Fifty new all electric double deck buses are on order for Manchester, beginning the process of creating an all-electric bus fleet and replacing current models both old and new. Being built by Alexander Dennis, the images available show bodywork very similar to Blackpool Transport's Enviro models also by ADL.

Built in Blackburn, and currently Blackpool's only all-yellow tramcar seen here alongside the tram Engineering Shop (soon to be demolished). But nonetheless presenting a bright and cheersome appearance as it prepares to tow a reconstituted 1930s rail coach into the Paint Shops for makeover in Walter Luff green and cream livery. Could we have more of both please?

Blackpool could well take a large leaf out of the Manchester transport announced rebranding and start by instituting uniformity of image and branding between both its bus and tram fleets. These currently present a disjointed operation to residents and visitors alike.

The now tired appearance of Blackpool's trams themselves, clad in an depressingly dark and overly fussy livery is ill-suited to a seaside network geared to seasonal leisure travel. Conformity of urban transport branding a la Manchester emphasising connectivity throughout the Fylde's coastal communities is eminently desirable - as opposed to the current uncertain linkage between the tramway and partnering BTS bus services; especially Line 1 from Starr Gate to Fleetwood.

Forecasted onset of Blackpool's all electric bus fleet offers the Operator chance to emulate Greater Manchester's bright yellow branding of its entire transport network together with simple user friendly imagery of the city's logo - the bee. (In Blackpool's case the Tower perhaps). Many local residents (and visitors) of a certain age group recall with a certain degree of fondness the normally immaculate vehicles turned out in variants of green and cream which became the hallmark of Blackpool's transport system from the 1930s. even with external advertising the town's trams and buses were prominent ambassadors for the Corporation and Council. Only a later sequence of managerial changes from the 1990s saw the transport fleet undergo and bewildering series of branding makeovers eschewing the public's preferred sentiment for retaining the cream and green livery adopted by Walter Luff. A flavour of how this looked can be glimpsed on retained heritage trams traversing the promenade.

It's doubtful that Blackpool's present day Council could be prevailed upon to revert to the accolade winning appearance of the town's transport vehicles in former times. However lessons from Andy Burnham's Greater Manchester system; itself the largest tram network in the UK, are well worth noting - and even a visit once the new Manchester Bee line applications begin to take hold. Today there is much room for improvement on Blackpool's more modest system and chance to make good its own green credentials with imminence of an all electric transport era.

As the UK pioneering town introducing electric trams in 1885 - the discarding of carbon fuelled buses entirely for electric powered models is well worth celebrating with a branding makeover that does away with the current mismatched fleets emerging from Rigby Road and Starr Gate. From 1885 to 1921 in fact Blackpool's transport services were indeed all-electric, with the Electricity and Tramways Department: a singular entity under one General Manager, Charles Furness. The Corporation owned and operated its own electricity generating plant supplying among other customers, the Blackpool Pleasure Beach Company. Wheels turning full circles perchance?


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