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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

No Way To Run A Llght Railway

John Woodman

1932 - Electric Power = Domestic Application - Advertising in Local Paper

As if the management of Blackpool Transport dont already have enough tasks and projects to deal with day by day week by week. Renewing and replacing an entire bus fleet with all electric models; reconfiguring the Rigby Road transport site to handle electric buses while downsizing the century old tram workshops and transferring a residual works element to the tram depot which itself has to be reconfigured for public access as a heritage museum. Add the most recent health and safety diktat requiring a seemingly inordinately detailed check list of workshop operating provisions to be implemented in the existing works (soon to be demolished) - and then working out the distances of all bus services with drive time exactness ensuring electric power storage is sufficient on each operating vehicle - before recharging is required.

Meanwhile on the light rail service yet a further lengthy interruption during the holiday weekend saw no power on the entire line for several hours. A shortened operation as far north as Little Bispham was eventually instated with buses assuming duties onward to Cleveleys and Fleetwood. Just how waiting passengers along the route were informed of the reason for non appearance of trams highlights Blackpool Council's unwillingness to fund electronic real time signage on all station stops when the light rail upgrade was implemented. Had this elementary facet of rail passenger information been incorporated per recommendation of the contractors (among other parties) the operator's ability to instantly communicate details of service delays needed only the press of a button at the Starr Gate Depot control desk. Tram breakdowns, incidents on the line are all too frequent making the need for basic electronic signage all the more important year round.

Interestingly the Council have seen fit to instal defibrillation units on many station stops recently but the abysmal tram shelters, all drab grey with minimal bare metallic seating further debase the overall experience for travellers, particularly in cold weather and westerly gale force winds for which the Fylde coast is renowned. The Council own and are responsible for the tramway infrastructure and seemingly avidly avoid incurring capital costs even to the extent of neglecting painting tram overhead poles, allowing weathering to remove original protective coating - especially noticeable on the reserved track sections north of Cabin. Gone are the days when the Transport Department religiously ensured fresh coatings of Corporation green paint were dutifully applied by a small dedicated team of workmen each Spring time before the seasonal onset of visitors.

All of this parsimony and short change approach does nothing to deliver the fulsome experience of tram travel in Blackpool. It can't be easy dealing with a constantly changing array of demands and service delivery requirement and the transport operator does a creditable job in the current array of challenges. The small and long awaited tram extension crossing the Promenade at a very busy point and negotiating an equally fraught road junction to access the new terminus at Talbot Gateway (for Blackpool North) is yet a further hurdle to deal with at some point later this year. With one on-street stop inbound opposite the Town Hall - will this be signed 'Talbot Square' or 'North Pier'?


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