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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

This Morning In Blackpool

John Woodman

I managed a brief trip into the town centre today and saw progress on Talbot Road with the new hotel under construction and final touches being made to the tram terminus now installed on what was once North Station platforms 2 to 4 up to the mid 1960s. Overhead wiring seems to be more of less completed on Talbot Road as far as the new North Station terminus (or will it be 'Talbot Gateway' on destination screens?)

There is some time before trams will actually test out the new extension as construction work on the anchor hotel facing the railway terminus is still ongoing. But overall the pace of renewal of the entire area is picking up. Relocation of government offices from existing sites elsewhere in Blackpool is planned with a large newbuild office development approved for land immediately to the south of the existing Car Park and Council Office structure. This will change the character of this segment of the town centre and provide stimulus to retail and restaurants in proximity.

A further major scheme has also received approval similarly impacting on the area next to Hounds Hill, Central Drive and Chapel Street. In a £250 Million leisure and commercial scheme the present bland car park area along with blighted police and courts buildings will be swept away for an anchor visitor attraction (year round) together with new hotels and commercial development. In addition the scheme is to preserve the corner site which holds the former King Edward Cinema, Public House (still operating) and the former LMS railwaymen's accommodation block. This will become a heritage quarter within the overall development which takes up most of the former Central Station railway footprint up to Chapel Street.

The Washington - now boasts a boat car pub sign - and one which features accurately the example which now operates in the National Capitol Trolley Museum outside of Washington DC. Full marks Greene King

On a smaller footnote it is worth recording that the Washington pub on the corner of Topping Street has been given new signage featuring one of Blackpool's 'boat' cars - the one which was appropriately shipped to the Capitol trolley museum outside Washington DC. At least someone in the hospitality trade recognises the heritage of Blackpool's trams. Sadly the latest large capital infusion assigned to Blackpool's regeneration omits entirely the ongoing attempt to create a transport museum attraction at Rigby Road. This is still wholly reliant on volunteers and enthusiast 'giving' to accomplish initial important task of making the tram depot there weather proof. (A caveat being that Blackpool Transport give their support to these endeavours during a period of extremely difficult operating conditions due to the pandemic). Just how this Council owned historic tramway infrastructure was missed from approved grant distribution in most recent government awards to Blackpool's objectives is distressing, In fact there is a history of neglectful engagement by local public bodies in conserving the town's unique role in electric tramway history in the UK. Only Rigby Road Tram Depot and its associated workshops from the early 1920s remain out of a mosaic of former depots. Bispham, Marton, Fleetwood, Blundell Street and indeed Squires Gate Lane depot of the former Lytham St Annes tram system - all succumbed to demolition. Efforts to conserve both Fleetwood and Blundell Street tram depots for museum use all failed despite interest and engagement of outside bodies.

The out of public gaze remainder of the Tramway Workshops at Rigby Road - erected in the aftermath of the Great War with extant structures from that period are all of singular importance in maintaining historical links to formative years of the town's tram system from 1920 onwards. Out of sight out of mind does retain a central truth it seems. Other towns and cities retaining trams over two centuries share more respect for their civic transport historic infrastructure. Brussels, Porto, Lisbon, Cracow, St Petersburg, Arnhem, Stuttgart, Zurich et al spring to mind. Perhaps more informed souls might place their professional and political weight behind Blackpool's rightful case to conserve elements of the town's electric tramway infrastructure at Rigby Road. Sadly our own efforts (FHLT) on behalf of Fleetwood's Copse Road Depot and Wyre Dock proposals got us no where, but in this case Blackpool Council was not involved.


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