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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Trams to Victoria Hospital Please

John Woodman

Blackpool's Victoria Hospital complex - ever expanding as the important health treatment centre is one of the busiest year round locations on the Fylde coast. Its vital services require continuing 24 hour staffing, with significant expansion in numbers in daytime hours. Enlargement of car parking spaces testify to the increasing volume of visitors to the Layton location, while the Fylde's ageing population demographics and the Fylde coast's attractiveness for retirees point to ever more demand on this NHS Trust into this century.

Well not quite a tram ! First weekend of service of Blackpool's latest single deck buses (in 2015) with Mercedes series debuting on the Victoria Hospital to Squires Gate Service 5. Low floor modern vehicles in the new 'Palladium' colour scheme introduced on this class. Victoria Hospital terminus is sited next to the smart new multi level hospital car park. Photo : John Woodman

Alongside the hospital complex lies Blackpool's principal 'green' space in the extensive Stanley Park which draws crowds on fine days year round. A further attraction drawing visitors to this eastern edge of Blackpool's 'authority' is the equally important 'zoo; providing important animal species conservation work. These three 'hubs' alone justify the value of a fixed link service connecting to the town centre as well as north south transport services from Fleetwood to Lytham.

Layton's dense community and the Talbot Road 'corridor' which funnels traffic into the town centre from northern and eastern districts, as well as the Fylde's hinterland, together combine to make the case for planning an eastern light rail 'spine'. Its worth recalling a similar scenario confronting the town's planners and investors over a century earlier. The growth of Blackpool (and the Fylde coast communities) exploded in the final decades of the 19th century, triggered for the most part by railway construction. Blackpool's early embrace of electric power is well known following private sector entrepreneurs with three seperate pioneering tramways bringing technology and innovation (while avoiding both horse and steam power).

Blackpool's need (and attractiveness) for labour surpassed the immediate confines of its town centre districts in providing building able to sustain housing demand for working class and equally important middle class needs - all requiring reliable transport to and from work and commercial premises. Schools, healthcare, sanitation and accommodation combined to fuel rapid expansion of the town's tramway from its seafront operation. The Marton route being of foremost importance combining with the line developing along Lytham Road as far as Station Road where it connected with the company owned tramway that ran due south to St Annes and Lytham. New schools (including the Author's) plus the first 'Victoria Hospital' were sited alongside the new tramway - joining new build residences of imposing design for the fast growing middle class served by convenient shopping centres of the period.

The Marton line - starting from in front of Blackpool's Town Hall (itself a marvellous edifice of that era) was joined by two further inland tramways in quick succession. The once isolated village of Layton shifted its centre north to the new terminus of the tramway built along the eastward axis of the 'New Road'. The tram terminus was sited directly opposite the main entrance to the equally new Cemetery built by the Corporation to provide badly needed ground for burials. A conjoined area was assigned to the deceased of the Jewish Faith. Although the Layton tram service was short in distance (just over a mile) it brought with it a spurt of development on adjoining green fields with a 'Steam Laundy', Brewery, Isolation Hospital at the junction with a new inland north south road; the town's Yeomanry Drill Hall, Railway Goods Yard and a swathe of working class homes devoid of gardens in and around the immediate vicinity of the Layton terminus.

A third inland tramway was created running up Central Drive'; turning south in front of the imposing newly built Revoe Gymnasium and Library - running through fields as far as Waterloo Road where a connection was made with the Marton tramway allowing trams to turn east or west. The town's football ground was resited to land in proximity to both the new Central Drive tramway and Lytham Road's tram service - at Bloomfield Road - a location it continues to call home today.

Apart from extensions to the South Promenade tramway and the existing Dickson Road line Blackpool was to see no further investment in electric tram expansion up to the present day. However environmental pressures and growth of the Victoria Hospital, Stanley Park, Blackpool Zoo cluster may well see the wheel turning its full circle in the coming decades.

Trams to Victoria Hospital 24/7 will be a welcome achievement for residents, visitors and staff alike.


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