Monday, 28 November 2016

Bus Break at Blackpool (1)

Trams, Tower and Trouble
Blackpool was famous for its trams, being, for many years, the last place in the UK where you could ride on this form of transport as a "normal" service.

The first part opened on 29 September 1885, a conduit line from Cocker Street to Dean Street on Blackpool Promenade. It was one of the first practical electric tramways in the world, just six years after Werner von Siemens first demonstrated electric traction. The inauguration was presided over by Holroyd Smith, the inventor of the system, and Alderman Harwood, the Mayor of Manchester. It was operated by the Blackpool Electric Tramway Company until 1892 when its lease expired and Blackpool Corporation took over.

Various extensions took the line from Starr Gate to Fleetwood. At the southern terminus (Starr Gate) there was a turning loop ...
... and the line spent most of its time separate from traffic, but not from pedestrians, t5rundling along not very reserved track  along the esplanade. Once north of the crowded tourist-filled area, the track becomes more reserved and even fenced!
But in Fleetwood ...
... trams run along the street! Very exciting, especially for innocent visitors who have drive almost the whole length of the line with trams safely separated.
This was traditional UK tramway, albeit for only a short section.
But it has to be said that the system was becoming very tired, Would the council close it down? Would there be money to upgrade?

On 1 February 2008 it was announced that the Government had agreed to the joint BTS and Blackpool Council bid for funding toward the total upgrade of the track. The Government were to contribute £60.3M of the total £85.3M cost. Blackpool Council and Lancashire County Council would each provide about £12.5M. The Government's decision meant that the entire tramway was upgraded and 16 Flexity 2 trams replaced the fleet.

A new depot was built at Starr Gate and the super trams now ply the line ...
... even through the streets of Fleetwood.

Somehow the new trams do not have the "character" of the old, but nostalgia junkies can still enjoy regular "Heritage" days when "proper" trams provide an expensive memory of the recent past.
Heritage trams only serve limited stops ...
... and however splendid a ride may be, it just isn't the same as the good old days.

A real highlight of Blackpool trams has been (and still is, heritage-wise) the special trams, illuminated to enhance the famous street decorations.
Of course, the trams pass the tower.
Blackpool Tower is a tourist attraction in Blackpool, Lancashire, England, which was opened to the public on 14 May 1894. Inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it is 518 feet (158 metres) tall.

When the tower opened, 3,000 customers took the first rides to the top. Tourists paid sixpence for admission, sixpence more for a ride in the lifts to the top, and a further sixpence for the circus. The first members of the public to ascend the tower had been local journalists in September 1893 using constructors' ladders. In 1897 the top of the tower caught fire, and the platform was seen on fire from up to fifty miles away.

The tower was not painted properly during the first thirty years and became corroded, leading to discussions about demolishing it. However, it was decided to rebuild it instead, and between 1921 and 1924 all the steelwork in the structure was replaced and renewed.
One of its most recent improvements (in 2011) is the creation of glass floors as seen here.

Most buses (and the trams) are run by council owned company Blackpool Transport. It, too has had a recent revamp with a new swirly paint job ...
... and subsequently, a new logo.
fbb is not at all sure what was wrong with the old one!
Stagecoach buses run into Blackpool from Preston, but smaller operators should sway over most of the services tendered by Lancashire Council.

And so to "Trouble".

There is also some direct competition for Blackpool Transport; thus it was a some interest when a correspondent sent this extract from "Notices and Proceedings", the on-line "journal" of the UK Traffic Commissioners. (click to enlarge the image below)
It tells of a revoked operator's licence and the disqualification of a Mt Philip Higgs as a director of any bus company; in other words Catch22 Bus is being put off the road officially and terminally from 18th January 2017.

So what is it all about?

Needless to say the tale is complex and confused. fbb will attempt an unravelment tomorrow.

 Next Blackpool blog : Tuesday 29th November 

1 comment:

  1. For clarification, Blackpool is a unitary council and therefore responsible for tendering its own bus services. But both Fleetwood to the north and Lytham St Annes to the south remain in two-tier Lancashire, so there are complications of cross-border operation. Indeed, because the tram infrastructure is owned by Blackpool Borough Council, the abandonment of the Fleetwood end was a serious proposition until Lancashire put some cash up for modernisation.