Blackpool Heritage Trust seek volunteer tram conductors

When details of the vastly expanded Blackpool heritage tram service were unveiled earlier this week, one of the questions in many peoples’ minds was: how will Blackpool Transport manage to provide enough staff to run all of these extra trams on so many days across the year? This has now been answered by a second announcement from the Blackpool Heritage Trust, who are now recruiting volunteers to assist with the operation during the peak season. This will mean that unpaid volunteers should be crewing trams in Blackpool this year for the very first time in the tramway’s 130 year history!

As reported previously, the popular Bank Holiday events will be retained for 2015 with six or more trams due to run on certain days. However, the Blackpool Heritage Trust have also introduced a more regular heritage service between Pleasure Beach and North Pier which is set to operate every weekend from late March until early November, and daily at the height of the summer. In order to provide a larger staffing pool to man these trams, the BHT are now seeking a small pool of volunteer conductors to support the core team of Blackpool Transport staff, who will continue to operate the core heritage service and the autumn illuminations tours. The idea here is obviously to allow more trams to run more often than would otherwise be possible without placing too much financial burden on the Trust or the company, in order to further secure a regular heritage presence on this iconic tramway. Further volunteers are also being sought to act as ‘Customer Service Team Members’ to help promote the much improved service.

Naturally there will have to be a number of rules in place which anyone wishing to work as a volunteer on the trams must abide by, to ensure that BTS’ high standards are maintained and that all health and safety regulations are adhered to. Due to the level of training and assessment required, anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer tram conductor will need to be available to work on at least 20 days during 2015. Successful applicants will also be required to sign a volunteer agreement contract with the operating company (BTS).

Alternatively, you might wish to apply for a post as a Customer Service Team Member. These volunteers will be stationed at Pleasure Beach or North Pier on heritage running days, the idea being to promote the service to the public and provide information to anyone who is interested in using it. Hopefully if this attracts enough interest, it will lead to the heritage service being more closely supervised than in previous years and in turn this may finally solve the problem of intending passengers getting confused about where they need to stand to catch a normal service tram or a heritage tram!

If anyone reading this would like to offer their services to the Trust, please write to: Martin Gurr, Heritage Operations Manager, Blackpool Transport Services Ltd, Rigby Road, Blackpool, FY1, 5DD or send an email to: heritage.trams@blackpooltransport.com

The plan to use volunteers to this extent is obviously a huge step for the Trust to take, but one that will need to succeed in order for the service to thrive. We must now accept that what Blackpool has, is a museum collection of trams which are operating on a public transport system for recreational purposes – and that this cannot be a drain on financial resources to anyone involved, as this will take away much-needed revenue which can instead be invested on further projects, such as restoring more trams to service. For everyone who has ever wished they could help more to make the heritage tours a success, this is your chance to do so! It is sincerely hoped that there will be plenty of interest in the recruitment drive, and if so, we may well be able to look forward to even more ambitious events and timetables in years to come!

Thanks to the Blackpool Heritage Trust for supplying much of the information contained in the article above.

 

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40 Responses to Blackpool Heritage Trust seek volunteer tram conductors

  1. melway42 says:

    I am concerned that the idea of recruiting volunteer tram conductors at Blackpool could effect crewing trams at Crich There is quite a few Crich conductors living in the North West, would they be tempted to work in Blackpool rather then trail down the A6 to Crich?

    • Franklyn says:

      If Blackpool does take the volunteers away from Crich then perhaps it’s time the management of Crich took a long hard look at themselves to see why they are being deserted? Snubbing bequests, consigning favourite trams to a static exbibition, not accepting new vehicles (despite being on the infamous trams report) and generally loosing the plot as they become more theme park than serious museum collection are all good reasons people might like to go elsewhere.

      The trust using volunteer crews is a clever idea which I hope catches on. Martin Gurr has extensive experience of heritage tramways and I’m sure he’ll be able go make the system work.

      I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the heritage operations become more split from the so-called “upgraded” normal service. My hope is that the heritage operations keep the money they take, however nobody bas ever explained what the situation is regarding this.

      Hopefully we will eventually see two seperate entities in Blackpool, modern and heritage operations. Then we will truely see if the “upgrade” really was a good idea, when people have a choice which vehicles to travel on.

      My only concern about the volunteer crews is the number of days they are required to work. 20 days a year is quite a lot, particularly if you have to fit all 20 days into the summer season. For people living some distance away that would make it a bit of a non-starter, which is a shame as I have a feeling a lot of people would like to do it.

      A couple of final thoughts…

      It would be better if the first and last heritage tram each day ran through to Fleetwood. Parking can be difficult in Blackpool so I always used to drive to Fleetwood, park there and catch a tram to Blackpool. Extending the first and last cars would enable enthusiasts to do this without having to suffer one of those nasty plastic purple caterpillars!

      Also, how about giving the heritage Guards (Blackpool has never had conductors) proper bell-punch, ultimate, TIM and Almex machines?

      • Christopher Callan says:

        Agree with aspects of what Frankyn said. As usual some aspects leave your average person wanting to smash their head against the wall in frustration.

        Whilst the operations are split in terms of revenue. Both need each other and both are improved by the other one flourishing. Responsible enthusiasts want both to do well. Helps make the case for extensions and greater provisions. Nearly all the people ive encountered on Heritage Tours seem quite happy with both and more than happy to travel on both and want them both to do well.

        BTW. Its been made clear on numerous occasions that the money taken on heritage Trams (and any £10 ticket purchased anywhere) goes into the heritage pot.

        These are exciting times for both the Heritage & Light Rail operations on the tramway.

      • Jonathan Malton says:

        Why do you call the Flexity 2 trams, nasty plastic purple catapillars? They do have a real name, Flexity 2 trams, and are comfortable, clean and efficient. You must agree that the upgrade has meant an increase in passengers, so the tramway has been, effectively, saved frrom closure.

        Anyway, I think the volunteering will be a foot in the right direction for the service, and hopefully, will be able to make sure 2015 is a postitve year, and sets the bar for future events.

      • Paul D says:

        Oh Franklyn…

        You were doing so well and I was nodding in agreement until you had to throw in your pet phrase about ‘purple caterpillars’… We know your views so please stop repeating these negatives in what should be a postive story which is nothing to do with the core flexity service.

        • Nev Sloper says:

          Thought the old versus new argument had been done to death a long while ago? Like it or not, no upgrade = no tramway = no heritage operation! I have little interest in modern trams myself but I understand the vast majority of visitors have no interest in trams. I’m sure they prefer standing in the warm & dry on busy Flexity, to the cold & rain at a stop as a procession of “full” cars pass by as was the norm in the old days.

          • Ken Walker says:

            Quite right Nev. I think we know the anti-upgrade argument almost word for word now. The Heritage operation is now in line for a terrific presence on the tramway and the good news just keeps coming. The Flexity operation is totally irrelevant to this thread. Can’t we just have positive responses to a good-news thread just for once?

          • Christopher Callan says:

            Id give up Nev. Like banging your head against a wall. Anyone who actually been on the tramway since the upgrade capable of recognising it transformed it…

  2. Oliver Wood says:

    The thought of recruiting volunteer conductors at Blackpool, could open a can of worms. I imagine the unions will not be too pleased plus the implication effecting Health & Safety and insurance etc. It’s OK conductors at Crich exchanging tickets for old pennies but I assume it would be real money that Blackpool volunteer conductors would be dealing with

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Don’t forget that the volunteer tram conductors at Heaton Park and Birkenhead also deal with real money! I’m pretty sure this has already gone through all of the relevant channels and met with approval; clearly instead of looking for reasons not to do this, the Blackpool heritage team and BTS management have been proactive and I think that deserves full credit.

    • Peter Watts says:

      I think one of the reasons that the announcement has only just been made is the fact that this would have been under discussion for some time. And I am sure that Blackpool Transport Ltd would not allow BHT to make such an announcement unless all the hurdles have been cleared in advance. Volunteers in many aspects of life work with “real money”, imagine if musuems up and down the country would not allow this! I agree with Andrew that this should be met with positive comments all around, and thank the people behind the scenes who have worked hard to not only make this happen, but also increase significantly the running of the heritage trams.

  3. Frank Gradwell says:

    Its the overwhelming “can do” mindset that has driven the Heritage Tram operation to where it is and to what it can be in the future.

    The glass half empty fraternity will need to climb on board, or be left behind!

  4. Brian says:

    I think the photo chances are far too nice to miss out on so I’m not applying.

    • Christopher Callan says:

      The two interests aren’t mutually exclusive. Plenty of the staff take wonderful photographs. & the Premier Events (Bank Holidays, Local Events etc) With code Gold and code Green ideal time to get the snaps as well.

  5. JOHN says:

    They would not be advertising unless all had been cleared! There will be a contract similar to an employment contract which will protect all parties. Experienced Conductors from other museums will be just what BTS are looking for. If you are worried about Crich being short staffed ask yourself why they don’t have more volunteers……………a whole different kettle of fish. personally I applaud BT for this move which can only be a positive step to getting Heritage out more. Its not a unique situation either, many systems abroad run with volunteers as does Seaton which has volunteer drivers to supplement.

  6. Nigel Pennick says:

    I thought conductors at Blackpool (as in Manchester in the pre-1949 system) were known as “guards”. Has the designation been changed officially?

  7. Mark says:

    Firstly may I start by saying well done to Bryan and Martin. Those of us who remember 1985 and the close co-operation between the Museum sector and BCT, will be delighted that this has finally happened. Although this may be a first for Blackpool it is quite common to see museum trams zipping round Amsterdam, crewed by members of the EMA (Amsterdam Tram Museum), even when the EMA is running its own Museum line service. There has been a lot of comment concerning where the crew will come from and in particular the effect it will have on Crich, a lot of this I feel is misplaced. What I expect will happen is that a lot of local members of various museums will look and see how they can fit this into their plans. This will also have a knock on effect of making a common standard for crewing as guards from Heaton Park, Birkenhead and Crich work along side . In closing I echo Andrew’s, in that they deserve full credit for what they are doing.

  8. Peter Narramore says:

    It’s a great idea. I wish I lived nearer to Blackpool!
    I agree with Mark’s comment about the heritage operation in Amsterdam.
    Last summer I was lucky enough to catch the Blue Tram from the city centre back to the depot. The volunteer crew were very professional and welcomed passengers to join all along the line, all without disturbing the regular tram service

    • Christopher Callan says:

      Exactly. A tried and tested European model (and used all over the world) finally arriving on our shores. We should be rejoicing. The shackles are off and the tramway is free to flourish.. Another impediment to growth removed..

      A world Class Museum beckons along side a fabulous heritage operation and light rail system. All working in perfect harmony

      • Christopher, may I amend you comment “A tried and tested European model (and used all over the world)”?

        Yes, there is a fair number of places where volunteer crews man heritage trams which run on the local tramway system. But the operation at Blackpool and the current plans have some unusual or unique features.

        Blackpool is one of the few tramway operators world-wide where the operator itself runs a service with genuine heritage tramcars and paid staff. I am not too familiar with Eastern Europe but I can think of very few cities elsewhere with a similar practice. Heritage cars on the F-line in San Francisco are probably the nearest equivalent.

        The “tried and tested European model” is to have a totally separate volunteer organisation making use of all-volunteer tram crews. Normally, but not always, are drivers staff of the tramway operator but working in a volunteer capacity for the local preservation society. Conductors can be society volunteers from all walks of life. In Blackpool volunteers will be unpaid workers for the tramway operator and work alongside paid staff which to my knowledge is a unique and new concept. Also, a requirement to do 20 or more duties each year looks fairly high to me. All in all the plans for Blackpool look very different to the “tried and tested European model”.

        • Christopher Callan says:

          Think all will become clear in due course to those further a field. The operations evolution is well and truly under way.

  9. Simon says:

    Just a thought here i live miles away from Blackpool, but near a heritage railway, which also heavily relies on volunteers. If you look around the railway it brings people closer together. So why not target people of Blackpool, not people interest in trams. As i’m sure friendships will be made, and the people will become like one big family. I personally would say that they are the people Blackpool transport need to target not somebody who loves trams as they are needed to support the tramway.

    • Christopher Callan says:

      You need both. Based on your logic none of the other museums/societies should be targeting enthusiasts which evidently would be ludicrous.

  10. Paul D says:

    The detractors who have called for an increase in the heritage service over the last couple of years have been listened to, but the proposed level of service would never be financially viable on the passenger numbers experienced last time there was a weekly service in 2012 (which everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten). The only two options to make this sustainable are for those critics to turn up and ride EVERY week (which is never going to happen is it…) or this volunteer scheme.

    Speaking as a guard trainer for another heritage tramway, I can say with confidence that appropriately trained and supervised volunteer staff can operate a service to exactly the same standards of safety and presentation as a ‘professional’.

    If there is a ‘defection’ of crews from other lines, why is indeed a question the management of other lines need to ask of themselves. Personally, I need to work out whether I can commit the 20 days in addition to duties elsewhere which for me will still take priority…

    • Neal Porter says:

      Hi Paul, I wholehartly agree. It is down to the individual where they want to commit their time to volunteering. I think all the sites that run Trams each have their own unique way of running and what is on offer. I have found thoughout my career that the majority of volunteers are very reliable, Health & safety aware, Knowlageable and most of the times treat the public better as they care about it more than just a job! I dont know where you instruct but i would love to progress to drive trams and if we both get accepted at BTW to meet you and the other volunteers there.

  11. Ken Walker says:

    Regarding Oliver Wood’s comment, The comments from BTS regarding recruitment of volunteer conductors indicate to me that they will effectively just be recruiting extra conductors in the normal way (which they presumably would have to do anyway to increase the heritage service to this degree) but simply not paying them a wage. I don’t see any reason to think that volunteers would be any less competent or less honest than regular paid staff. They will also presumably be covered by employers’ insurance in the same way as regular staff.

    • Franklyn says:

      I totally agree Ken. It’s propably better described as ‘voluntary work’, which is just like normal paid work but without the pay bit.

  12. Paul Turner says:

    I’m fairly sure I was employed as a Tram and Bus Conductor in 1998, certainly my duties numbers had a “C” suffix denoting conductor (or “CC” for top conductor). That said in day to day conversation the job was very much guarding.

    Blackpool has two names for everything. An official one and an unofficial one. Sometimes the unofficial one (eg Boats) sometimes the official one does.

    • Franklyn says:

      In 1998 I think bus service 14 was still crew operated. If memory serves me correctly you would have been a ‘bus conductor’ and ‘tramway guard’. My understanding is that the guard thing dates back to the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company, which was actually a light railway, not a tramway. There are references in original company literature to the supply of ‘locomotives and carriages’ which are widely believed to refer to the tucks and bodywork of the company cars.

      Perhaps ‘guards’ came to Rigby Road when Bispham depot closed? Certainly very old references (pre-1933) by Blackpool Corporation Tramways refer to conductors.

    • JOhn says:

      Guard is a colloquial term. the official legal definition is Conductor but in the North West, they were knows as Guards, hence our Condustors at Heaton Park are Guards and BTS Staff refer to Guards, but Conducting!!!

  13. Oliver Wood says:

    I do accept that volunteers at various museums do deal with real money and I assume Martin Gurr has spoken to the unions. What ever people do think about Crich and its policies, they have done a remarkable job in preserving and restoring trams and let’s face it Blackpool and Crich have cooperated on numerous projects, but it would be sad to think that Crich and perhaps Heaton Park could possibly struggle to run a weekend service because of a shortage of crews. I believe that Martin Gurr is still a board member at Crich so I assume he has informed them of BTS intentions.

    • Christopher Callan says:

      Firstly id point out you were the one who initiated the conversation by bringing a museum over hundred miles away into the equation.

      There is no reason why people cant do both. Think it bordered on insulting to suggest a professional well run organisation wouldn’t have carried out all the necessary work before announcing the news.

      Regarding Martin Gurr what business is it of yours whether he did or didn’t. He is not under contract at Crich as paid member of staff so can do whatever he wishes with his free time.

    • Christopher Callan says:

      As for Heaton Park their volunteer numbers continue to swell with the next generation jumping on board. With the acquisition of a T68 and various ambitious projects am sure they will continue to attract a wide range of people to serve the tramway. Its relative proximity makes those living around or near the two location ideally suited to doing both.

      Crich is 100 miles away from Blackpool. Its offers a different experience with a chance to do other roles within the set up. If it was to loose volunteers it wouldn’t Blackpools fault.

  14. Oliver Wood says:

    I do object to some of the comments Franklyn makes about Crich on the whole they offer a great day out and the volunteers work remarkably hard.As for turning Crich into a theme park what do you think happens at Blackpool, trams ferry passengers along the promenade dropping them off at a the Pleasure Beach a major theme park and passing various amusement establishments on the piers.

    • Christopher Callan says:

      You make a very good point. Blackpools favourable location means that they are in position to concentrate on what they are good at because of the plethora of other businesses along the prom offering a wide and diverse range of attractions suited to all weathers. Whereas Crich because of its isolated location have to create complementary attractions themselves. Blackpool Heritage operation can concentrate on what they are good at. Allowing industry leaders to shape the other offerings (Sand Castle, Pleasure Beach to name just a few).

  15. Neal Porter says:

    Hi, Well as a newby to Trams and becoming a volunteer at East Anglian tranport museum and waiting to start at Crich I have nothing but admiration for the staff at Blackpool trams. The chance to work in a resport on a great tramway is to good to miss. I live in Norfolk but I will (If selected?) provide a minium of 20 days to work alongside proffesional staff. I am a Paramedic and we have used volunteers to attend emergency calls for years and I am sure that the union has allowed this to occure under certain criteria! We are not trying to take away jobs or stop overtime just to allow the public to see a vast selection of trams in use and to ride them. I would like to see on he heritage services the staff appropriatly dressed & ticket machines (Adds to the experiance) I would love to change my job to become a proffesional tram driver but I will enjoy beign at volunteer driving a piece of history at Crich & East Anglian transport museum.

  16. Christopher Callan says:

    See it as fantastic opportunity. Good Luck to everyone applying.

  17. JOHN says:

    Nice as it would be to see Heritage ticketing it isn’t going to happen as it wouldn’t be allowed for accounting purposes!