The Blackpool tramway’s heritage team continue to make positive progress of late, with two more volunteers being issued their tram driving licences this week. This will obviously provide a very welcome boost to the available pool of trained drivers for heritage tours as the most intensive period of the year approaches, with near daily use planned during the school summer holidays and the illuminations.
A period of intense training took place on the week commencing 6th July, with the favoured car for this role generally being modified Balloon car 711. However, the trainees were also given the chance to get to grips with the controls of a variety of different trams, including Standard 147, Twin set 272+T2, Brush Railcoach 631 and Centenary car 648. Both of the drivers passed their assessments on Monday 13th July and are expected to start driving the heritage fleet in passenger service imminently.
It should be noted that, unlike the volunteer guards who were sought earlier this year, there has been no recruitment drive for people to drive the heritage trams voluntarily. These drivers have all either driven trams for Blackpool Transport previously as paid staff, or have been senior drivers on other heritage tramways such as those at Crich and Heaton Park, Manchester. This will ensure that this invaluable vehicles will be in good hands whilst also satisfying the unions that the impact on paid BTS staff will be slight, although perhaps in the future there may be opportunities to increase the number of volunteers available. For now though, the fact that people are giving up their free time to ensure that the heritage service is able to operate at such a great level is very much appreciated and it is undoubtedly the efforts of a small number of people who are making the operation such a great success so far this year.