Sunday 15th July saw the annual Fleetwood Transport Festival event staged, and Blackpool Transport chose this occasion to unveil the first traditional tram to have been outshopped in the new Flexity-style fleet livery of purple and white. The chosen recipient is prototype Balloon car 700, which was released from the Paint Shop in secrecy the previous day ready for its starring role at the event.
700 was taken to Fleetwood early on the Sunday morning, before the road through Fleetwood was closed off for the day’s event. The car was joined by sister 717 to give the unusual sight of traditional and modernised Balloons together, and the duo then spent most of the day parked at Pharos Street before heading back to Rigby Road once the event had drawn to a close. 717 was used by the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust as a base to promote their plans to develop a number of visitor attractions in Fleetwood, whilst project leader John Woodman was also present to launch his latest book. Sadly both trams ran to Fleetwood and back empty – although the rare sight of two Balloons running through Fleetwood was certainly a very welcome one.
However, it was undoubtedly car 700 which really stole the show tram-wise, and its new look has already generated great debate. The newly painted tram sports dark purple ends whilst the body sides are mainly white, with purple side swoops along the lower panelling and large Blackpool Transport logos prominently placed above the centre platform doors. Although this modern livery has predictably been criticised in some quarters, it at least gives a sense of corporate identity to the tram and should be considered a major improvement on the white base coat previously worn by the car. As 700 has only run in passenger service on a tiny number of days since being modernised with widened centre doors, hopefully this livery will mark an upturn in its fortunes and the car will see more frequent use during the illuminations season. It is not yet known when, or if, any of the other modified double-deckers will receive the Flexity livery but with their advert contracts being transferred onto buses, this could well become the normal livery for these trams.
Disapointingly, another tram website has launched another scathing attack on Blackpool Transport, both for the apparent lack of effort they invested in this year’s Fleetwood Transport Festival, and for the way that 700 has been modernised. Once again it needs to be stressed that Blackpool Transport is a commerical transport operator – indeed the company could quite easily have ignored the event, but instead they chose to provide some additional interest and help to promote a local preservation group, which should surely be applauded. Whilst the event formelly known as Tram Sunday could certainly have been better, at least some classic trams were able to appear in Fleetwood whilst the heritage service in Blackpool kept those of us who prefer to ride on vintage trams entertained for the day. As for the new livery on 700, we will leave it to our readers to form their own opinions of its appearance, rather than try to force one viewpoint on others, and any comments on it will be most welcome!