Monday 23rd July saw the eagerly anticipated commencement of a daily heritage tram service in Blackpool. Apart from Bank Holidays, this marked the first time since last autumn that the general public had been able to ride on a traditional tram in the town on a weekday as Blackpool enters its busiest time of year, with schoolchildren across the country now enjoying their long summer holiday.
The previous weekend had been an excellent one for the heritage tours, with glorious weather prompting the use of open cars Boat 230 (604) and ‘Princess Alice’ 706 on both days. Unfortunately 706 only completed one round trip on Sunday 22nd before returning to the depot with a defective transponder; after a long gap it was eventually replaced by Brush Railcoach 631. The recently reinstated Brush car was out again on Monday 23rd when it was joined by Balloon 717.
The heritage tram tours will now operate daily from around 10:00am to 5:00pm until 30th August. Then, with the start of the illuminations, the daytime tours will cease and be replaced by evening tours which are expected to operate from around 5:00pm until midnight. The frequency of the tours is also set to increase with tour cars due to run at ten minute intervals on weekends and during the busy October half-term week, something which will offer a feast of varied trams for enthusiasts!
Naturally, the three operational illuminated feature cars will feature heavily in the evening service and it is believed that, once the lights switch on each evening, these cars will only load from the Pleasure Beach. This will be something of a culture shock as the illumination tours have traditionally started from North Pier, so hopefully regular visitors will soon adapt to the revised operating pattern! Hopefully the other vintage cars will continue to load and unload at North Pier, Cabin and Bispham as well as Pleasure Beach as otherwise the tours will be much less flexible and could lose potential custom. However, it is probably wise to stick to one starting point for the feature cars which have always been aimed more at families than tram enthusiasts. If past years are anything to go by, the illuminated trams will usually fill up at the starting point anyway – meaning that anyone attempting to board elsewhere would probably struggle to find an empty seat.
If, as expected, the current pricing structure of £10 for an all-day pass or £5 for one round trip between Pleasure Beach and Little Bispham is retained this will be excellent value for money and would actually be a reduction compared to the old illumination tours which were priced at £6 per adult last year. Here’s hoping that the autumn will be an interesting and profitable time for the Blackpool tramway, confirming the value of the retained vintage trams to Blackpool Transport.