Manchester Metrolink has become the UK tram system with the highest number of tram versus car incidents in recent years, but the Blackpool tramway seems to be catching up with an alarming increase in the regularity of such incidents so far this year. This has included two accidents within a few days of each other during May, both of which caused little damage but lots of disruption to long-suffering tram passengers.
On Saturday 7th May, major disruption arose when Flexity 013 collided with a taxi near the Metropole Hotel. Although segregating the tracks around the hotel itself has massively improved safety at this previous hot spot, road vehicles do still have to cross the tramway to access the Metropole car park and this is presumably how 013‘s altercation with the taxi came to happen. Thankfully nobody is believed to have been hurt and the tram sustained nothing worse than few damaged panels, however during the ensuing disruption all tram services were stopped for about half an hour whilst the Police attended the scene. Once operations were allowed to resume it took some time for trams to regain their allocated time slots with a number of short workings performed in order to get things back to normal. One pleasing aspect of this incident was the excellent level of customer service from Blackpool Transport, who provided frequent updates on the situation through its online social media pages, whilst the Heritage Tram Tours Facebook and Twitter pages were also kept up to date informing potential customers when things were moving again. Whilst some accidents and disruption are inevitable, it is good to see the company explaining what is happening so well, something which has vastly improved since the appointment of Jane Cole as Managing Director of the company, and the inception of the Heritage Tram Tours department complete with its impressive online presence.
Unfortunately, just four days later the tramway was in the news again after another similar incident occurred, this time on the northern end of the tramway. On Tuesday 10th May, Flexity 002 was involved in a collision with a motor car at Larkholme Lane, Fleetwood. On this occasion the driver of the car was taken to hospital. 002 was employed on driver training at the time, and service trams were temporarily terminated at Thornton Gate whilst again Police attended the scene and the car was removed from the line. Once again, the tram sustained some panel damage but was able to be driven back to Starr Gate depot under its own power. One article from the local press featured an image of Balloon 711 at the scene of the accident, but we must emphasise that this tram was not involved and this picture was somewhat misleading; it was merely the next tram to arrive at the scene. Co-incidentally, 711 was also out on driver training duties, being used a few times recently in connection with the training of more crews for the heritage tour operations.
It can only be hoped that the regularity of altercations between trams and cars will not continue at this level, although sadly with the number of idiots on the road it is probably wishful thinking that such incidents will ever be completely eliminated. However, the tramway still has an excellent safety record and any suggestions that trams are unsafe should be taken with an extremely large pinch of salt, to put it mildly!