The morning of July 28th was an unexpectedly eventful one for the Blackpool tramway, due to an accident which occured on New South Promenade early in the morning. Full details are not known, but it is understood that a motorist lost control of their car whilst passing Harrow Place and swerved onto the tramway, hitting an overhead pole. Tragically, the car driver was pronounced dead on the scene.
Understandaly Police were keen to investigate and cordoned off this section of the promenade. As the accident happened about 6:30am, only one tram, 012, had entered service for the day meaning that all of the other Flexities were trapped in Starr Gate depot. With the promenade closure in force for several hours, Blackpool Transport could have opted to close the tramway completeley, but instead the modified Balloon cars were called upon to take over the core service. Although a few of the cars are sometimes stationed at Starr Gate, four cars at Rigby Road were available and were duly sent into traffic, with 700, sporting its recently applied Flexity-style livery being the first out. It was followed by flat-fronted cars 709, 718 and 724, all of which still carry their advert liveries from last season. These four trams and Flexity 012 then operated an ad-hoc service until around lunchtime, with a small number of tram replacement buses also utilised to compensate for the lack of suitable trams. All four double-deckers are thought to have managed at least one trip to Fleetwood Ferry.
Further complications arose due to issues with the points at Pleasure Beach (see seperate news story), meaning that most southbound journeys were forced to terminate at Foxhall, with no other crossovers further south. By early afternoon, the Police had re-opened New South Promenade allowing the Flexities to escape once again, and one by one the rebuilt Balloon cars returned to Rigby Road depot, with the sole exception of 709 which ran to Starr Gate and remained there.
Blackpool Transport’s speedy response to a difficult situation deserves to be congratulated, and it is impressive and very fortunate that as many as four double-deckers were able to be pressed into action at such short notice. The use of cars 709 and 718 was particularly noteworthy as both were making their passenger debuts for 2012, whilst 724 was making its first appearance since a one-off outing before Easter when it failed soon after entering service. Thankfully all four trams performed superbly in this crisis and this was a reminder of the quality of these traditional, albeit heavily modified trams. Although tram enthusiasts enjoyed the novelty of riding on these cars again, the morning incident was terrible, and we offer our condolences to the family and friends of the motorist involved.