Following an enforced four-day absence due to defective points at the Pleasure Beach loop, it is pleasing to report that the heritage tram tours in Blackpool resumed on Wednesday 1st August, when Brush Railcoach 631 and Balloon 717 were in use. However, the previous few days had been anything but dull with some of the rebuilt double-deck cars making some rare appearances in ordinary service.
Following the use of four widened double-deckers on Saturday 28th July, when an incident on New South Promenade resulted in all but one of the Flexity2 supertrams trapped at Starr Gate during the morning, further use was made of these cars, now commonly known as the ‘B Fleet’. 700 and 709 were both used again on Sunday 29th July, when both cars were utilised as oridnary specials, using the crews who should have manned the heritage tours that day. Due to the non-availability of the Pleasure Beach as a terminal point, most southbound journeys were unsually terminated at Foxhall.
Further interest came on Tuesday 31st July when an impressive four ‘B Fleet’ trams were out on specials, with the highlight being the passenger debut for 2012 of car 707. This tram, along with 713, had spent several weeks inside the new depot at Starr Gate, but was transferred back to Rigby Road on Monday 30th July allowing both trams to run on the following day, along with 700 and 709. It is understood that some of these trams used the Pleasure Beach loop towards the end of the afternoon, once the points had been repaired and declared fit for use. Hopefully the fact that four rebuilt Balloons were used on this day may suggest that these trams will continue to appear now the heritage service has resumed, and that extra crews will be made available on occasions so that more trams can run.
The return of the heritage tours is undoubtedly very welcome, as the points failure was terribly timed as it came soon after the start of the school summer holidays. Hopefully better weather in the weeks ahead will encourage more people to sample a vintage tram ride, justifying the continued role of these cars on the upgraded tramway. Whilst Blackpool Transport have received some criticism for cancelling the tours for four days, rather than amending the advertised route, it must be emphasised that the company has many rules and regulations it must follow when operating trams that do not comply with modern accessibility laws. The heritage tram operation is certainly not as simple as it looks to the casual observer, and so it is probably best to be thankful that BTS run these tours at all, rather than criticise them for what turned out to be a short period of upheaval.