Despite some very positive developments at Crich Tramway Village during 2012, an ongoing shortage of volunteer tram crews has been a serious cause for concern this summer. There have been claims for the last few years that volunteer numbers have been in decline, which have been rubbished by some quarters, but recent evidence clearly shows that the number of available tram crews has fallen quite significantly.
Efforts have been made to operate three trams each day as much as possible during the school summer holidays, but even this has not always been possible. Recently a two-car service was provided on an August Saturday, which led to the unwelcome sight of large queues of visitors waiting for a tram at Town End. On a few occasions the Access Tram, Berlin 223-006 4 has been brought into service with just one crew member, as the only serviceable tram at Crich able to run without a conductor, and this has provided a small but welcome capacity boost. Indeed, it is only thanks to the dedication of some members of platform staff who go the extra mile to ensure that a good level of service is provided for the enjoyment of visitors that things have not been even worse.
The lack of willing volunteers to crew trams was all too apparent on August Bank Holiday Sunday, 26th August. The annual Vintage Transport Gathering may not be such a big draw as it once was, but it remains a highlight in the annual events calendar. Your writer recalls his first visit to this event back in 1991 when a whopping 14 trams were in passenger service, and although this figure has never since been matched on an August Bank Holiday weekend, visitors could confidently expect about ten trams to be in service around a decade ago. This year the Sunday saw a dismal five-car service in operation, and to add further insult to injury, one of the chosen trams was Blackpool 630 which offers just 48 seats. Some years ago I recall a Duty Inspector expressing displeasure that a crew had brought out a single-deck car with ten trams running, so for 630 to be chosen when so few trams were out on such a busy day was most disapointing.
It is sad to see Crich struggling for crews, particularly at a time when other departments, such as catering and the workshop, seem to be excelling themselves. Indeed, other organisations are showing the exact opposite trend – for example, the Heaton Park Tramway has welcomed a large number of trainee guards this year and at times the tramway has been over-staffed! Hopefully the cause of this decline in volunteer numbers in the Traffic Department at Crich can be investigated and resolved, as this could become a serious obstacle to the Museum’s drive to increase visitor numbers and stage more impressive special events.