Lancastrian Transport Trust issue statement on tram moves

The Lancastrian Transport Trust have received some criticism from tram enthusiasts over the past few days, after moving six of their preserved Blackpool trams from Rigby Road to outside storage on the outskirts of Blackpool. Now, the charitable organisation has released a lengthy statement which explains the reasoning behind this decision and why such an unfortunate situation has arisen.

Originally, Blackpool Transport had requested that all sold trams be removed from the depot at Rigby Road before the upgraded tramway opened in spring 2012. Most organisations responded by making arrangements to relocate their new acquisistions, but the LTT asked for more time to allow their plans to develop a new visitor centre at Thornton Gate to progress. After contacting the local press and politicians, the LTT were eventually allowed to keep their trams at Rigby Road, but were expected to pay a rent fee for their continued storage. BTS also introduced a clause stating that if they felt that the LTT’s plans to create their own museum were not making any progress within six months, they would be free to give a month’s notice to evict the trams. The LTT state that they have been unable to submit a bid for lottery funding as they cannot finalise a lease on the Thornton Gate site which is still being occupied by contractors. In July, Blackpool Transport’s Directors agreed to evict the remaining LTT trams on site, and if they were not removed by a set deadline then the cars would be repossed by the company, who could then either dispose of them however they wished, or retain them for their own heritage collection.

With this in mind, the LTT hastily made arrangements for the six trams left at Rigby Road to be retrieved and Allely’s hauliers were booked to move them all on the week commencing 3rd September. Unfortunately it would seem that the size of the lorry used for these moves was not taken into consideration, probably due to the rushed nature in making the necessary arrangements, and after it was unable to get Brush car 259 into the planned storage shed, the Trust had no option but to place all of the trams outside. Plans are now being formulated for further moves to take place and hopefully this will occur in the near future – but of course this will be a further unwelcome drain on the charity’s funds.

The LTT also state that they felt they needed to remove the trams for their own well-being, as some of them had sustained damage whilst in store at Rigby Road. Both Brush car 632 and Balloon 715 had sustained some collision damage in seperate incidents, although both trams have since been repaired by BTS. Coronation 304 has apparently had some seat cushions slashed and some parts have been removed from Balloon 704. The Trust state they were becoming ‘increasingly concerned about the conservation of our trams - which we were no longer allowed access to’. It is also claimed that the LTT became involved with the controversial operation of rival bus services in Blackpool to help pay for their storage charges.

Of course, there are two sides to every story and it could be argued that the LTT have known for at least two years that new homes would be needed for their trams in winter 2011/12. Arguably, a back-up plan for the trams’ short-term future could have been drawn up as the eviction notice was known to be a distinct possibility. Whilst some enthusiasts claim that Blackpool Transport are unsympathetic towards the tram preservation movement, the company have been extremely helpful to Crich and Heaton Park, amongst others, offering free trams and/or spare parts to various groups. Indeed, BTS even provided Beamish Museum with some parts to enable Balloon 703, AKA Sunderland 101, to be commissioned for service – and of course this tram is also owned by the Lancastrian Transport Trust. It would appear that only the LTT have experienced such difficulty although the reasons why this has happened will probably never be known for sure.

Whatever your view of either the LTT or Blackpool Transport may be, it is extremely sad that ultimately, some of Blackpool’s priceless vintage trams are suffering as a result of this situation. We wish the LTT well in their aims to move their collection into more suitable undercover storage, and hopefully a bright future for the trams will be secured sooner rather than later.

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13 Responses to Lancastrian Transport Trust issue statement on tram moves

  1. Ken Walker says:

    The unfortunate events in this sorry saga leave questions unanswered. One that comes to mind is, considering that approval had been given to LTT for a museum at Thornton Gate, why are the contractors still on site nearly 6 months after the modernised tramway opened, and who is responsible (Blackpool Council, BTS or the contractors themselves) for this situation? If BTS are responsible, then it is pure hypocrisy to kick the LTT vehicles out of Rigby Road. The other question which comes to mind, bearing in mind the apparent rock-bottom nature of the relationship between BTS and LTT, is what benefit will there be in locating to Thornton Gate on a “rail-connected” site, because I can see very little likelihood of them being allowed to operate their trams on the “main line” unless the relationship improves considerably. I do however wish LTT all the best in their endeavours and hope these problems are only of a temporary nature. They say in their article that regular donations have dropped in these difficult times: it will be much harder to encourage donations to static exhibits than to vehicles that are intended to be operational.

  2. Greg Mason says:

    My observation from the sidelines is that LTT had not been given permission for a museum at Thornton Gate. Approval in principle had been given by Blackpool Buildings Dept to lease the site to the LTT, once the contractors had vacated the land, and according to the LTT website a draft lease had been drawn up. This is a long way from approval of or the establishment of a museum, which would require, amongst other things, planning permission from Wyre Borough Council and Heritage Lottery funding. WBC are supporting the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust HLF funding bid, therefore the justification for granting public money to another heritage centre scheme two or three miles away seems weak, as is the business case for such a venture.

  3. John Woodman says:

    Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust have planning approval for a Tram Museum (with workshop) from Wyre Borough Council. This involves renovation of the original 1897 Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company depot on Copse Road to a close rendition of its condition on closure in 1963. However desirable it may be to consider the further operation of some of our trams as heritage cars on the new upgraded light rail line – the prevailing legislation and regulations prevent this. As indeed they prevent the operation of any tram not sanctioned by the Parliamentary statute by which uniquely in Britain Blackpool’s light railway is able to run (under strict conditions) using heritage vehicles previously identified and listed by the Operator.

    Therefore the potential for a museum established at Copse Road, Fleetwood, or at the Blackpool Council owned land at Thornton Gate, to be physically linked to the light rail line for the purpose of operating ‘museum trams’ is not possible at this time – however laudable such objectives. An examination of the statutes governing the light railway upgrade and operation negotiated by Blackpool Council is in the public record.

    Heritage enthusiasts now have ample outlets for their interests in the excellent venues at Heaton Park, Beamish Museum and at Carlton Colville, as well as the National Tramway Museum – all of which both operate and display trams from the Blackpool’s traditional system. This may soon extend to the ambitious Wirral scheme for which several Blackpool trams have been acquired for a expanded tramway line.

    Blackpool Transport Services own commitments to ensuring that Blackpool’s tramway history is kept alive, albeit under far more constrained conditions than hitherto – are very much in evidence through various online media. The emergence shortly of a twin-car set in 1960s livery to operate in the Illuminations period is very much a case in point. We understand that a second set retained by BTS may well feature in an historic livery – confounding expectations of nearly all enthusiasts that this class was defunct at the end of the 2011 season. And no doubt there are further initiatives planned by Blackpool Transport. These offer worthwhile reasons for enthusiasts of all ages to renew their acquaintance with an 11 mile electric urban line in the coming years. 2012 has been very much of a learning curve for the Company and the Council – with ‘lessons to be learned’ as the saying goes; and priorities being very much focussed on ‘bedding in’ or otherwise instituting a modus operandi for new vehicles, infrastructure, staff and depot. Ensuring overall profitability of the Blackpool to Fleetwood service by one of the few remaining municipal owned transport companies – runs parallel through all of these actions.

    Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust has focussed its objectives on bringing about a renewed life for the last traditional electric tram depot on the Fylde coast; with support from diverse organisations in creating a permanent memorial to the history of the Blackpool to Fleetwood tramroad. Like many other transport museums our displays involve a static exhibition – but one which can be accessed by tram. The
    Trust has ambitions which extend to a heritage line on which some of our trams can
    operate – and is in exploratory discussions with several organisations both public and private for this purpose. These are early days however.

    Ensuring the goodwill of both Blackpool, Wyre and Lancashire Councils has been an important element of our work to date – and remains so. We are committed to taking forward our museum development in Fleetwood in ways which benefit that community, as well as the strategic objectives of the Transport Operator on whose
    services we fully expect many of our visitors to arrive in the forseeable future. In
    this regard we complied to the letter to requirements for the removal of the trams
    now in the Trust’s care – from Rigby Road Depot. This called for creative outreach
    to the Fylde business community – as well as a constructive relationship with
    HM Prison Kirkham, among other resources. It is one thing to purchase trams (or be gifted them) – it is quite another to find a place in which they can be most
    ideally exhibited for public benefit. Our search for possible locations on the north Fylde coast also included the Thornton Gate, with awareness of planning and other issues affecting a site under ownership of Blackpool Council.

    We are, at the end of the day, far more pleased in identifying the providential availability of a historic tram depot closely associated with the Blackpool to Fleetwood tramway. As the only tram heritage organisation in Britain with possession of an original tram depot (of any age) – as well as a wonderful, if eclectic, assembly of trams that have operated to Fleetwood since the 1930s – we are well pleased 18 month’s work.

    For those enthusiasts querying why the FHLT have not had dialogue with the LTT on some level of cooperation or collaboration in shared objectives – we did in fact raise the possibility of such engagement in an exploratory contact with a Principal of the LTT early this year. Sadly this resulted in no qualified (or indeed any) response from its Trustees.

    Transport heritage enthusiasts will take comfort in a pro-active role by Blackpool Transport Services to ensure the long history of the town’s tramway is kept very much alive – in a sustained manner commensurate with tight budgets and operational criteria. Equally there will be at least one permanent memorial to the tramway’s history established along the line – under oversight of a Trust which is working
    assertively with many diverse and supportive organisations in this Community.

    We look forward to posting sustained news of positive developments by our Trust
    on BTO – and through our own website at wwww.visitfleetwood.co.uk. Our Depot
    Door Appeal is ‘open’ to contributions and led by Steve Palmer, well known to most
    supporters of Blackpool’s tramway through his veritable library of books on this
    most worthwhile of transport subjects.

  4. Ken Walker says:

    Thanks for clearing that up John. I was under the impression that LTT were planning on Thornton Gate so as to be able to run on the system, and the point I was making was that as their relationship with BTS has now got to the stage that permission would be unlikely, there was no point in tying themselves to TG if somewhere else was available. If legislation prevents them from running anyway I would have thought they would be looking elsewhere already. I can also see that you would have difficulties anyway operating out of Copse Road due to problems of alignment with the tramway and the fact that you would have to cross a main road. The preservation of this former tramway depot is certainly a very worthwhile venture. As for your comment that it is one thing to purchase these vehicles but they need to have somewhere to go to, I couldn’t agree more. I do still think that obtaining donations for static exhibits is more difficult than for exhibits which are intended to be operated – perhaps the drop in regular subscriptions that LTT refer to is in part due to people realising that the LTT trams will no longer be able to operate in Blackpool – but static exhibits certainly have their place, Copse Road being a prime example.

  5. Deckerman says:

    Is it REALLY such a surprise that BTS aren’t apparently helping LTT much, if at all, as against Heaton Park, Beamish etc? I don’t recall seeing Heaton Park etc running a prom service, Illuminations tours and from the morning, a 22 service directly against them.

    Whilst all perfectly legitimate etc, I just don’t think it’s a huge surprise that they don’t feel that LTT should perhaps be at the top of their Christmas Card list anymore this year. That’s all.

    • Ken walker says:

      As regards to the 22 service you may well have a point, I don’t know any details of that service, but as I have said before as regards the prom / illuminations tour service, considering that BTS are failing on both capacity and reliability I would have thought they would be glad that somebody else is providing the capacity that they are failing to provide, or are they so arrogant as to think that the potential passengers they fail should just go back home? As Gareth has said already there are 2 sides to the story and as with politicians we will probably never know the truth

  6. Mark says:

    Am I the only one supporting BTS 100%? As already has been stated, the LTT has known for over two years that the remaining trams had to be removed within a certain timescale. All of the other trams have managed to find homes! Personally I think the LTT has bitten off more than it can chew. Take 279 as an example, it was ‘purchased’ from BTS in full working order and then transported off site and immediately had both ends chopped off in order for a restoration job to take place in time for the 125 celebrations. The tram was and still is in the same state as it was then! Standard 43 is another example.
    As for the Thornton Gate project, I can’t really see the point myself, especially if the Copse Road project is underway. It’s a shame that nothing ever came of the talks between the two groups as one big museum would surely be better than two small museums.
    You can probably tell that I’m not an LTT fan as I think they want everything for nothing and are guilty of throwing teddys out of prams if it doesn’t go their way. However, I wish them luck and I suppose proof of the pudding etc etc.
    I will say though that if the trams have been subject to vandalism then that is unacceptable and totally unfair.

    • Deckerman says:

      Mark.

      No you are NOT the only one. I TOTALLY agree with you.

      In fact the more I get to know about LTT, the less support I have for them!!.

  7. K D Jagger says:

    With all the recent stories I read of continued unreliabuilty of the BTS trams services despite all thats been spent (looks like business as usual to me) I wonder if LTT may outlast BTS which is one of only a handful of local authority operators left.
    Kev

  8. Whatever your point of view, the LTT statement on their trams move from Rigby Rd must be seen as a public relations disaster. Just what the LTT hoped to achieve by this statement is unclear, but it came across to many of us as just a clumsy attempt to discredit BTS management. Surely a more professional approach could have been a short statement announcing the trams relocation and a concise positive statement of the reasons behind the move. In my opinion this would have generated far more support. Instead the result has been many negative postings on various websites, not least the LTT’s own Facebook page, where unedifying responses from an LTT spokesperson included “……why are we being slagged off for storing our trams outside….?”.

    The LTT management would do well to learn from the likes of FHLT, Beamish and Heaton Park on how to position themselves positively. Despite the recession these organsisations attract enthusiastic volunteers, work constructively with local authorities and commercial organisations, and are doing well in attracting funding. They share their vision with the enthusiast community and beyond, and are demonstrably moving forward. They also seem able to make public statements professionally and positively. On the other hand the perception many enthusiasts have of the LTT is of an organisation lurching from one crisis to another. The group seems to have no clear vision beyond the proposed Thornton Gate heritage centre, which many of us doubt has any basis in reality. Perhaps minds could be changed if the LTT were ever to present a clear vision, a development strategy, preliminary cost estimates and fund raising plan that would convince people the proposal has some prospect of success. However nothing exists beyond a high level plan on their website which has not changed since December 2011. There seems to be no Plan B.

    The fear many of us have is that even if the trams currently stored outside were to move to inside storage, they simply would gather dust amongst the other partly restored trams and buses in their collection. Given the state of LTT finances, there simply does not seem to be money available to carry out extensive restoration work which most of their trams and buses require. And even if the trams are restored, where do they go? Do they continue to sit in the LTT building gathering dust? There is a limit to what the likes of Beamish and Carlton Colville can accommodate or need. And with a couple of exceptions (8, 304) trams in the LTT collection are represented elsewhere, so future exchange opportunities seem limited. Given this there seems little incentive for people to donate to LTT tram restoration, when their funds could be directed to another body that has the capability to restore and operate their trams.

    This is a real challenge for the LTT trustees, and it remains to be seen if they rise to it, address the issues, present meaningful plans and encourage people to support their efforts. Or will they, as they have done with the aftermath of their recent statement, simply huff and puff at critical comments? Neither do they seem to be addressing the issue of a lack of volunteers to help work on the trams and buses. Along with plummeting donations (LTT’s own words) the number of active volunteers has apparently dwindled to almost nothing. Meanwhile LTT trustees seem to continue to focus on their associated commercial operation, Classic Bus North West Ltd, and developing its bus network to compete with BTS. It’s in the public domain that its previous associated commercial operation (Classic Bus/Busworks) filed for liquidation in May 2012 and now seems defunct. This can give little confidence that the new company can give any sort of long term security for the LTT collection.
    Few people would want the LTT to fail, but the trustees have a mountain to climb in developing a meaningful future strategy and persuading people they are a professional organisation worthy of active and financial support.

    • Deckerman says:

      A very well thought through and presented argument George and one that I fully agree with.

      LTT it seems, have certainly made many enemies along the way with their “holier than thou” attitude and so when the chips are down, I suspect that other organisations or enthusiastic individuals that could help them, are now not very likely to want to assist them in their “hour of need”.Perhaps the old adage is relevant here… Remember who you step on, on the way up, as you may need them when you are on your way down.

      I have met many very dissatisfied ex Bus Works customers, in fact I was lucky to get out with my life once when I simply whispered their name at one museum!! And as well as this, there seems to be just as many very disgruntled ex employees, who apparently are owed wages. And some apparently are owed lots of wages!!. Yet, their answer is…go and buy some more buses. Surely you satisfy your debts first, especially when it’s people’s wages? That’s just basic ethics surely?

      This is therefore NOT the way to put things right, I would suggest. Blame everyone EXCEPT themselves, when there really is no one else to blame. Persevere with ill thought through, un-financed and frankly un-financeable projects that will just never become a reality. (Well, not without the usual tax payer funded begging bowl anyway- which it seems incidentally the “other project” hasn’t asked for a penny of ) Have two years warning of impending tram movements but still get it wrong resulting with trams outside, some half stripped. And yes George, I too believe even if solved, they will sit collecting dust until the next creditor’s meeting.
      Then there’s running a failing and year on year, less popular event each June, with frankly appalling lacks of organisation or even basic respect for vehicle owners or traders. And then, even more bafflingly, they go and set up against the one local ally they need, that can do any practical work with the vast majority of their vehicles, either rubber tyred or steel wheeled, that they profess to conserve.

      I shudder to think what “bright idea” is next!!. Asking the council nicely and just buying some second hand Flexity 1′s perhaps to compete on the tramway, or.. Hey….Genius!! .. They could solve both their storage and financial problems in one. Just sneak everything back on the tracks and hope for the best!! Good luck with that.

  9. Charles G Raistrick says:

    As a newly “joined” tramway enthusiast, Blackpool born and an ex Points boy, I am dismayed to find the present state of affairs Lancastrian Trans-
    port Trust finds itself in.
    I originally viewed LTTs web page hoping to find out something about the Ruston Buchirus shunter that I worked on vas part of my duties,(assisting
    the driver, I have a vague recollection that he was named Ted, in moving coal from Fleetwood to the Thornton Gate sidings, a search in which I have had no luck at all.
    The period of which I speak was 1948/49.
    Finally, I do hope LTT finds a solution to these problems.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Charles – regarding the LTT, you seem to have commented on a rather old news article and a LOT has happened since then. The LTT has now withdrawn from the tram preservation movement; most of its trams have now been returned to Rigby Road for eventual restoration to service in Blackpool. Plans are gaining momentum for the last two trams which remain in outside storage to be rescued, and hopefully their future will be secured very soon.