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.