As reported previously, the August Bank Holiday will see considerable disruption on the Blackpool tramway – and indeed for the town in general – with a partial closure of the promenade for several hours on three consecutive days due to a series of concerts taking place at the Tower Festival Headland. Even though the tramway is being split in two for this, an enhanced heritage service will still operate and an outline plan is now available.
On Friday 25th August, the usual two-car heritage service will operate until around 3pm, although it is not clear what will actually happen then. A split service will operate on the core LRT service with some trams shuttling between Starr Gate and Tower, and others between North Pier and Fleetwood. Any passengers needing to switch between trams will be forced to walk between the two temporary ‘terminus’ points and around the site of the event.
On Saturday 26th August, a Gold heritage service operates. Due to the later disruption, this will start earlier than usual with the first heritage tour of the day due to depart from North Pier at 0924, heading north to Fleetwood. A frequent service will then be provided using at least six different cars, with numerous journeys to Fleetwood Ferry. This lasts until approximately 3pm, when once again the tramway will be divided for another concert. The heritage service continues however, but only between Starr Gate and Tower, where a temporary heritage tram stop will be placed (this is near the old Tower stop, and not to be confused with the regular heritage tour stop known as ‘North Pier and Tower’ outside the wedding chapel!). To compensate for the lack of track available, some tours will operate to Starr Gate, where another temporary stop will be sited.
Sunday 27th August is the same as the Saturday with regular heritage and service trams operating and then a split service in the afternoon and evening, with a shortened heritage service between Starr Gate and Tower from 1500.
Bank Holiday Monday 28th August has a full tram service operating all day as there are no concerts – hooray! The more normal Bank Holiday Gold service will be running between Pleasure Beach and Fleetwood at the usual times.
Tuesday 29th August is another special event – ‘Ride the Lights’. This annual preview of the illuminations sees the promenade roadway closed off to all vehicular traffic except for bikes, offering cyclists a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of the illuminations for the first time in 2017. The tramway will not be affected by this, but special bonus illumination tours will operate in the evening in addition to the normal daytime heritage service. Unusually, the evening tours will pick up passengers from the heritage stops at Pleasure Beach, North Pier, Cabin and Bispham, offering a more flexible service than normal. Adults will pay a special discounted fare of £5.50 instead of £6 for a circular tour, and local residents qualify for a further discount, but must show proof of a ‘FY’ postcode. The first tour is scheduled to set off from Pleasure Beach at 1800 – before the lights are switched on – and the last departure from the same location is at 2100. Three trams are expected to be used, with the feature cars presumably appearing, although it is not known if the ongoing issues with the modern external lights on Trawler 737 have been resolved, so these may be represented by Western Train 733+734 and Frigate 736 with another tram from the heritage fleet.
So, the weekend ahead should be an interesting one for various reasons, some of which are very welcome and others are far from satisfactory. It is quite shocking how happy Blackpool Council are to disrupt public transport for concerts – and of course a split service will happen yet again on Friday 1st September for the official illuminations switch-on ceremony! However, it is pleasing to see the heritage trams will still be out in force and hopefully a decent number of people will still come to enjoy them in these somewhat challenging circumstances.