Blackpool’s oldest tram line under threat?

Blackpool Council have recently revealed ambitious plans for a major redevelopment of the area around Foxhall Square, close to the old tram depot at Rigby Road. The scheme, known as the ‘Foxhall Village’ project, would ultimately provide housing for hundreds of people – but there is a good chance that this may have implications for the oldest surviving section of the Blackpool tramway.

Most readers of this website will no doubt be aware of the tram lines connecting the promenade with the surviving depot complex via Princess Street and Blundell Street, running around the back of the Foxhall pub. Although no longer used, this is the oldest part of the system and the rails are believed to be over a century old. Blackpool Council have failed to confirm whether this section of tramway will be affected by the ‘Foxhall Village’ project, if this was the case then it could see what is widely considered to the oldest section of British street tramway still in existence lost forever. Whereas buildings of great historical significance can be ‘listed’ to save them from such developments, no such precedence seems to exist for sections of tram track, but having survived for so long against all odds it would seem very sad if this was ripped up now in the name of modernisation.

Some demolition work has already been taking place recently in the Foxhall area, and the new development is expected to incorporate the already-demolished gasworks site, the former illuminations depot and the long-lost tram depot at Blundell Street, now a car park. The exisiting tram depot and workshops shouldn’t be affected although at one time the local Council had been keen to clear the land for redevelopment. Since then, the decision to keep the remaining traditional tram fleet at Rigby Road has thankfully put paid to any such ideas.

The Foxhall line was last used in winter 2004/5 for emergency access to and from the depot whilst track work was taking place at the Manchester Square junction. After its most extensive use for several decades, by the time the works had been completed the track was declared to be totally life-expired and therefore unfit for further use. New points were laid opposite the Foxhall pub to allow the section to be re-laid at a later date, but following the decision to relocate the core tram fleet to Starr Gate this was not developed further. Part of the Blundell Street section is still used by trams to access the workshops and hopefully this requirement will be acknowledged if the rest of the track ends up being removed.

With the Rigby Road complex housing only the traditional tram fleet, the argument for retaining a second access point connecting the depot to the promenade seems rather weak and if the plan to construct 400 new homes in the vicinity goes ahead then perhaps it would be best for the old street tramway to be removed. However, transport historians will undoubtedly the mourn its passing if it is eventually lost in the name of progress.

Our thanks go to the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust for providing information for this article.

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2 Responses to Blackpool’s oldest tram line under threat?

  1. Peter Rivet says:

    It is perfectly possible for a section of tram track to become a Listed Building, if you can persuade English Heritage that it’s of sufficient historic interest. Examples of unusual listings include some of the oldest surviving Royal Mail pillar boxes, like the two fluted ones in Warwick, and the sewer gas destruction gas lamps in Sheffield and Tynemouth. Whether they would accept it I’m not sure, but if anyone wants to put in a nomination it’s easy enough to do so.

  2. Andrew Blood says:

    At the moment there is no threat whatsoever to this line – it is still being retained for the forseeable future and I would doubt very much that it will be removed