Following hot on the heels (wheels?) of 017, Blackpool’s tram fleet expanded again on Friday 15th December, with the arrival of Flexity 018 – the second of the two brand new trams ordered from Bombardier to assist with service demands when the extension to North Station opens.
018 followed a similar journey to 017; it was shipped from Germany to Hull docks, making its way from there to Blackpool on December 15th. It was stabled aboard the huge transporter unit used to carry it for the journey at the Rivington service station just off the M61 in the afternoon, to await the availability of a police escort for the remainder of its trip. With a number of road closures, the convoy was forced to travel through Cleveleys before heading south to Starr Gate. Whereas 017 had been unloaded onto the northbound running line adjacent to the loading platform, a slightly different plan was made second time around, with 018 being off-loaded on the headshunt just north of the depot fan. This meant that disruption to service trams was considerably lessened, although some journeys did experience slight delays. Once again the tram was carefully lowered onto the tracks under the cover of darkness, and then with its pantograph raised it was driven into the nearby depot – its first tentative moves under power on its new home system.
Unfortunately 018 had sustained a cracked windscreen before even making it to Blackpool which will need to be replaced during the commissioning process. Both 017 and 018 have already received their full livery vinyls, including purple ‘swoops’, Blackpool Council lettering and fleet numbers. It has been noticed that the new trams feature black doors instead of the grey doors on their sixteen predecessors, but otherwise there don’t appear to be any differences externally.
As an aside, 017 commenced test running on the tramway on the week commencing 11th December and it is believed that it will be required to operate 1000 miles before being approved for passenger service. At present there is no desperate need for the new duo to be pressed into service, particularly as the winter service is currently operating – although it has been suggested that their introduction could allow the older Flexity trams to take it in turns to pass through the works for heavy maintenance and other remedial attention.