LTT commission independent ‘Strategy Review’

2012 has, without a doubt, been an extremely difficult year for the Lancastrian Transport. Amidst falling donations and a major deterioration in the charity’s relationship with Blackpool Transport, many of their trams have ended up in outside storage and the trustees have been placed under considerable pressure to ensure the continued survival and restoration of their vehicles. Plans to develop a more permanent base at Thornton Gate have, so far, failed to come to fruition leaving the Trust on shaky ground.

With this in mind, action is now being taken to try to build a more secure future for the LTT and its collection of trams and buses. Trustees have approached Dave Holden, who has more than two decades worth of experience involving both public sector financial management and vehicle preservation, to lead an independent review of its activities. Dave has also played a key role at the St Helens Transport Museum at a time of great upheacal, which included having to make some important decisions about the value of the vehicles in that museum. This review will ultimately determine the future direction that the organisation takes.

Some key areas under scrutiny include the costs of storage for the Trust’s vehicles, partnership working with other similar organisations and sponsors, methods of increasing donations and volunteer support, and ways of raising the LTT’s public profile. It is also intended to look at ways to move long-running projects towards completion, such as the reconstruction of Blackpool Standard car 143.

The tram collection could also be affected in a more negative way, however; the outline for the review states that it will consider duplication of vehicles within the LTT fleet, whilst also acknowledging which vehicles are most important to their key aim of preserving a representative selection of transport from the Fylde area. It is also stated that vehicle types represented by other museums may be subject to review. This would appear to suggest that some buses and trams may be disposed of – something that will probably horrify some people, but which could ultimately ensure that some of the unique trams which the LTT own are properly cared for. With limited resources in terms of finance, manpower and storage space this would seem like a wise, albeit potentially controversial move.

Although no decisions have been taken yet, the unrestored Coronation car 663 is likely to be under threat when the review is completed, as with sister car 304 already restored to a very high standard this tram was unlikely to be a high priority for a return to use. The Trust also own three Balloon cars and three Brush Railcoaches, so perhaps some of these will be offered for sale or scrapped. Another possibility could be to offer Open Boat 233 and Balloon 703/Sunderland 101 to Beamish Museum on a more permanent basis, as there they would be likely to enjoy a secure future and could continue to be enjoyed by the public. It is expected that some of the more iconic trams in the LTT’s care will not be affected, and indeed a clear-out would hopefully enable the likes of OMO car 8 to be moved undercover following a spell of outdoor storage.

There seems to be a key emphasis on speed, suggesting that the LTT are really struggling at the moment, and updates on the situation will be provided on the group’s web blog here:

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11 Responses to LTT commission independent ‘Strategy Review’

  1. Philip Higgs says:

    Your article appears to pre-judge the outcome of the review before it has even started! The trustees see this as a positive step to clear the decks ready for a 5-10 year development plan – and the review of the collection is only a part of the process. However, we do need to face facts – we do not have space to store undercover everything we own, we cannot afford more expensive undercover accommodation and donations (like with all charities) are in decline. Thornton Gate is still a “live project” but the contractors are likely to be vacating the site a year later than planned and we cannot do any planning work until they vacate – the offer of lease from Blackpool Council still stands.
    The Blackpool landscape has changed considerably over the last 10 years since we last published a development plan. We need to draft a way forward that suits the new landscape. Philip Higgs – Trustee

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Thanks for your comments Philip. I’m not quite sure what point you are trying to make though, as my article basically repeats what is said in a statement made by the LTT. I have offered some comment on what might happen but at no point is it stated that this is what will be happening, nor is there any comment on what should happen. For the record, British Trams Online is of course very supportive of the LTT (as I’m sure you are aware) and we wish you luck with your future plans – I personally see this review as a positive development, and I hope that it will help to safeguard your most valuable exhibits for future generations to enjoy.

  2. Nige says:

    If it is found that the LTT need to get rid of some trams, is there any possibility that there might be any groups in Preston & Loughborough interested in having a tram that was built in their town as a static display?

  3. The LTT trustees should be congratulated on taking the courageous step of commissioning a consultant to carry out an independent review of the trust and its activities. Although belated the trustees finally seem to be publicly acknowledging what many observers have suspected for some time, that the LTT is in difficulty. Furthermore the trustees have committed to provide updates to the enthusiast community on the progress of the review, which is very good news. This could be a first step in rebuilding confidence in LTT as an organisation capable of being custodian of a collection of historic vehicles.

    Reason I stated the decision is a “courageous step” is that I’m sure the review process will be a painful one for the organisation, and will require much soul searching by the trustees. Two of them are former transport consultants, and they will know that no independent consultant in assessing an organisation will take statements at face value e.g. “donations are in decline like all charities…” There is no doubt these are challenging times for charities, but many are facing up to the challenges and doing well. We only have to look at Beamish, Heaton Park and EATMS to see what can be done in terms of new buildings, increased visitors and so on with limited resources. The fact is these days a charity has to work hard to maintain and increase its donation levels, otherwise its finances will decline. People will donate even in these difficult times if they believe their chosen charity has a clear strategy, produces results, demonstrates it values its contributors, and is managing the charity in an efficient, professional and cost effective way. If donors do not see these things, they will withdraw their funds – it’s as simple as that! The review will require the LTT trustees to critically look at how the trust and their own performance measures in these areas .

    Similarly the acknowledged decline in LTT’s active volunteers has to be critically examined. Preservation groups, whether it be railway, bus or tram never have enough volunteers, and for those who wish to become actively involved, there is competition between the groups for these people. Potential volunteers will become involved in a group if they are welcomed, their ongoing contributions are valued, they have clear direction, and they see results. If the organisation and its trustees and/ or management team do not demonstrate appreciation and clear direction the volunteers will go elsewhere. Again the trustees will have to look in depth at how well they have delivered in these areas in the past. No doubt a number of enthusiasts on the Fylde will give them a perpective on this if they choose to seek it!

    Enthusiasts I’m sure appreciate that the LTT trustees will have to make decisions based on difficult and deteriorating finances. This site is not appropriate, nor would it be fair to be commenting on the detailed finances of the trust. Neverthless this information is in the public domain, as is the financial situation around Totally Transport Community Interest Company Ltd, the trusts associated commercial venture which filed for insolvency earleir this year. Detailed information on LTT financial returns can be found on the Charity Commission website TTCIC information can be found on the Companies House website TTCIC has considerable debts, and together with the deteriorating LTT finances, will no doubt be a particular focus for the consultant in recommending a strategy for making LTT viable.

    As a final comment, I do understand the focus of many tram enthusiasts will be the fate of LTT trams, should the review conclude a number have to go. The same concerns will no doubt apply to those with bus interests. Unfortunately I don’t believe the LTT will be on its own in having to dispose of surplus vehicles. Many vehicles, particularly Blackpool trams withdrawn as a result of the upgrade, have been bought with enthusiasm and good intent, but with little detailed planning and financial evaluation of the true cost of housing and restoring the vehicles. Sadly I think many of them will not survive as a result of this.

  4. Steve Jones says:

    I don’t understand Mr Higgs comment on the proposed Thornton Gate development “we cannot do any planning until they (the contractors) vacate the site”. I would hope their planning including seeking outline planning permission, agreement in principle from funding bodies and so on will have started well before the contractors leave. Otherwise the LTT will be taking on and paying for the site lease from Blackpool Council before they have any guarantees that the Heritage Centre will happen! If the plans come to nothing, the trust’s lease payments will be a waste of the LTT’s money.

    Mr Higgs is right that the scene has changed over the last ten years. People now expect charities to be more open regarding their plans and how donated and public funds are spent. If Thornton Gate is indeed a “live project” supporters will now expect more than high level “sound bytes”. They will want to know an outline business plan including building design proposals, costs, funding plans, possible dates for launch of an appeal. Many of these things were promised in the high profile launch of the initiative on their website, which has remained unaltered since December 2011.

    None of these things need to be held up because the contractor is still on site. On the contrary its a good opportunity to get much on preliminary planning moving forward, as well as getting supporters and donors onside, and prove to them Thornton Gate is a feasible and credible proposition.

  5. Tim McDermott says:

    Lancastrian Transport Trust are finding donations falling to an all time low and volunteers are becoming as rare as hens teeth. I’m not suprised with phrases like “Scrapping Busses and Trams” being used in statements and comments from and surrounding the trust. People who love classic busses and the traditional Blackpool tram fleet are not going to donate to an organisation that condones “Scrapping”, “getting rid of”, “Reducing our collection of”, “Pruning” etc. however much people try to justify these acts. Is anyone at the Trust saying that they will fight tooth and nail to preserve these vehicles for posterity. To preserve them at all costs MUST be more important than preserving the trust in its present form. Get out there. Raise funds – penny by penny if you have to – but don’t scrap busses or trams. The heading of the Lancastrian Transport Trust says it all – “Lancastrian Transport Trust – PRESERVING the transport of yesteryear… “.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      In response to your comment “Is anyone at the Trust saying that they will fight tooth and nail to preserve these vehicles for posterity” – if they are then my view is that they need to shout it out from the rooftops, because at the moment any such expression is inaudible! Incidentally I have contacted the LTT myself a couple of times expressing concern about the future of its trams and seeking reassurance, but this has been ignored completely. Having supported LTT trams financially in the past, things like this really aren’t encouraging me to do so again I’m afraid! As a few people have said already, there are a lot of organisations who need our support so each group has to really try their best to ensure that they are seen as one of those that people will support. I would like to see as many Blackpool trams as possible survive, but realistically not everything can be saved and my personal opinion is that the trams in best condition generally need to be prioritised. Places where they are guaranteed an operating future also win hands down!

  6. Dave B says:

    The question is not as simple as why are donations to the LTT falling, but why are donations and visitors to some falling e.g. LTT, Crich when others are booming and reporting increased income and visitor numbers e.g. Heaton Park, Beamish. Take a look at what the other groups do different and learn from it. It could be what they offer for your money (from the LTT what do you actually get?) or it could be the welcome you get or the lack of…

    • Ken walker says:

      That would see to be it in a nutshell, Dave. Most if not all of the criticism of LTT etc has been constructive criticism from enthusiasts who care about the trams and the tone of a lot of the comments implies that they would contribute financially to these groups if they felt assured that their contributions would be used in a way that represented value for money in these times when even enthusiasts are short of cash! Those in these groups who have ‘had a go’ at enthusiasts on here for their criticisms would do better to worry about the enthusiasts who HAVEN’T commented; they may well be the ones who have just shrugged their shoulders and walked away.

  7. Tony M says:

    As a Londoner I envy the choice Northerner and Midlanders have for visiting and supporting bus and tram preservation groups. Trams in particular are a bit thin on the ground in the South East.

    I now intend to get more involved in preservation. What will be the type of group that will be in contention for my money and time? Those that have a clear vision, well thought out strategy, can demonstrate tangible success and can show my money and time is welcome and is being used wisely.

    Following the various web and blog sites and visits over time who do I see as contenders? In the Manchester area the GMTS bus museum has a wonderful collection and offers many events through the year. Nearby Heaton Park tramway has achieved so much with their historic line. On a recent visit people taking in both locations, both were welcoming and friendly. The often criticised Crich Tramway Museum has for me proved a great day out whenver I visit, with much to enjoy. Further north Beamish Heritage Museum, with its tramway playing an integral part in transporting visitors around the vast site is a great experience and very worthy of support.

    I have visited the Blackpool area many times over the years principally because of the tramway. Blackpool Transport has done a commendable job in establishing a heritage fleet. Although there is obviously some fine tuning required to get its vintage tram offering more appealing to the public, it will certainly get my support in 2013 and I hope many other enthusiasts will do the same.

    Disappointingly the two Blackpool tram preservation groups, LTT and FHLT are nowhere in my thinking! Both groups have at different times issued high profile statements, but the end result seldom matches the commitments and promises made. There still seems no sign of the Copse Rd museum becoming a reality for the FHLT. As for the LTT, much of their tram collection remains in outside storage, and Coronation 304’s return from Beamish is only the latest fiasco. The only bright spot is that FHLT and LTT worked together to find an emergency storage solution for 304. Maybe both groups will start to realise there are not the resources for two preservation groups and two heritage centres on the Fylde, and will start to cooperate on a common goal? As for the LTT’s announcement of the appointment of an Independent Consultant and to share his conclusions on LTT way forward with the preservation movement – where is it? Another initiative that has just “fizzled out!” perhaps?

    I understand Dave B’s rally cry to “get out with the collection tins” and save all the trams. The reality is only the strong, well resourced and well supported groups and their trams and buses will survive. Those that are not will splutter on and inevitably die a lingering death, and supporters money and time will be wasted. I for one will not put my time and money into preservation groups unless I am confident my “investment” will ensure the long term survival of the vehicles.

  8. John Woodman says:

    Those of us with a passionate interest in Britain’s tramway heritage have the luxury of a diversity of museums exhibiting trams from yesteryear. The demise of traditional tramway operation on the Blackpool line has led to this group I am member of, working hard to create a display dedicated to a unique and longlasting system – with focus on the Fleetwood coastal service.

    With regard to Tony M’s comments :
    For all with a fondness for trams of the capital – and indeed more broadly southern England, there are four or five options to consider. Firstly of course the display of trams owned by the Covent Garden Museum – and options by which more can be restored to public view in Greater London.
    Secondly the excellent operation at Carlton Colville with its unique HR2 tram 1858 and collection of London Transport trolleybuses. Thirdly the initiative underway to bring back to life LCC 1 at the National Tramway Museum in Crich – a project needing deep pockets and dedicated effort by a working team over several years. Finally the Tram 57 Group in Southampton have been labouring away for nearly forty years to restore a clutch of trams of that city acquired through this period – one or two of which are deserving of meaningful financial support & nearing completion. A proposal to create a running line at Southampton Docks was cruelly thwarted by a port operator in 2012.

    We have our eyes on rescuing the solitary Feltham tram resident at Seashore – should that Museum’s trustees view sympathetically a credible initiative to return it to the UK for restoration and operation. The very recent return of another emigre (Glasgow Corporation Transport 488 from the former St Mande Museum collection in Paris) is a wonderful example of what is achievable by a handful of dedicated people working collaboratively and ready to do a hell of a lot more than stand on the side lines and take photographs. The East Anglia Transport Museum is a glowing example of can do spirit in the tramway (and trolleybus) preservation field.

    By way of comment on the comparative successes of some tramway/transport museums when set against doldrums perceived elsewhere (including Blackpool) I would make the point that in the case of Manchester and Birkenhead you have heritage groups benefitting from substantial largesse from public authorities ( I believe the Birkenhead tram operation has been subsidised to the tune of £200K in the past years for example). The easy access to both museums within dense population sectors makes the cost of travel by enthusiasts & the wider public that much less than travelling to the Peak District with limited public transport services to the Crich tramway. And Crich is all about trams whereas Beamish has a much wider market offer – trains, mining, replica Edwardian street scene, farming and industrial artifacts of diverse kinds. Beamish also benefits from subventions from the regional government – and has emerged as an anchor tourist attraction in Durham and the northeast in its own right – on a par with the NRM at York. Deservedly so.

    Elsewhere; The Black Country Museum is again in a densely populated part of the UK with good public transport access – and a diversity of heritage offer: likewise Summerlee Heritage Museum in Lanarkshire with its albeit limited tram display. All supported by public authorities seeing the economic and community value of these visitor attractions.

    Fleetwood, Lancashire recognised the importance of trams to its own unique location on the Fylde coast. It is the only town in England with an annual festival dedicated to trams ‘Tram Sunday’ – the biggest event in Fleetwood’s calendar since 1985. All the more reason for our Trust’s ambition to build on that one day event with a year round exhibition featuring trams operating the service to Blackpool over many decades.

    Enthusiasts at large should know that our Trust has ongoing relations with Blackpool Transport which could well lead to expanding heritage tram initiatives. The tramway itself is of course now a light railway and there are constraints on just how much traditional tram operation is possible on the line to Fleetwood. Nonetheless we look at the pint glass as being half full not half empty. For those dismissive of the efforts of three people in assembling a collection of nine trams in two years; but all too ready to appear with camera at the ready at the slightest development – we have no patience.

    The FHLT is conferring with the LTT following the recent move of Coronation 304. Whether a consensus over shared objectives emerges remains to be seen. The LTT have a wonderful collection of local buses and took steps (like our Trust) to preserve trams which otherwise would have been snapped up by the scrap man. Certainly there is duplication of some types – a luxury denied groups elsewhere opening up avenues
    for themed display, loans and of course spare parts.

    Reading BTO I am struck by the fascination of enthusiasts with trams of yesteryear (through the volume of comments) as opposed to the brevity of interest in the light rail developments. Where is the move to preserve one of Manchester’s first generation light rail vehicles I wonder? Does the enthusiast fraternity’s fascination with trams stop with Blackpool’s all British ‘Centenary’ cars of the 1980s (our Trust owns the prototype).

    Until the FHLT has taken decision on several important issues at this time we see no value in rattling tins and placing begging bowls in front of enthusiasts. A few special people have made contributions through ‘Friends of Fleetwood Trams’ for which we were especially appreciative in 2011/12 – I stress the word ‘few’. Harsh economic times do indeed dictate where limited contributions can be best directed as Tony (and other contributors on BTO) are indicating.

    We wish success to tram heritage groups elsewhere who are far more advanced after many years of effort – and deserve all the support they can get; whether it be in Manchester, Lowestoft, Dudley, Beamish or Birkenhead. The National Tramway Museum has had fifty years to build up its collection, infrastructure and network and now faces its own set of challenges brought on by changing patterns, ageing (and declining) membership – and the hard economics of being a tightly focussed museum in a difficult to get to location away from major regional conurbations – among other factors.

    If you have discretionary funds to spend on heritage trams these are the choices in front of you. A far cry from when Crich was the only safe haven for old trams – and Beamish was mostly agricultural land with a semi derelict collection of industrial artifacts.

    Perhaps in due course the Fylde coast will again retrieve its especial fascination for tramway heritage enthusiasts from around the world. Both Blackpool Transport, Blackpool Council, our own Trust and the efforts of the Lancastrian Transport Trust in past years might well make everyone sit up and want to take a trip to the seaside. I cannot conclude without mention of the wonderful assemblage of historic transport on the Isle of Man – whose tramway origins were reflected in the design and operation of the original Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company whose memory our Trust seeks to perpetuate on the Fylde coast. The MER is but a short hop away from Liverpool or Blackpool and deserves greater recognition for the work of its Government in subsidising this living museum line.

    I am sure 2013 will turn out to be a compelling year on several fronts for the tramway heritage movement. Anyone still wanting to get constructively involved with our own particular set of initiatives in Fleetwood – is of course very welcome whether you live south of Watford or north of Carlisle.

    John Woodman

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