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: http://ltt-news.blogspot.co.uk/