It has been announced that the trams currently part of the Blackpool Heritage Trust (BHT) collection are to be merged with the Fylde Transport Trust (FTT) as a way of ensuring the collection is able to release additional funding streams only available to charities. It had initially been hoped that the BHT would receive charitable status but an application for this was declined by the Charity Commission leaving the organisation and its trams in a state of flux as regards funding amongst other issues.
The aim of merging the two collections is to “consolidate the representation of the charity sector and to avoid duplication of effort and resources on the Fylde Coast” and it is hoped that a joined up strategy will still be able to be maintained alongside Blackpool Transport Services Limited to ensure a varied selection of trams will remain available for service.
Over the coming months, the management of the Fylde Transport Trust will be strengthened with new appointments made to ensure they are in a position to deal with all challenges the expanded tram fleet under their auspices may give. To this end BHT trustees Paul Wigan and James Millington have already joined the FTT as new trustees to provide continuity between the two organisations.
Not all trams which currently operate on Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours are included in this deal as some remain in the ownership of Blackpool Transport. It has been confirmed that trams which will see their ownership transferred will include Brush Cars 621 and 634, Twin Towing Car 671, Balloon 703, the illuminated Hovertram, Jubilee 761 and Centenary 645.
The FTT – who already own Standard 143, Railcoach 279, Coronation 304, Balloon 715 and the illuminated Rocket – have said in a statement that: “The Trustees look forward to continuing and developing the spirit of co-operation with BTS which worked so well in the realisation of the Standard 143 project. The merger puts us in a strong position to deliver more gems for Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours to operate, helping to create the world’s best collection of preserved Blackpool trams.”
Whatever your views on this merger of collections it certainly does make sense from the charitable status point of view providing additional funding streams as well as additional protection given to charitable collections. Whilst it may have been preferable that the BHT received their own charitable status this was clearly not going to happen so this appears to be best solution going forward.