It may have been closed since the end of March with all intending passengers told to travel on the Promenade Bus service instead, but following the announcement last week that the DfT would be awarding financial help to lines in Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands, officials at Blackpool Transport have confirmed in the local press that they too will be seeking support to help secure the future of the Blackpool Tramway.
At all times during this pandemic and when financial support has been given to any transport undertaking it has been on the understanding that they continue to operate a service for the benefit of key workers but in this case it has been approaching six weeks since a tram ran in anger (although driver familiarisation has been taking place recently). Presumably, any negotiations which took place would insist on the return of at least a reduced service and it could be that they are more seeing assurances that when things start to creep to an increased normality they will have similar support to other areas of the country (although so far only six weeks of funding has been offered elsewhere).
Blackpool Transport have said that passenger numbers had fallen by 95% shortly before they took the decision to stop the trams and concentrate their resources on the adjacent bus service and obviously this would have a significant impact on income.
A Blackpool Transport Services Limited spokesperson said: “The tramway will be a key part of our contribution to reviving Blackpool and we are in discussion with UK Tram and the DfT to have financial support during and after the restart. Our service one bus route is in operation in place of the tramway and is carrying approximately 4,400 customers each week, equating to 12 per cent of our current weekly customer numbers. The current financial support from Blackpool Council, Lancashire County Council and central Government will be in place until at least the end of June 2020. When social distancing rules are relaxed, our network will be one of the first parts of the local economy that will be restored in a staged process. There is a lot of thought being put in by Blackpool Council and BTS to ensure that we will anticipate those changes in travel requirements.”
It remains to be seen whether support is forthcoming at this time, and if so just when trams may be running from Starr Gate to Fleetwood again. Whatever happens this only affects the core Flexity2 run service with Heritage Tram Tours remaining suspended for the foreseeable future as they aren’t providing a service for key workers.