Changes on the cards for Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours?

As we all know Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours returned to action in August and will be seeing celebrations to mark the 135th anniversary of the tramway in September. But behind the scenes it appears there has been some governance changes with the the press release that accompanied the news about the resumption of service seeming to  confirm that the heritage tram offering will now become the responsibility of Blackpool Transport’s Head of Tramway.

In what was a seemingly throw away comment in a quote from Ian Middlemiss, Head of Tramway at Blackpool Transport, he said: “This is just the start of an incredible and unique journey for Heritage Trams as we wrap them into the heart of our Blackpool Transport team. Next year there will be an expansion of our operations that means you will see an advanced offer and unique experiences on our Heritage Trams.”

Whilst the actual structure of the day-to-day running of Heritage Tram Tours has never been publicly revealed it is thought that previously its operation didn’t come under the auspices of the Head of Tramway but this quote would seem to suggest that this situation has now changed. There were some concerns expressed in various quarters over a few high profile incidents – such as the failure of Standard 143 on its launch run last September and various trams going in and out the workshops as their overhauls stalled – and this looks as if it is Blackpool Transport’s answer to solve these concerns with one person now having overall responsibility for both the modern and heritage side of tramway operation.

The intriguing comment from Ian Middlemiss of an “incredible and unique journey” as well as an expansion of operations next year which will see “an advanced offer and unique experiences” could well mean that 2021 will be a very interesting year for Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours!

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6 Responses to Changes on the cards for Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours?

  1. Chris Callan says:

    Felt inevitable for some considerable time if am been honest. Even the most ardent of supporters recently no longer seemed willing to defend the operation in the spirited manner of yester-year. Its lurched from one debacle to another for some time with the problems “airbrushed out” all to frequently using variety of often unpleasant/unpalpable methods in the process. Without this management change was difficult to see how operation could move forward as the previously broken promises were there for all to see and know increasingly numbers had lost confidence and were finding it increasingly difficult to give them a penny never mind the level of financial support operation clearly needs.

  2. BigG says:

    Going through a management-style analysis of the current situation regarding the Blackpool operation of an atypical light rail system and an incompatible heritage operation, plus a host of other considerations, I believe that there is only one real managerial answer. The average punter who would want a ‘heritage tram ride’ is only looking for an old, double deck tram, so: Completely dismantle the current heritage operation and dispose of the fleet. Take the underused B-Fleet, possibly augment it from the balloons within the heritage fleet (suitably widened), paint them green/cream, (re-)convert some of them to open top and integrate them into the service on a seasonal basis. Economically, politically and mechanically a sound solution. I await the screams of rage!

    • Chris Callan says:

      I draw quite the opposite conclusions based on observing last few years. Clearly huge demand (frustratingly not been able to fulfil said demand for a variety of reasons) for high quality tours using genuine Vintage / Open Top / Feature Cars. These recently introduced branded bookable circular “Promenade Tours” & “Coastal Tours” have proven themselves incredibly popular with the likes of 66 & 147 used. Equally The fact tours of the Lights priced at £10 on peak nights for an Adult in 2020 continue to sell out show demand is their even to ride the likes of 707!

      What Blackpool Transport Services intend to do with the modified Balloon Fleet is matter for their 100% shareholder Blackpool Council. On paper you can understand why people assert will be required role in some capacity when the protracted North Station extension finally concluded.

      Would echo John1 concerns about format shifting permanently entirely to booking. Post Covid certainly hope the value of “mini tours” utilising the Boats on “hop-on hop off” service between Tower & Pleasure Beach remains lucrative worthwile endeavour when its deemed safe to do so.

  3. mikestone says:

    I fear that having discovered that a pre-bookable heritage operation can work that is how it will stay.

  4. John1 says:

    Big G, you are talking utter utter rubbish. You clearly have no understanding of the Heritage ridership or of the condition of the current fleet. The general public want an old Tram ride – they do not want a whole fleet of B fleet. To most people the newer looking Balloons such as 715, 723, 701 and B are what they remember and still think of as service, especially when the B fleet do run in that role. The public love open cars, older looking such as 717 ans genuine vintage. There are a small number who only want double deck and don’t care but they are in the minority. 2 Boats always took more than balloons and fatties often took less. Bizarelly Centenaries were always popular too. Also 701, 715, 723 et al cannot be widened as they require major work to straighten and strengthen to support the porches – that’s why 723 wasn’t done.
    If Heritage as it is didn’t exist and it was still 2012 I would 100% agree with your statement but its too late to go down that road.
    What do you want to do with the rest of the fleet?

    My concern is the shift potentially to permanent pre book. This only works if there is a coach tour type desk availabe on the day, say in the tourist info office at north Pier – I certainly don’t know what I’m going to be doing on the day and its weather dependent. A huge number of wak ups will be lost and therefore £££.

  5. John1 says:

    mikestone, it limits capacity and will ultimately lead to fleet reduction. The booking system is unfit for purpose. It isn’t clear, provides no ovberview of whats availavle each day and requires booking too far in advance.

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