Blackpool Transport put the trams in Tram Sunday!

Following a few disapointing years, it is pleasing to confirm that Blackpool Transport will be supporting the annual Fleetwood Transport Festival – more commonly known as Tram Sunday – by providing a special heritage tram service. The 2013 event takes place on Sunday 21st July, and is expected to feature two historic trams operating between Fisherman’s Walk and Thornton Gate.

‘Tram Sunday’ began as part of the Blackpool tramway’s centenary celebrations in 1985, and featured nine vintage trams shuttling through the streets of Fleetwood, with a whole host of other veteran vehicles providing an atmospheric backdrop, whilst much of the town was closed off to all modern road traffic. The event was so succesful that it was repeated annually until 2010 when it was forced to take a year off as a lack of volunteers came forward to help with the mammoth task of organising it. From a tram point of view however, the festival had been in decline for some years; after strike action by Blackpool Transport platform staff led to the 2009 festival being dubbed ‘Tramless Sunday’, the following year saw a revised operating pattern for the vintage trams which were no longer allowed to run through the crowded streets due to growing concerns about the safety of pedestrians. A Fisherman’s Walk – Thornton Gate shuttle service did not prove very popular and eventually the historic cars were used to transport visitors between Fleetwood and Blackpool, although this did seem to contradict the original purpose of the event somewhat.

Due to the tramway upgrade works, no trams made it to Fleetwood for the event at all in 2011 apart from preserved Balloon car 710 which made a special guest appearance on the back of a low loader on behalf of its owners, the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust. Last year’s event was used to unveil the new purple and white fleet livery which had just been applied to rebuilt Balloon 700, with its more traditional sister car 717 also attending as a static exhibit, but this was a far cry from the glory days of the 1980s. It is rather pleasing that this trend of decline has been reversed, and that tram rides will once again be offered alongside the other attractions that this day has to offer.

Although the previous attempt at running a heritage tram service along the same route did not find favour, hopefully the fact that these trams have far greater novelty in 2013 than they did in 2001 will ensure that the tours are better patronised this time around. Weather permitting, it is intended to run both operational Boat cars, 230 and 600, on this special servive which maintains the long tradition of the Boat class playing a major role in this event. Naturally if the weather is not so kind, suitable enclosed cars will be made available.

Although the return of operating trams to the festival is obviously good news, it is disapointing that the official Tram Sunday website does not currently acknowledge this. Hopefully this will be updated shortly, as the event really does need to sell itself and some of the tram enthusiasts who will be tempted to ride on the tours will almost certainly visit the trade stalls and other attractions in Fleetwood, hence the event itself will benefit from their presence.

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9 Responses to Blackpool Transport put the trams in Tram Sunday!

  1. Ash Tomlinson says:

    Anyone know what the prices are to ride on these trams on the day or has this not been confirmed yet? When this service last operated in 2006, the fare was £2.50 each but with no child fare.

  2. Malcolm Bury says:

    It is a pity that BTS can’t be as flexible for the LTTs ‘Totally Transport’ event, in allowing the heritage fleet to run between Starr Gate and the Pleasure Beach loop.
    Having said that, as the LTTs past behaviour hasn’t shown themselves in a good light, maybe BTS are just being as pedantic. (You reap what you sow…)

    • Deckerman says:

      Yes, absolutely, it is a pity and I totally agree, but equally, if the organisation running the event are also running in DIRECT competition to the tramway operator’s own road based vehicles, is it REALLY such a big surprise that BTS are perhaps not being quite as amenable as they could be? I’d say probably not. Sad yes. A surprise?.. not really!!

  3. Dan Clarke says:

    Yes, We All Know That The LTT And BTS Don’t Get On That Well And BTS Are Probably Just Being Pedantic. Also, Fleetwood Transport Festival Is Not Run By The LTT So Maybe Thats Why

  4. Deckerman says:

    Whilst, yes this is indeed good news, there are a few small, but no less important points that may just need to be corrected from within this article.

    Firstly, and I REALLY don’t want to go over this point again too much, but it has NEVER officially been called “Tram Sunday”, so a lack or otherwise of trams, shouldn’t have any bearing on it’s viability or relevance as a transport festival.

    It has been Fleetwood Transport Festival (known as “Tram Sunday”), is now Fleetwood Festival of Transport, similarly titled as ” known as Tram Sunday”, but that is it. I fully understand that people will always wish to shorten things and that is understandably the case here, but it should not be seen that it is any lesser an event just because less trams have appeared recently. If no transport had appeared, then perhaps critics might have a point as it is a transport festival, but less or even no trams, is irrelevant as it doesn’t profess to be a tram festival and never has.

    What it does have however, is over 75, 000 visitors last year, all having a great totally FREE day out with families all interacting with vintage transport that they might otherwise never get to see, or more importantly, ever get an interest in, so that hopefully this hobby can then continue onward. So can we PLEASE have a little less of the “Tramless” stuff?

    Or alternatively, instead of moaning about it, whoever wants more trams, then why not sponsor them? The festival by being a free entry event, simply cannot afford to hire the trams and so they are totally in the hands of BTS’s benevolence at how many (or how few) trams they can send and that usually is based on crew availability and probably nowadays, will be even more so.

    I know that the committee work VERY hard (and all totally voluntarily) to make a truly unique event come together and so when it gets comments such as these that are TOTALLY out of their control, I know they feel it can be just a little unfair, if not disheartening.

    To cover the other smaller points, I think it was the 2000, rather than 2009 festival that saw the strike and also the missing festival in 2010, was more down to the fact that the entire street was being dug up and would have been a risk assessment and insurance nightmare than anything else. There certainly were sufficient volunteers to have run it under normal circumstances, but where a shortfall might be seen, is that it would have taken a lot more than the usual number of volunteers to then “police” all the other extra obstacles and potential risks that year.

    Finally, regarding the website not yet heralding the 2 boats being on service, I would surmise that this relates more to it not yet being officially confirmed to the committee by BTS, than it being any reticence on their part to want to promote it, than anything else and I am quite sure, that as soon as it is officially confirmed, the website will be updated very shortly afterwards.

    Regarding the event needing to “sell itself” I’m not sure how much better it can do that, if it can achieve 75,000 people in one day, when the town only has a population of 30,000, but yes, perhaps it can squeeze in just a few more. Who knows?

    All we can hope now is that these hard working volunteers wish to continue to put on such a unique and popular event that contributes so much (Over £2m it is estimated) to the local economy, not to mention it just being an enjoyable fun and free day out for locals, visitors and transport fans alike and that it has a fine day for it this year, as it did last.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Thanks for your comments, however as has been said before, if the event is not called Tram Sunday then surely it should stop using this name on all the publicity for it. Even the official website address has ‘Tram Sunday’ in it, which is going to send out a very confusing message to potential visitors! I fully respect the efforts that go into making the Festival happen and the fact that so many people enjoy it every year, but this is obviously a tram website and so things like charity stalls and vintage buses will only ever receive a brief mention here as they aren’t really relevant to British Trams Online. That is not dismissing their value, but it’s hard enough keeping up with all the tram news in the UK as it is without featuring things that have a vague connection with trams!

      Finally, in regard of the hiring of trams at the Festival – its a nice idea, but I think most people would agree that the hire charge is enough to discourage most from considering this option. I did think of hiring a few trams for enthusiast tours myself to make up for the reduced number of heritage running days this year, but couldn’t justify the expense. It’s a sobering thought that, for the cost of putting on a few tours, I could pay to transport a tram to a new home, or to a museum for a loan period, which seems a lot more rewarding and would do far more good for everyone in the tramway community. Hiring trams has no guarantee of a profit either, as you’ll always get those people who will only take photos but won’t put their hands in their pockets to support the people who have funded their operation.

      • Deckerman says:

        Andrew, thank you for your reply and whilst fully taking on board your comments, the main reason that the committee have to sub banner it as “Tram Sunday”, is that a few years ago, they fully took on board the relative lack of trams and tried to consciously completely separate the event’s title from ANY mention of trams in it whatsoever, for just this reason.

        Sadly, what then ensued was total and utter chaos and confusion regarding the event, with most people, (admittedly non enthusiasts- but if we are honest, that is 90-95% of the visitor numbers of the event) thinking there were TWO separate events, “Tram Sunday” and then this other “Fleetwood Transport Festival” thingy!!

        Therefore, like it or not, the event is inextricably linked with the name “Tram Sunday”, but is now therefore ONLY used by the committee because it is the lesser of 2 evils, than not doing so.

        All the committee probably want is for enthusiasts to be able to separate the fact that, that is the ONLY reason it has this title, which has NEVER been officially set up by them. So this has now unintentionally been created by the apparent inability, or unwillingness, of the majority of the visiting public to only be able to refer to it by it’s REAL title. Accordingly, is it now possible for us all not to complain when the trams mentioned in this unintended title, don’t turn up in the numbers we would like them to, or if at all.

        That said, why is it confusing to visitors? There are at least trams either at it, even if static, or going to it after all.

        I mean if we want to be pedantic, “Totally Transport” has less relevance as a title, but no one seems to kick off about that do they? A “Totally” complete list of “Transport” types involves at least railways, shipping, hovercrafts and aircraft etc doesn’t it? Don’t ever recall a Class 47 sat on the prom or even a lifeboat moored just off the beach at it, so is it “Totally Transport” after all?

        Now I am NOT saying it is a bad title. It isn’t at all. I am just simply saying lets PLEASE not read too much into a simple title, shall we? Especially one that’s been falsely created and then out of the control of the event’s organisers.

        T.T. actually set out with that title, which could be argued is possibly even less relevant to its actual entrants than Tram Sunday is, but no one says a dickie bird about that do they?

        The title “Tram Sunday” is simply borne out of the public’s wish for an ease of language, a tradition, and now, popular necessity, rather than design or relevance and so can we now just all get on with our lives a bit more calmly when “Tram Sunday” just happens to sadly not have more trams than you can wave a point iron at, on the day?

        Regarding hiring, I wasn’t saying it was practical, just that it is a way for those who feel SO strongly to then be able to help fill this seemingly dreadful gap. A case perhaps of putting their money where there mouths are. Or if not, then possibly just drop it!

        At least all the volunteers on the committee do put their money there, by giving their time free and more often than not, it actually costing them, whether it’s in fuel to attend meetings, phone calls, stamps etc and not then claiming any of this back. And whilst they don’t necessarily want thanks ( though I’m sure it would be nice) , equally they probably aren’t that keen on criticism for something they as volunteers of a FREE event, can do absolutely NOTHING about!

        Finally, I have no problem regarding the site wanting to mainly mention only tram related items and couldn’t just see where I had asked for anything different to that.

  5. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    Just a small comment to say that it is pleasing that there is a tram input to the event again. I have not been since there was no tram input. The last time I took my bus DBN978 was in the 2000s.

  6. Deckerman says:

    Thanks Ralph for a mostly constructive and supportive remark, though, with the possible exception of 2000 when they were all on strike, I certainly don’t recall a time to my knowledge, when there has been an actual level of no tram input at the event.

    OK, admittedly, not to the levels of 1985 and more recently, obviously not to some enthusiast’s preferred levels, ( but I think I’ve covered a solution for that already) but are those centenary type levels ever really going to be achievable again nowadays? I think not.

    However, is actually withdrawing attending vehicles from the event really the answer?

    Less vehicles of good interest attending, such as DBN, might then mean less interest, potentially leading to less visitors and then probably even less possibility of getting more trams to move the then smaller amounts of visitors. Surely keeping on supporting the event might achieve more trams being able to attend, than not doing? Just a thought.

    Anyway, it would certainly be nice to see more vehicles attending, especially such fine ones as DBN, so here’s to hopefully seeing her and you, in mid July.

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