Some last minute changes have had to be made to the Fylde Tramway Society’s tram tour in Blackpool on Tuesday 27th August. Blackpool Council have now confirmed that a short section of the promenade tramway close to the Tower will be closed off for the duration of the ‘Ride the Lights’ event that evening, so that cyclists can cross the tramway and access the nearby Comedy Carpet in safety. Unfortunately, this means that the dreaded split tram service will be in operation on the tramway that night, as well as on 29th and 30th August as previously announced.
It is understood that, at around 5:00pm, the split service will be implemented. All northbound trams from Starr Gate will therefore be forced to terminate at either Manchester Square or Tower, with further trams operating between North Pier and Fleetwood only. With the promenade road closed off to all traffic apart from bicycles, there will be no transport available to anyone wishing to use the trams for their intended purpose of getting from A to B. Whilst the anticipated walking distance may only be a short one, it is a major concern that a tram system which has been upgraded using £100 million of largely public funds can be closed on a whim simply to allow cyclists to travel a few hundred yards onto the promenade. As one of the main selling points of the upgraded tramway is that the new trams are accessible to all, it also seems rather unfair that the Council are effectively going to abandon disabled people in the middle of the promenade.
This unfortunate development also means that the FTS illuminations tour will only be able to operate between North Pier and Fleetwood. It had been intended to utilise the illuminated Frigate 736, but as this tram is effectively single-ended and only has doors on one side, it cannot be allowed to run backwards except in exceptional circumstances, and therefore it has been pulled from the tour. Its place will be taken by the illuminated Trawler 737, which should be joined by Boat 600 – with a suitable enclosed car expected to deputise in the event of inclement weather. Whilst this will be disappointing for anyone who was looking forward to riding on 736 to Fleetwood for the first time in the LRT era, 737 has also not operated to Fleetwood since the final night of the 2009 illuminations so its return to the northern terminus will be a great occasion. Naturally this change of plan is beyond the control of both Blackpool Transport and the Fylde Tramway Society, and hopefully ticketholders will still enjoy what promises to be an excellent tour despite these unavoidable hitches.