2023 Illuminations season underway in Blackpool

A sure sign of the evenings starting to draw in is the switching on of Blackpool’s Illuminations and that happened on Friday 1st September with Sophie Ellis Bextor being given the honour of “flicking the switch” for the 2023 edition of the “greatest free show on earth”. Of course, not only does this mean that the lights are shining until the start of January but its also the start of the busiest period of the year for the tramway – both modern and heritage.

As has become traditional in recent years, the first night of the lights saw no Illumination Tours taking place and so it was Saturday 2nd September that the first tours ran for this year. Illuminated pair the Western Train and the Frigate were joined by Balloon 717 in operating tours on that first night.

Looking at the Heritage Tram Tours website it seems that the pattern of tours running in September will see one Illuminated feature car out Monday-Thursday (usually running two tours) – the Trawler looks to be allocated to Mondays, the Frigate Tuesdays and Thursdays and the Western Train on a Wednesday. Then on a Friday it appears that both the Western Train and Frigate will be out running a couple of tours a piece, Saturdays should see four trams out on tours (an Open Boat, Western Train, Frigate and a double decker – all due to run two tours except the double decker)and then on a Sunday its three trams out during September (Open Boat, Western Train and Frigate).

The pattern is revised from October including more tours running on all days of the week during the school Half Term holidays and then from November tours don’t run on every night of the week. Full details of when tours are running and how to book your place can be found at https://blackpoolheritage.com/illuminations-tours/

The Illuminations season also usually sees a new timetable introduced on the core tramway. But that doesn’t look like being the case for 2023. The timetable on the Blackpool Transport website still shows a 15 minute frequency during the day from Starr Gate to Fleetwood with the evenings seeing the Fleetwood frequency down to every 30 minutes but with an intermediate Little Bispham service also running. The timings of this give a 15 minute frequency from Starr Gate north but when returning south from Little Bispham its more uneven with an eight minute gap between trams and then a 22 minute gap.

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