MTPS take control of Birkenhead tramway

The start of the 2014 operating season for the Birkenhead heritage tramway on Saturday 4th January heralded the start of a whole new era for this particular tramway. Following several years of insecurity surrounding the line’s future as Wirral Council looked to cut costs by ridding itself of this attraction, the immediate future of the operation has now been secured thanks to the involvement of the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society.

The MTPS have always been a major player in the Birkenhead tramway, providing numerous volunteers to assist with its operation, and having several of their vintage trams run on the line. Now, the Society has assumed total responsibility for its continued operation, after the Council handed it over to the charitable organisation. All paid staff have now been laid off, meaning that the tramway has joined other museum tramways at East Anglia and Heaton Park in being entirely run by volunteers. The MTPS will therefore have to restore, maintain and operate all of the tram fleet unassisted, which will no doubt make 2014 a very challenging year for them as they get to grips with their new-found responsibilities. However, this group is certainly never shy of rising to a challenge: over the past few decades they have undertaken some of the most impressive tram restorations ever seen in this country, transforming derelict wrecks into fully working tramcars such as Liverpool 762 and Wallasey 78. So, if anyone can make a success of the tramway, it should be them!

On the historic first day, the honour of first passenger tram of the year went to Hong Kong car 69. Unfortunately, this tram was in trouble later in the day and had to retire early with a minor fault, with Lisbon 730 taking its place in service, although 69 was hastily repaired and managed to re-enter service before the end of the day!

In addition, 2014 should be an exciting year on the Wirral thanks to the expected launch of Liverpool 245, restoring an iconic ‘Baby Grand’ streamliner to service in the UK for the first time since the closure of the Liverpool system. Early proposals are also being made to hold more events, such as model shows and swap meets, at the Taylor Street museum premises, to try and attract more people to visit the tramway, and TV coverage on BBC2 on Monday 6th January should also be a boost. We wish the MTPS well with all of its plans, and hope to see this tramway thrive in the years ahead after surviving several years when its future looked much less promising.

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7 Responses to MTPS take control of Birkenhead tramway

  1. Nathan H says:

    This is great news, but what of the trams Merseytravel has stored at Knowsley, and indeed 626?

  2. Frank Gradwell says:

    Congratulations to MTPS

    I trust they will now look at how they best serve their visitors too.

    We found ourselves trapped by the early finishing ferry service at weekends, believing we had an 18.20 last service, but finding out that at weekends it is 16.20!

    We arrived at Woodside at 15.25, after an extended time in Liverpool Life, which really is superb, to find “running today” boards, but no timetable. At approximately 15.50 a tram hove into view, so we asked would it be possible to do a round trip and catch the last ferry.

    “No” was the answer – “we are timetabled to arrive at 16.25.” The tram sat there for about a quarter of an hour and then moved off.

    We had no choice but to walk away.

    Would it not make more sense to make trips sensitive to ferry times, thus gaining more fare income, and more sales potential too!

    • Tommy Carr says:

      It would be nice if that could be possible, and would be a novel way of travel – something people like. It would be great if there was on extramarital out in service and one/two trams running on a timetable that runs in time with the ferry.

    • David Taylor says:

      It is sad that Frank missed a tram ride and a visit to the museum but if he and his family had ridden first then visited the other exhibitions it would have made for a better day. Also the ferry is not the only mode of transport as Hamilton square railway station is close by.

      The time table was set by the council and since the MTPS took over they have revised it to meet the ferries.

      You may also wish to know the two Hong Kong trams remain the property of the council but are staying on with the MTPS to run services.

      Frank please bring your family again, possibly after March when we hope the building work is finished. The museum however will remain open during the revamp and the trams run Sat/Sun as per the timetable on the web site.

    • John Hewitt says:

      Dear Mr Gradwell,

      We at the Wirral Heritage Tramway have taken on board your comments and we have now adjusted the times of the trams to co-incide with the times of the ferries at Woodside.

  3. John Osborne says:

    Great news,my wife and I travelled on the tramway in November on a visit to the UK. They have done a fantastic job,deserves to succeed.

  4. John Brailsford says:

    On Sunday 24th May until Tuesday 26th May 2015, all three Cunard Queen ships will be in Liverpool for a special gathering and all three ships will be in port on Monday 25th May 2015, it would be great if the tramway was able to be working that day, there will be approximately 6000 passengers and if the tramway was published as open that day I am sure it could be a great source of revenue. If you were to let Cunard know they will publish it in their on board newspaper and you will have many visitors. Hope that can be arranged? JOHN