Birkenhead tramway takeover saga continues

The long ongoing saga of who will be responsible for the operation of the popular
heritage tramway at Birkenhead continues to move forward, albeit painfully slowly. A meeting has recently taken place with a view to further discussions taking place between representatives of Wirral Council, Merseytravel and the BEST Consortium, to find the best course of action for the future of the tramway and other local amenities.

The original aim of Wirral Council was to find a bidder who was willing to assume control for three assets: the tramway, the transport museum and tram depot at Taylor Street, and the Pacific Road Arts Centre. Originally Merseytravel had expressed interest in all three, but have since amended their bid, which remains a major stumbling block and seems to be preventing a deal from being finalised.

However, a meeting last week between the relevant parties seems to have been a positive
one and it is hoped that talks will now continue with a view to progressing a plan that will hopefully be of benefit to the tramway. Three separate organisations have expressed interest in operating the Pacific Road Arts Centre and these will now be considered in the absence of a single bidder wanting to run this as well as the tramway and museum. The venue has been mothballed for now however, and with no firm plan agreed to fund the continuation of tram services it was suggested that the tramway could also be closed until a deal can be finalised and investigation be carried out regarding the costs and work
involved in decommissioning the tramway. Thankfully, the decision was made not to proceed with this plan and so once again, the tram service has now been granted a further stay of execution, although its long-term future remains in doubt.

The Council have confirmed that they are keen for the Arts Centre to be retained in its current form as they believe it is ‘an important venue’. One suggestion is that the tramway infrastructure be separated from the Pacific Road complex. Currently, ex-Blackpool Brush car 626 is stored inside and so this could result in a shortage of tramcar accommodation, although none of the Merseyside Tramway Society’s preserved fleet should be affected as all are housed undercover at Taylor Street.

We therefore still have a very frustrating situation with apparently little progress being made, well over two years after Wirral Council first stated its desire to dispose of the Birkenhead tramway. Let us hope that the organisations involved will work together and do what’s best for this jewel in the Merseyside region, and allow the tramway to expand and achieve more of its potential than is being allowed in the present state of uncertainty. Peel Holdings remain interested in extending the tram lines around the nearby docks to Conway Park, and Merseytravel have already purchased several Blackpool trams for rebuilding in the event that their takeover bid is approved, and it would a huge shame if
all of these efforts were in vain.

Our grateful thanks go to John Murray for alerting us to these latest developments.

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2 Responses to Birkenhead tramway takeover saga continues

  1. Archie Earl says:

    It would be short sited if this Tourist attraction was permitted to close just think of what could have been if the overhead railway in Liverpool had been retained.

  2. David Taylor says:

    Thank you for this report. unfortunately the membership of the MTPS is not kept imformed and we have to listen to rumours and grab snippets like your report to keep up to date. It would be a sad day if the tramway was decomishioned and a lot of hard work if we were to have to move. While I would like to see an original plan of the Albert dock along the dock road to the original festival site come into being I think it would be too expensive for us to carry out.

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