Blackpool Councillors approve North Station tram extension

One of the best pieces of news concerning any British tramway so far in 2014, is the announcement that Blackpool Council have voted in favour of extending the town’s famous tramway to North Station. This will provide an invaluable link to the main line railway network, and also offers the opportunity to fully integrate all of the town’s main public transport, with the potential to create a bus, tram and train interchange now more likely to become a reality than ever before.

On the evening of Monday 28th April, an Executive meeting of Councillors from Blackpool and the surrounding area was held, to decide whether to approve the previously discussed plan to construct an extension of the tramway. Despite the head of Blackpool Council having previously voiced opposition claiming that trams are ‘boring’, the result of this meeting was thankfully a positive one with the Council voting in favour of the extension being constructed. This will see trams leave the promenade at North Pier using the points which were installed a few years ago as part of the tramway upgrade, and run along Talbot Road to access the main railway station in the town centre. This is already being hailed as a massive turning point for public transport in Blackpool, and will allow visitors and commuters to transfer directly between heavy rail and light rail. Timescales have yet to be revealed, although it has been predicted that the new line could be open by 2018 if all goes according to plan.

There are still a few further hurdles to overcome, including an obligatory public consultation period to seek the views of local residents on the tramway extension, but the main potential stumbling block to this project has always been council objection and now this has been overcome. With the vast majority of funding for the estimated £18 million development already on the table thanks to a Government transport funding scheme, the inland tramway extension now looks set to become a reality and within the next five years it should be possible to catch a tram directly from the main railway station in Blackpool, to travel straight to most of the major promenade attractions, hotels etc. This will also be wonderful news for the residents of Cleveleys and Fleetwood, who will be linked up to the main rail network via the tramway, making travel out of town much easier and more attractive than at present. To do this, Blackpool Council should only need to put up approximately £1.8 million; a limited time offer which has no doubt helped to influence their decision in favour of approving the scheme.

It is not yet known what kind of tram service will operate to North Station, and whether this will lead to a requirement for more trams – which could result in further Flexity trams being purchased, second-hand trams being acquired from another system, or increased use of the modified ‘B Fleet’ Balloon cars. However, whatever may happen, this positive decision is absolutely brilliant news for the Blackpool tramway and 28th April 2014 will surely go down as a landmark day in history, reversing previous efforts to close all of the town’s inland tram routes and taking the system forward yet again following the phenomenal success of its upgrade into a modern, fully accessible transport system. After being at risk of becoming little more than a novelty seaside attraction, or worse, closing completely, the tramway’s future now looks brighter than it has for decades and the important role of the trams in improving the fortunes of this often maligned seaside town is clear for all to see.

A busy scene at North Pier as a southbound Flexity2 passes the points where trams should turn off the promenade onto Talbot Road in a few years' time. In the foreground, Boat 230 on a heritage tour waits to reverse on the crossover. (Photo by Andrew Waddington)


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16 Responses to Blackpool Councillors approve North Station tram extension

  1. Mike Blackpool says:

    Excellent news! Commonsense has prevailed at long last – it would have been totally crackpot to refuse this substantial investment when Blackpool was only required to make a relatively modest contribution.
    Next up – Airport, St. Annes and Lytham?

  2. Christopher says:

    Fabulous News. Should act as platform for future extensions. Without the Flexitys 2 none of this would have been possible. The revival of the tramway is well underway with Heritage complimenting the operation.

  3. Geoff, Isle of Man says:

    How on earth did Blackpool Council ever elect such an ignoramus as its head? Let’s hope the electors will vote him out next time!

  4. Joe says:

    Well lets just hope they don’t acquire any more of those horrid ‘plasitc caterpillars’ they got for the downgrade. There are plenty of butchered balloons sitting in the depot doing nothing which should be used to save money.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      The use of the modified Balloon cars is certainly one option. Mind you, arriving at Blackpool North Station with lots of heavy luggage and given the choice of a Flexity or the top deck of a Balloon, I know which one I’d choose…

    • Paul D says:

      Oh please, not another good news story twisted into an anti-upgrade rant using arguments long since disproven…

      Appart from a very few commentators with no handle on the reality of the bigger picture, everyone now realises the modernisation has saved the tramway from closure.

      No upgrade = closures and no thoughts of extension to North Station or anywhere else = no where for your beloved balloons to run.

  5. Pete Smith says:

    Circular tours around the new North Station loop anybody? I’ve booked my seat on 230 already – and no need for new destination blinds on the heritage fleet to boot.

  6. tramvan says:

    Completely agree with Paul.No doubt similar comments about Walter Luff’s modernisation of the 1930’s may well have been muttered by the blinkered of that era.

  7. John Gilbert says:

    I agree with the above pro-extension comments, and, like some of the contributors, was astonished at the temporary talk of not going ahead. (Trams may be “boring” Mr Councillor, but they are a million miles better than a bus!) But wait a minute, I read that this six month construction job cannot start until 2017 because – you’ve guessed it – of British redtape/bureaucracy. This is utterly absurd. How absolutely ridiculous are our rules and regulations, designed to ensure that nothing ever gets done quickly. We can all imagine how quickly the job would be done in France or Germany!!

  8. Cameron McDade says:

    As a long time lover of Blackpool and the trams I believe this is great news. Tram travel is the way forward for public transport, you only have to look at Manchester, Sheffield and even now Edinburgh to see this. I agree with comments about possible future extensions to the airport and even to Lytham. People need to get around and what better way to do it, opening up the whole region to better public transport. After all its proven that if you electrify transport more people will use it.

  9. Roger Bottomley says:

    Can’t understand why everyone says this extension is vital. It just isn’t. I am afan of tramways as I believe it is the cleanest way to get lots of people around but…… I fear that myopic councillors and barely adequate management at BTS will in the end result in the tramways demise. The extension to North Station would make sense if that station was a major transport hub say in the way Manchester Piccadilly is, but it isn’t. Having a state of the art tramway will not bring people to the town. Most of the visitors arrive by coach. In the end they should be improving the service for locals and extend to the airport, St Annes, Preston and such.

    • Paul D says:

      IF it was just a branch to North Station and that was it, I would be inclined to agree with you Roger. However it is intended/hoped to be the first stage of a greater expansion to the inland part of town, and in that context make much greater sense so when 80%+ of the cost was offered, Blackpool Council would have been foolish to turn it down.

  10. Chris Aspinall says:

    Given the current plan for the extension to North Station, has any thought been given to the Sintropher “Bigger Picture”. This envisaged Light rail/Heavy Rail interaction. Given the Manchester to Blackpool electrification coming online in 2015, could a through service to Fleetwood, or at least Cleveleys (to avoid Fleetwood town centre complications), be a realistic proposition? The specification of much of the current new system already supports this.

    Would the idea of Blackpool Pleasure Beach (Sandcastle) as a destination from Manchester be totally “pie in the sky” for 2020?

    • freel07 says:

      I thought that the Sintropher scheme was associated with the South Line and involved tram train operation from the current tramway with a link to the Blackpool South line at Squires Gate running to Kirkham or optimistically perhaps Preston. Whether the recent closure of Blackpool Airport will affect the viability of any line up Squires Gate Lane remains to be seen.

      • Ken Walker says:

        Wouldn’t there be a problem of conflict with 25kv AC overheads at Kirkham?

        • Freel07 says:

          Not necessarily. Dual voltage tram trains are not unusual on the continent and if I’m not mistaken the Vossloh tram trains ordered for the South Yorkshire trial are dual voltage being 750v DC and 25KvAC. This has been specified as the line through Rotherham Central may be electrified at 25KvAc as a diversionary route for part of the Midland Mainline project.

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