The ongoing saga of the future of the Birkenhead tramway continues to make the news despite no definite decisions being made. However, an interesting development occured during July, when staff and volunteers who work at Taylor Street museum were given a letter by Professor Lewis Lesley, on behalf of the BEST Group. This group had been formed to try and secure a future for the transport museum, including the collection of trams based there.
The BEST Group confirmed their plans to discuss plans for the future with Ian Brand, who has been given the task of resolving the dispersal of various assets of Wirral Council. The intention is to form a new charity, under the name ‘BEST in Birkenhead’, to take care of not only the trams but also the other vintage vehicles housed at Taylor Street. They are also approaching other individuals to try and drum up support for the heritage tramway, which has led to famous local comedian Ken Dodd agreeing to become a patron of the organisation. This follows Mr Dodd’s appearance on the BBC3 documentary ‘The Golden Age of the Tram’ last year, when he was filmed riding on Liverpool 762. The key aim is for those who are keen to ensure that the past efforts to preserve local transport heritage are not thrown away, and hopefully this plan would ensure the continued operation of the Merseyside Tramway Society’s restored tramcars at Birkenhead. It is not clear, however, what role, if any, would be played by Merseytravel if Mr Lesley’s proposals become a reality.
Professor Lesley is no stranger to the tramway community, having been a key figure in the Trampower consortium which aimed to create a relatively low-cost articulated tram to be built in Great Britain. A prototype, numbered 611, was built and underwent testing at both Birkenhead and Blackpool until it suffered extensive fire damage following an electrical defect. It appears that the professor is now looking to the past, rather than the future, as he leads the campaign to keep the Birkenhead tramway running for the forseeable future.
One issue that remains of concern, is the intention to relocate the contents of Taylor Street depot to the nearby Pacific Road building, which would not be large enough to house all of the tram fleet, let alone all of the other vehicles currently housed at Taylor Street. The lack of suitable facilities to carry out maintenance and restoration work is also a worry. Hopefully more information will become known soon, and a workable plan will be developed to give the trams the best possible future.