Trams set to move on from Rigby Road

Blackpool Transport have confirmed that a number of trams are to leave Rigby Road Depot with the space available to store heritage trams likely to be reduced as a series of redevelopments take place around the bus and tram depot. The exact identities of which trams are to leave has not yet been revealed but the movements are expected to start during the first quarter of 2021.

The first murmurings that there may be some trams being asked to leave was earlier this year when the owner of Brush 625 and Balloon 726 announced that he was seeking a new owner for the cars and that it would be necessary for them to leave Rigby Road. The scale of the likely trams to need to leave was first publicly revealed in the last ever edition of Trams Magazine although it would appear that this article was a little over dramatic and that the alleged bad blood between Blackpool Transport and the owning groups of the trams is a little wide of the mark.

In an unusual move responding to the article, Bryan Lindop, Head of Heritage at Blackpool Transport, released a statement of the Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours website which we provide in full below:

As a result of a questionable article in a well-known local magazine, there appears to be a lot of spurious misinformation floating about in respect of some forthcoming tram movements. Whilst not giving too much away about the Company’s future plans, it is no secret that Blackpool Transport is about to commence a phased series of essential redevelopments at Rigby Road depot in order to re-purpose it for the future for both bus and heritage tram. This work will be spread over a number of years. As a result, the volume of space currently occupied by the heritage department will progressively shrink, leaving us with reduced space in which to work and to store our heritage assets. In order to facilitate these changes, it became crucial to re-assess the trams stored at Rigby Road and it was immediately apparent that we have too many.

For some considerable time, in order to assist various organisations and individuals, we have been in the position of being able to store trams on their behalf entirely free of charge because we had the space to accommodate them. Now, those circumstances are changing and we are no longer able to continue this arrangement. The owners are all fully understanding, grateful for the support and assistance that we have provided free of charge in terms of storage and are entirely aware as to the reasons. Indeed, before the notice letters were sent out, I spoke to representatives of each group or owner either in person or by telephone to appraise them of the situation. Additionally I also gave each owner an opportunity to make representation for my consideration ahead of the letters being sent out. This resulted in one tramcar being immediately removed from the list along with another one subsequently. I therefore re-iterate that what is taking place, is taking place amicably on the part of the organisations and individuals involved, who have all been entirely professional about it.

One of the organisations who are expected to have to move some of their trams from Rigby Road is the Fylde Transport Trust who now have an enlarged collection of trams thanks to the merger of the Blackpool Heritage fleet earlier in 2020. In a brief statement on their Facebook page they have said: “We are in dialogue with Blackpool Transport concerning some exciting future projects but in the interim we direct all our supporters to read the statement detailed by Bryan Lindop”.

There is bound to be a fair amount of criticism in regard to this news that a number of trams (with many of the trams departing for the second time of course) but if you cast your mind back to 2011 when the traditional tramway closed there weren’t many who thought it was tenable for everything to survive. Let’s think of what we have and not what we haven’t!

We expect there will be further developments in regards to which trams will be leaving during 2021 and that the owners and owning groups of the trams will provide updates as and when there is something concrete to update.

This entry was posted in Blackpool Tramway. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Trams set to move on from Rigby Road

  1. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    The main problem with any overcrowding issues lies in the duplication of many tram types. The original idea was to ensure that an example of most types of Blackpool tram in service in recent decades could be preserved and run on special heritage tours. While it is easy to make a case that there can never be too many Balloons, as they are both excellent crowd pleasers and high capacity people movers, this could not be said for, say, Brush Railcoaches. I think there are no fewer than seven at Rigby Road, whereas three would be the sensible limit to represent the class adequately. Coronation Cars too are, as always, expensive to maintain and being heavy add to wear and tear on the track – one example would almost certainly suffice. It should be remembered that every organisation needs to make cutbacks and never more so than in the current economic climate with the combined effects of Covid-19 and Brexit. Surely better to have a modest collection than one that becomes unmanageable due to excessive size and consequently falls into decline and decay. For similar reasons, it also makes sense that the premises at Rigby Road are more economically utilised in accommodating vehicles, to improve the cost effectiveness of both Blackpool Transport and the Heritage Operation, this also being important to the survival of both in challenging times.

  2. David says:

    I do not agree with anything that the previous commentator has said. It is due to the attitude of people like him or her that there were no survivors from most of the British tramway systems. These are priceless historic artifacts and none of them should be scrapped or left outside to rot away. This article seems to be an invitation for us all to say that we want them scrapped and don’t give a damn. Well I want it on the record that I do give a damn. Remember the horror of the Middleton preservation attempt. Are we going to have more of that?

    • Steve_Hyde says:

      I am sorry but the view you express is unsustainable. To say that this attitude is the reason that there were no survivors from most British tramway systems is wrong, there were no survivors because the preservation movement didn’t exist and people at the time did not see trams in the same light as we do now.
      My views on the Blackpool situation have been expressed elsewhere and have attracted both support and criticism which I appreciate is fine. In my opinion the preservation of one example of each significant type of tramcar is a valid aim. As has happened in Blackpool the retention of several Brush cars and Balloons of different eras to display the development of the types may be justified. Beyond that I am afraid duplication of identical examples only serves to dilute scarce resources and threaten the secure future of all preserved cars. The Middleton scenario was totally different and the loss of those cars was down to vandalism sadly. Even then the only real unique loss was the Swansea and Mumbles car.
      If a specific tram can be set aside with its own dedicated financial package to secure its future then that’s fine but to expect the Blackpool organisation to continue to support so many duplicated candidates is unreasonable. Let those that wish to see their own pet project saved dig deep into their pockets to support it. The current financial status of many museums is on the critical list and money for projects will be very hard to find for years to come. We need to inject a sense of realism into the preservation movement if it is to survive.

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        I agree so much with your comments Steve. Far from being damaging to the tram preservation movement, knowing when to let go of certain cars is actually good for the movement – it enables resources to focus on more unique and valuable vehicles. I would personally rather have a heritage fleet of, say, 30 trams most of which are restored to a decent standard and are operational, ideally displayed in a suitable depot/exhibition space, than have 60 that are mainly derelict and stored in a dilapidated shed. Sadly trams are too niche a hobby to raise huge amounts of money so we have to do the best that we can. Duplicates of key types are definitely justified to show the evolution of some of the most long-lived trams in the UK, and for commercial requirements a few extra Balloons and Boats are certainly worth having. But I don’t long for the days of multiple Twin and Centenary cars – one or two of each is fine by me.

        If we look back over the past decade, how many thousands of pounds have been spent moving trams around between various storage sites, most of which have little to no prospect of ever being restored? Sometimes I think of what that money could have done in terms of restoring other trams and its quite alarming! Hindsight is a great thing, but let’s not keep on making the same mistakes over and over again.

  3. John1 says:

    So sad how many people have turned against Blackpool and advocating scrapping. Surely we must learn from the past and keep as much as we can. It might not be needed now but look to the future! MUNI have had to source PCCs, Prague source cars etc. No reason if storage is available cars shouldn’t be kept. Balloons especially as the iconic Tram. I can’t understand the 1 of each attitude either. So should we scrap 513 because 510 exists? 5 because 10 exists and 147 because 49 exists? maybe get riid of 48 and 159. What about 227, 230 and 600? All needed in good weather. Its anti Blackpool pure and simple. And its impossible to have a rationaldiscussion about it because the anti and pro Blackpool will never agree. And for the record I’d say the same about any Tram, it needs to be kept if possible and certainly if its complete. I note that the Carlisle Tram which was recently threatened didn’t have people demanding it was scrapped because there are plenty of 3 window open toppers around……..You all know full well if someone found 6 manchester Standards in a barn right now you wouldn’t keep just 1!

    • Chris Callan says:

      Not sure its simply a case of “anti-blackpool”. That been said its impossible to escape the notice that the the trials and tribulations under the current management have inevitably seen a dramatic reduction in goodwill and indeed attention generally lapse. In contrast the previous “Roberts” era operated with a fairly intense spotlight and a very active online vocal community.

    • Chris Callan says:

      Some retain confidence in the viability of the previously proposed indoor premier visitor attraction (with a large world class collection). Some now favour a small representative fleet. Finally think some supporters completely indifferent content with memories.

      Think I sit somewhere in between the first two. Keen to see viable attraction alongside a representative collection (with a commercial focus)

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      There is definitely some anti-Blackpool feeling amongst tram enthusiasts but I don’t see any of it here. People are simply trying to be realistic. I’d love to keep them all but its not really viable and this statement makes it clear that the available storage space at Blackpool is going to be reduced, and with most museums already full up some tough decisions may well need to be made. That said the latest developments with 671 offer some hope – if a few static museums could be persuaded to take Blackpool cars that could be a good compromise, ensuring more survive without diverting too many resources away from more important projects. I believe that a few Blackpool cars spread about is a good thing, and they can potentially be ambassadors for those remaining on home turf.

      The Standard cars were mentioned; 49, 147 and 159 are similar but are all in different places so I don’t see an issue. If all three were in Blackpool I would consider that excessive. They aregood workhorses and with a high capacity though, so its reasonable to expect more museums to be interested in having one than a Centenary car, for example, as they are very useful and fit the criteria of what most people want an ‘old tram’ to look like.

      My main point is that I’d rather see funds used to restore examples of Blackpool trams of which none are currently operational – such as an open top Balloon, an OMO or a Coronation – than spent on moving trams from Rigby Road to a field, and then potentially to another field, and so on. Princess Alice or the Hovertram would be worth 5 Brush cars in my view, so long as some of the latter type survive of course!

  4. Tommy says:

    Thinking about the non-FTT trams….presumably this means the Trampower prototype and Halle 902 will be moved on? After all, as these two are only in Blackpool purely for storage, it would seem unfair that either of these two remain when Blackpool trams that may have has a chance at returning to service – however far into the future – be moved away.

    And I presume this could also see 708 and 680 making the move to Heaton Park? Is there space there for them? It would be nice, if possible, to keep 680 on long enough to allow it to run alongside 279, even if it’s just once.

    And then there’s 290, which I imagine would be moved to outside storage with the likes of 678 and 710.

    Balloon cars will always be worth saving as many as possible in Blackpool, as not only are they useful with their high capacities, they are THE Blackpool tram – they are to Blackpool what the Routemasters are to London. They are the iconic tram of Blackpool that tourists associate the resort with, and have a wider appeal than, say, a Centenary car which is appealing mostly to enthusiasts only. The boats also have the appeal of being open top and are certainly crowd pleasers during the summer and the illuminations, so it’s definitely worth having 3.

    Really the only class of tram which I could say is “over represented” within the Blackpool fleet is the Brush car. There are 7 at Rigby Road, only two being operational, 290 not being owned by BT or FTT, and 624 and 625 both being long term projects. If storage space is an issue, it has to come down between choosing what to save and what to risk losing – and in that situation, things like 8, 761, or the two FTT illuminated cars should take priority.

    • Chris Callan says:

      The disputed article published in Trams Magazine included the following tramcars. Its worth noting the article did imply others could follow and this was “phase 1”:

      Balloon 703
      Balloon 708
      Balloon 726
      Brush Car 625
      Brush Car 627
      Towing Car 671
      Centenary Car 645
      Trampower Prototype 611
      Halle 902

  5. Chris Callan says:

    Those that have listened carefully in recent years will recognise it is a departure in previous “BHTT” policy. That been said those who consistently argued that the architect of the “everything is welcome” policy risked spreading scant resources to thinly collecting too many duplicates I suppose are left with mixed emotions. Certainly one thing for sure is I wish id bought shares in haulage companies prior to the upgrade…

  6. John1 says:

    Why would 680 leave? Whilst its on loan its part of the operational fleet.

  7. John1 says:

    The excuse of diluting scant resources has no validity whatsoever when discussing storage. No reason to start any work on these cars now, next year, next decade. They should be stored for future use. Storage dilutes no resources unless it has to be paid for, then it may become an issue.

  8. John1 says:

    Whilst BTS are a private company and therefore under no obligation to share plans (indeed sometimes they cannot for contractual and legal reasons) I do feel that their would be increased support and much less speculation if there was some sort of ‘this is the outline plan, please help/support us ‘ etc.

  9. James Adlam says:

    Obviously, if a number of trams really have to leave Rigby Road, the best alternative would be an existing heritage tramway, and if they are all full, the second best hope is static display at some other museum. Failing that, instead of scrapping ‘unwanted’ cars, is there any any funding to put them in safe, dry storage somewhere relatively cheap for the time being? Or would that just be kicking the problem into the long grass and leaving somebody with massive storage costs and responsibilities for no benefit? Unless it could form the basis of a new tram museum. Probably just fantasy, I guess.

  10. scott says:

    What about the B fleet? I think these are owned by BTS so i guess they won’t be moving but what about the longer stored ones? 709 720 and 724? Would they want to move these ones out or do they have a plan to use them again? I know some get used on heritage tours but could they be temporary moved to starr gate or even based there? Or is there no room?

    • John1 says:

      Scott, B Fleet are BTS owned. No BTS vehicles are being moved out (yet). They are outside of Heritage so not included in any case.

  11. Peter Watts says:

    As John1 mentions above, providing that the storage is free of charge, no dilution of available resources happens, and in this case I am in agreement with his views that the vehicles should be kept intact. However, if storage off site from Rigby Road is required, this will no doubt a chargeable cost. Very few people commentating both here and on social media have accurate ideas of the costs of vehicle movement and storage, and I can provide some insight here as I am currently working with two NW preservation groups to locate suitable storage for both buses and other vehicles.

    Buses tend to be easier and cheaper; they can be towed by any one of hundreds of towing companies, they are easier to position and can access lots of storage areas such as farm barns (which make up quite a lot of historic vehicle storage in this area). However trams are a little different, mainly due to their size and weight, plus the difficulty in accessing some of the possible storage areas. So finding suitable storage for trams in the area at the moment is the first hurdle.

    The second hurdle is costs once suitable storage can be found. For a vehicle space suitable for a tram, expect the cost to be in the region of £150 / vehicle / month if suitable premises can be found in the private sector (i.e. farm etc). If commercially rented, expect this to rise to around £200 / vehicle / month. And if commercially rented, there maybe additional costs in terms of business rates to be added (registered charities are exempt, so FTT & FHLT would be exonerated, but not BTS for example). Then add on the insurance cost (unless you want to risk no insuring the vehicles…), and other charges such as electricity. Suddenly the cost is now nearing £250 / month / vehicle, or £3000 / year / vehicle. So the cost of storing 3 Balloons could cost almost the same as a new underframe for one as a comparison.

    And let’s not forget transport costs. My company sponsored the return of 621 from Beamish to Blackpool. This was done with a fairly “normal” trailer as it was single deck, but the cost was still very close to four figures. Balloon trams are more expensive due to the specialised trailers required, and the few companies that can do this work. And it doesn’t really matter in it is just a short move around the Fylde coast or longer, costs are hourly including the travel from the company’s base to where the trams are. Count upwards of £1500 / tram / transfer.

    So yes, if storage has to be paid it does dilute available resources. And those resources were already hard to come by pre Covid.

Comments are closed.