Blackpool Transport launch £1 million Crowdfunder to restore Rigby Road Depot

Rigby Road Tram Depot – now home to the heritage fleet of trams in Blackpool – has been known to be in a poor state of repair for some time and now to try and remedy this Blackpool Transport have launched a Crowdfunder to raise £1 million to fully retore the historic building to help keep the trams safe and secure for generations to come.

As we reported earlier this year there are plans to modernise the bus side of the depot at Rigby Road in the coming years and this will necessitate some of the heritage engineering facilities currently used by the trams to be moved into one facility (with the remainder also have to follow in the future as well). However, that’s when things start to get a bit more complicated as the state of the main depot building (the roof in particular) means it isn’t possible to move this equipment as currently the worst of the winter (and any when else for that matter!) weather easily finds its way into the building.

The long term plans for the building – which it is still hoped could eventually became a museum/heritage attraction – would see the structural integrity of the building secured and a new set of doors installed but the initial priority is to sort the leaking roof out. And for that to be fully restored will cost £1 million which is where the Crowdfunder (and the public!) comes in.

£1 million sounds a lot (because it is!) but if 1 million people around the world each donated £1 the target would be met! But there can be no denying that it is a huge target so Blackpool Transport have given details of some staging points which can be reached on the way to the target to help start the repairs as soon as possible:

  • £10,000 would allow the replacement of the guttering and provide a short-term solution to the ongoing damage being caused by inadequate and damaged guttering
  • Then every £100,000 raised will contribute to a portion of the roof. The roof is made up of 5 apexes and replacing even half of each one of these at a time will slowly go some way to preventing further deterioration of the building.

If the target isn’t reached any funds raised will contribute to repairs on the roof or other much needed improvements to the structure to help secure the future of the building.

The Crowdfunder can be contributed to at the following link: And if you donate certain amounts you have a chance to enter prize draws as well as join unique heritage experiences. These rewards include:

  • £10 – prize draw to win an Illuminations Tour ticket
  • £20 – An exclusive Heritage Tram pin badge (only 50 available)
  • £50 – Heritage Tram Tour Family Experience (only 50 available)
  • £50 – Thank You Certificate
  • £150 – First to ride a Heritage Tram to Blackpool North (only 90 available)
  • £250 – “Be Part of the Building” – your name inscribed on a special decorative structure in the Heritage visitor centre when it opens
  • £500 – Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tour (only 20 available)
  • £1,000 – Exclusive Hire of a Vintage Tram (only 5 available)
  • £3,000 – Vintage Tram Driving Experience (only 3 available)

Repairing roofs and sorting out the depot building – which is the last working first-generation tram depot in the UK and one of only three working historic tram depots in the world built for double-deck trams – may not be as exciting as donating towards the restoration of another tram but it is no less vital, if not more so, and will help to ensure the future of heritage trams in Blackpool for many years to come.

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9 Responses to Blackpool Transport launch £1 million Crowdfunder to restore Rigby Road Depot

  1. Chris Callan says:

    So, after nearly a decade of purring, promises and endless beaming grins throughout the “Heritage” era it turns out the much touted “exciting secret work” seemingly is to simply beg the public to fund over a million pounds worth of neglected council owned infrastructure. After the public were asked to “save the train” just few months later they are now asked to “save the depot”. The infrastructure has not simply failed overnight it’s been blindingly obvious even prior to the “Heritage” era that it was not fit for purpose and addressing it had to be treated as a priority to move forward.

    The paid “Head of Heritage” has had nearly ten years at the helm to assemble a team of specialist bid-writers (this sector often happy to operate on a paid by result basis), to develop a revenue generating restoration business within the complex and develop a sustainable operating model. Instead they now seem reliant on what seems nothing more than a desperate last ditch throw of the dice…

    You can only assume at this point they have simply pinned there hopes on the attention generated by the press release & appeal been sufficient to exert enough pressure to secure external funding… (whether that be Council/Government)

    • Chris Callan says:

      I note the comments posted elsewhere reference transport enthusiasts to reluctance “cough up”. I personally think there has been an over reliance on public support (particularly enthusiast support) in recent years. I have lost count how many appeals I have given to (often never seeing positive outcomes or indeed even getting meaningful update on why either). Other “Enthusiasts” whilst often maligned appear to have done an awful lot from what I can see (volunteering & financial support) as well. Considering Blackpool Transport Services Limited (“Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours”) is not a registered charity think they been quite fortunate with the level of support if am been really honest.

      My view was always that the custodians were responsible for developing and delivering a sustainable coherent funded proposal. That needed to be driven by external professionals whilst taking soundings from large tourist operators both locally and beyond.

      I do actually agree with his sentiments around the current experience (lack of shelters, seating, information) and need to be far more than simply large expansive depot. Truth be told I dislike what seems to have emerged and honestly expected it to just be a transition to something more sustainable. Too many shambolic episodes (often in quick succession) that were just laughed off.

      I think they are at crossroads at this point. You either have a very small retained fleet (Illuminated Fleet with a very small micro “heritage” fleet with a few favourites). These would operate on a fraction of the days (more than likely squeezing into Starr Gate LRT shed). Limited number of booked day time “coastal tours”, Hires + Lights + Bank Holiday “4 Car Events”. Or you fully commit to something bigger with real vision and bring people in capable of delivering it. They seem in no mans land and rapidly running out of time. My worry is the ambitions outstrip the capacity to actually deliver based on the last decade and that risks everything.

  2. John1 says:

    Whilst I fully support this and hope that a 1 month online fundraiser isn’t all that happens, eg open day etc to raise funds also I would like to know one thing and that is what the agreement with the Council is for the building eg what is the lease on the building, or guaranteed length of time to be used as Tram depot. I’m not the only one sharing the concern our money might go to the roof and then the building sold!

  3. Andrew Waddington says:

    Whilst its refreshing to see some realistic admissions about the state of Rigby Road depot, does anyone actually think that asking the public for a million quid is the solution? Let’s get realistic here, that target is way too high to be achieved unless someone who loves Blackpool trams wins the lottery – and even if it is miraculously raised, a new roof does not make a heritage tram visitor centre. Presumably there will then be a demand for more money to restore the walls, the support pillars, the depot track fan… and that’s before any displays or visitor facilities have even been thought about. How many millions will it all cost!? Where will all this money come from!?

    As Chris pointed out, the depot didn’t simply become life-expired overnight and so the apparent lack of a decent plan to either renovate or replace it is rather troubling. Instead, too much money and energy has been used on effectively re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic – repainting ugly hybrid trams such as 631 and 642 which contribute very little to the heritage tours ‘product’ and have little chance of being snapped up by any preservation groups should the worst case scenario unfold. You only have to look at the current heritage tours planned for 2021 to see that there is virtually no work for the enclosed single deckers in the fleet, which is probably a good business strategy as they appeal less to the general public than open top, double deck and illuminated trams – and yet they are the dominant type in the operating pool as they keep being put through the works whilst money-spinners such as 143, 230 & 706 sit gathering dust.

    Sadly, I fear that the heritage operation in Blackpool as we know it is living on borrowed time. I think a lot of us hoped that the head of heritage had been working on some grand plan for the past decade or so, but no, apparently the begging bucket is all we have to rely on for the future of the much-loved tram fleet. Such a shame, but at least we have lots of other wonderful trams around the country to enjoy whatever happens in Blackpool. Maybe its time to revive that idea of a small heritage depot at Starr Gate, although even then money will still be a big stumbling block.

  4. John1 says:

    To be fair, Rigby Road isn’t that different to most public transport depots! Stepping back in time it was expected that the retained fleet would be housed at Starr Gate in the Heritage shed, therefore RR would be decommissioned. There was also the school of thought that Heritage may simply not be, either way RR wouldn’t be needed so of course it was left. I know there is a history of little maintenance on it back beyond that but it does explain why its got to the state its in now. It was a working public transport depot and, like many others, it just didn’t get money spent on it.

  5. David says:

    Whatever happened to putting money aside out of revenue to pay for repairs and upgrades? Clearly they have learned nothing in a hundred years. The reason that many of the first generation tramways went bust was that they had accumulated nothing to pay for track renewals. Will Blackpool have an operating tramway of any description in ten years’ time? I very much doubt it.

    • John1 says:

      Why would you put money aside for a building you weren’t expecting to keep? It was being got rid of after the upgrade, it only stayed last minute!

  6. Harvey says:

    An Online Fundraiser isn’t enough on it’s own considering that Blackpool Transport are Urgent for this Million Pounds. It’s been nearly 1 month already and they’ve only managed to raise £10,000 so Raising the Full Million Pounds will take nearly a Decade and I don’t think that they have a decade to wait to get the Full Million Pounds Raised. The fundraiser they did for the Western Train was only asking for £2500 and asking people to donate £1,000,000 is a big ask compared to £2500

    Bryan Lindop, Blackpool Transport, FTT & Blackpool Council should explore Alternative options to raise the full Million Pounds For Example: Applying for a Grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund, A 24 Hour Tramathon Event Which is also Livestreamed to Social Media (Similar to what Seaton Tramway did), Depot Tours, Blackpool Council Matching the amount of Donations every £10,000, The list goes on and on.

    Sadly, like others have said, I also fear that Heritage Trams in Blackpool are running on Life Support and if enough money isn’t raised ASAP then The only option left would be to expand Starr Gate Depot so they can have a place to store a Micro Fleet of Heritage Trams Consisting of: Illuminated Trams + B Fleet Balloons (Minus 720) and a few other favourites

    • Gareth Prior says:

      As the comments have now closed on this article – all articles comments are shut off after 28 days to try and make the comments side of things more manageable for me – I’ve been asked to remind everyone that the Fylde Transport Trust has not been involved in this Crowdfunder (although they do support it).

      Rigby Road Depot is owned by Blackpool Transport and they have launched this Crowdfunder to help pay for the repairs to the building. I would be very surprised if they hadn’t already tried to find other fuunding streams but as they aren’t a charity will be limited in avenues for this funding.

      Apologies but because of the site settings no further comments can be added to this article at this time.

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