In Pictures: B fleet Balloons do what they were designed for!

Saturday 12th June 2021 – mark the day in your diary as that was the day that some of the Blackpool Tramway’s B-fleet Balloons actually did what they were originally conceived for! That’s right they ran on normal LRT specials! Granted they were running top deck closed which left a fairly limited capacity but at least it’s a step in the right direction! Three of the B fleet trams were used on this day – 707, 711 and 718 – with them operating between Starr Gate/Pleasure and Bispham/Little Bispham.

Recent weeks on social media and in the local media there have been various complaints about over-crowding on the trams (remembering we are still supposed to be under restrictions which includes social distancing with strangers) with the “Sorry Tram Full” destination display again being seen on the Flexity trams as they operate the timetabled service. With recruitment of extra seasonal staff presumably having been delayed by the pandemic it hasn’t been possible to increase the timetabled service and with much of the UK enjoying fine, sunny and warm weather obviously crowds have headed to the coast which has added to the perceived overcrowding on the trams.

Saturday 12th June and to help reduce this overcrowding the three B fleet Balloons were allocated to specials. This is the first time since the 2019 Illuminations (not that there has been much call for it since then of course, what with the pandemic!) when a B fleet Balloon has been used for specials calling at the LRT platforms and could it now be the sign of more use throughout the rest of this year? As well as 707, 711 and 718, Flexity2 003 was also allocated to specials on this day.

The same three B fleet cars were also in use on Sunday 13th June.

Now just wait for the stories of people getting confused as to whether these trams were on normal specials or Heritage Tram Tours!

707 calls at Tower with a special to Bispham. Note in the side driver’s window the small piece of yellow paper saying “Tram Full” – the B fleet trams are obviously not as polite when telling people they’re full!

In this view we see 711 at Cabin as it works south to Pleasure Beach.

Look at that gorgeous blue sky! 718 at Central Pier on the way to Starr Gate. (All Photographs by Tony Armitage, 12th June 2021)

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8 Responses to In Pictures: B fleet Balloons do what they were designed for!

  1. John Hibbert says:

    I dont believe it!! Was in Blackpool all week – came home on Friday but 7 day ticket would still have been valid. Gutted!!

  2. Rapidsnap says:

    They were also out in use on the Sunday too.

    Couldn’t believe my luck, was photoing buses near the North Pier, I heard a familier toot of a horn and turned around to see one of them passing and assumed it was on a tour, 10 minutes later another one past, so I was like whats going on. Walked to North Pier stop and the third one passes by much to my suprise in service (albeit displaying tram full) heading South. I managed to get 718 from North Pier to Little Bispham then back down to Pleasure Beach. was nice to sample one of the old girls again in service.

  3. Harvey says:

    The B fleet have been way too underused in the role they were designed for (Which is why they’re always on Heritage Services) and they need to be used on LRT Specials like this more often (Especially when the Blackpool North Tramway Extension opens next year)
    Ideally they should be used on LRT Specials during Bank Holidays, May Half Term, October Half Term, Everyday during the busy summer Period when (Late June to August) When LRT Specials are happening everyday, And Finally they should be used every night during the Illuminations

    I also think that Blackpool Transport/Blackpool Heritage Tours should fix up and Resurrect/Relaunch both 709 and 724 (Albeit in the Flexity Livery like 700,711 and 719). As for 720, I’m not sure if they would be able to get it fixed up as there was a problem with the doors (I think), Besides it hasn’t been used since the end of 2011 anyway

    • John1 says:

      Why resurrect 2 trams which aren’t needed? If only 3 Bs are out, that leaves a pool of 707, 718, 711, 719, 700, 713 (though I think possibly only 3 might be active currently). 720 requires new doors as they were smashed and are different to the others so would require fairly major work. Though surely you could make manual doors and use it on Heritage!
      I disagree with every night in the lghts – its only busy Friday to Sunday, even then some Sundays aren’t and half term.
      Certainly I think they need to be looked at for operation once North Station opens and I think if more people stay in the UK as they are at the moment (though it won’t be the same levels post Covid) then I’d agree weekends in the summer are needed. On saturday there were 3 extra Flexities and 3 B.

      • Harvey says:

        Firstly, To answer your question about 709 and 724, why spend all that money widening the doorways and fitting new doors only not to use them at all, It’s a waste of money In My Opinion and I’d rather see them (even if that means running them on Heritage Services because At least they’re getting some use).

        Besides, If Blackpool Transport decides that the B Fleet need to be used regularly on LRT Services, It would really make sense to reactivate both 709 and 724. It gives them a wider variety of B Fleet to use and it also means that B Fleet can also continue to run on Heritage services.

        • John1 says:

          BTS didn’t pay for the conversions so they haven’t lost anything with the Trams sitting idle. Its not a quick or cheap process to reactivate either as I suspect some bits and pieces have been borrowed. Don’t forget that 724 also had major air issues (and will still have). Quite simply at the moment they aren’t needed. Heritage are running reduced output and you can’t use B Fleet on Heritage while B are running anyway. Heck I think 701 and 723 are pushing it. If demand improves then they will be needed and can be looked at then. I suspect that B might be reduced when Flexities can run to capacity. personally I think B should be out every weekend in the season and certainly afetr NS opens next year – in which case I think 4 flats are better and less ‘Heritage’ looking to better justify Heritage tours.

          • Harvey says:

            As I have said before, I think BTS need to use next year as a proper trial for B Fleet Balloons on LRT Specials.

            I Personally think that the B Fleet should be trialled on the following days next year:
            *Weekends Between May and July
            *Daily throughout the Summer School Holidays
            *weekday evenings during the Illuminations
            *All day on weekends during Illuminations
            *Daily throughout the 2 October Half Term Week’s (Even though October Half Term is only one week, Schools take their breaks over 2 different weeks).

            If The B Fleet Trial is Successful then BTS should start having an “Operating Season” for running the B Fleet on LRT Specials, Which would also Justify the Reactivation of both 709 and 724

  4. John1 says:

    I must admit a pool of 4 flat fronts in purple would look smart and modern and distinguish from the Heritage shape.

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