LTT Trustee quits in major shake-up for charity

The Lancastrian Transport Trust has announced that one of its most prominent members, Philip Higgs, has resigned from his position as a Trustee of the Charity. Mr Higgs is a well known figure in transport preservation circles, notably featuring on the Channel 4 ‘Salvage Squad’ TV programme featuring the restoration of “his” tramcar, Blackpool Coronation car 304.

The recent move to return several preserved trams into the care of Blackpool Transport so that they can enjoy a more prosperous future as part of the town’s running fleet of historic vehicles, has led to this power change. In a brief statement posted on the LTT’s website, Mr Higgs explains: “My own business interest in Classic Bus North West is an obvious impediment to the relationship that now needs to develop between LTT and Blackpool Transport. A fantastic opportunity now exists to create a first class heritage tram collection and perhaps a future tramway museum facility in the resort which has been an aspiration of the LTT since it was founded”. He has also wished Bryan Lindop and everyone else involved in the plan to create a new charitable organisation to take care of the heritage trams in Blackpool – including nine former LTT cars – the best of luck with this venture. Presumably the various parties did not see a way forward whilst Higgs was involved with the heritage trams, hence his decision to leave the organisation.

Whatever individual views on Mr Higgs may be, there is no denying that he has made a considerable sacrifice, and it is fantastic to see him put the trams he fought to preserve first by acting in this way. Having helped to ensure the survival of 304 and other trams in the past, he has now helped to secure them a viable future on their home tramway and that should be applauded.

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2 Responses to LTT Trustee quits in major shake-up for charity

  1. Paul says:

    An honourable departure at the right time and for the right reasons, acknowledging that the greater good of the Trams is more important than any one individual, regardless of the important contribution they have made in the past.

    On behalf of the trams that now have a more secure future, thank you Phillip. A few others (both in tramway preservation and elsewhere) could do well to follow your example…


  2. Steve says:

    Paul is right to acknowledge Mr Higgs selfless act in standing down as an LTT trustee. This must have been very difficult given he and Eric Berry co-founded the LTT and his involvement and contribution must span a period of over twenty years. It is true a number of valuable trams and buses would not exist if it wasn’t for the LTT, including unique examples like 8 and 304, and Mr Higgs must be given due credit for this.

    Harsh as it sounds however, there is a well known business saying “you are only as good as today’s results” and the LTT results of recent years have in the opinion of many been disastrous! Mr Higgs has been the driving force behind a strategy of setting up an associated commercial company to finance restoration of LTT’s preserved trams and buses. Great in principle, but in reality the associated company seemed to become the tail wagging the dog. The first company, the ill-fated TTCIC (Totally Transport Community Interest Company) reportedly failed with consderable debts. Its successor Classic Bus North West Ltd adopted a policy of going head to head with Blackpool Transport by competing on local bus services. Inevitably this alienated the most potentially valuable partner the LTT had in their goal of establishing a Fylde transport heritage collection. In the writer’s opinion at least this was a catastrophic mistake. Small wonder Blackpool Transport management took a hard line in initially evicting the LTT trams from Rigby Rd. It’s equally no surprise that Mr Higgs, as the driving force behind much of the above, would not be acceptable in any joint steering group of the combined BT/LTT collection.

    We as enthusiasts can only be thankful that by some miracle of negotiation nine of the LTT trams have been rescued and will combine with Blackpool Transport’s own heritage collection. Few of us would have dreamed this would have been possible after the eviction of the LTT trams from Rigby Rd, the decision of LTT’s associated company Classic Bus North West to go into competition with Blackpool Transport, and in the writer’s opinion at least, ill-judged statements and criticisms by Mr Higgs on various related topics in the press.

    The departure of Mr Higgs from the LTT trustees does raise certain interesting questions, not least “will the LTT survive?”. The transfer of nine of its trams to the ownership of a new charitable trust and the custodianship of Blackpool Transport will inevitably dilute LTT income. Understandably many of those that have donated to the LTT for the preservation of its trams will transfer their contribution to the new charitable trust when it is formed. When it becomes largely a preserved bus collection, can the LTT attract enough new bus enthusiast donors for it to continue? The LTT has stated on several occaisions it is dependent for survival on its associated commercial company, Classic Bus North West? Will CBNW, which remains under the management of Mr Higgs, be prepared or be able to continue supporting the LTT now he is no longer a trustee? In turn will Blackpool Transport management be prepared to work with LTT managing the new charitable trust, knowing that LTT is dependent on support from a competitor? What is the future for the trams that remain with LTT, and will a “bus focussed” trust have the will or resources to continue housing them?

    Finally there is the interesting question who from the LTT will sit on the board of the new trust? On the presumption it would have to be an LTT trustee, Mr Berry is the sole director of Classic Bus North West, so is unlikely to be acceptable to BTS, unless he steps down as CBNW director and LTT severs its links with CBNW. David Umpleby in posting a touching tribute to Mr Higgs on the LTT facebook website signed himself ‘LTT Trustee’, although he is not listed as such on the Charity Commission website. He is a CBNW employee, so again would be unlikely to be acceptable to Blackpool Transport while CBNW is a competitor.

    The last week has produced some astounding developments, and we are promised further announcements on developments. Answers to some of these questions may then become clear.

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