Published 12th November 2012
The switching off of Blackpool's illuminations on November 4 marked the end of heritage tram operations in the town for 2012. The new winter timetable will be worked by the modern Flexity 2 fleet, with an improved service over recent years.
Blackpool's tramway from Starr Gate to Fleetwood was transformed this year following the completion of a £100 million upgrade and the introduction of 16 Bombardier Flexity 2 trams. At the same time the bulk of the heritage fleet was withdrawn, although around a dozen trams was retained to supplement the service on the main tourist section between Pleasure Beach and Little Bispham.
The modern and heritage fleet operate independently, each having their own separate stops and timetable. In addition, five double-deck 'Balloon' trams have been converted with new doorways to make them compatible with the platform stops built for the Flexity trams. These were in service during the first week of November only as a trial ahead of their introduction to regular service from next spring.
Heritage tram operations were switched from day to evenings from the start of the town's illuminations at the beginning of September. They were used for tours of the lights from a new starting point at Pleasure Beach loop to the loop at Little Bispham and back.
The stars of the show were the three working illuminated trams: the Western Train (Nos. 733+734), Frigate 'HMS Blackpool' (No. 736) and Trawler (No. 737). At busy times these were supplemented by other non-illuminated cars from the heritage fleet, such as restored balloon No. 717 'Phillip R. Thorpe' and 1901-built standard No. 147 'Michael Airey'.
One other illuminated tram was placed on display in the centre of a roundabout at Gynn Square. Rocket tram No. 732 is owned by the Lancastrian Transport Trust, but is no longer operational. A fifth illuminated tram, Hovertram No. 735, was sold to the Transport Preservation Trust in Beith, Scotland, and left in 2011.
The new winter timetable sees an improved daytime frequency of every 12 minutes (instead of every 20 minutes), while trams run later into the evening. The last departure from Starr Gate to Fleetwood is at 23.15 (23.45 on Fridays and Saturdays), returning at 00.15 (00.45 on Fridays and Saturdays).