Wednesday, 4 April 2012

They just don't make trams the way they used to

While much of today's news was concerned with the contrast between last week's sun and this week's snow, I suspect that was of little concern to those at Blackpool beach. To be more specific those concerned with the procurement of Blackpool's new tram and the contrast between what should have happened and what did happen. Or, to put it mildly, the contract!

By way of explanation, let's provide some context.  Blackpool has the honour of having the country's oldest running tram - over 125 years.

Yesterday there was cause for celebration as the newly upgraded £100m tramway hit the tracks. VIPs were able to enjoy the ride.  A four-year upgrade, 11km of track, a new tram depot, and 16 computerised trams. So impressed was the Transport Minster, Norman Baker, that he said, "Blackpool's trams are absolutely on the right track". In a cruel twist those words just couldn't have been more misplaced because today, as the trams were 'open for business', the trams just weren't on the right track, in fact it wasn't on any track at all as sand had caused its derailment In true style it appears the service was then maintained for the remainder of today through the use of brushes and trowels!

Thankfully this didn't happen on April Fools day but I assume this is no laughing matter and some illumination is required in Blackpool over contractual liabilities.

  • How can a tram service which has worked effectively for 125 plus years be upgraded and then not able to cope with, what you would have thought could have been, anticipated weather conditions?
  • Was the specification right or too technical to correctly place liability for performance and functionality risk?
  • What steps are required to make the trams fit for purpose, and who pays?
  • Who pays the cost for those staff required to brush the sand of the tracks and how long will they be required (maybe something the Work Progamme could go into partnership on)?
I look forward to the next stage or should I say stop.


  1. Eeehh lad, you couldn't make it up.. First went on a Blackpool tram in - I think - 1963, back in the days when most of the residents of the North East decamped once a year to see the Illuminations..
    They don't build 'em like they used to!

  2. The following is copied from the Letters section of The Times, 7 April, 2012:Sir, You report the derailment of the Fleetwood tram on its first day of service (“The new £100m tram scuppered by sand on the line”, Apr 5).
    Things are even worse. The council has closed four of the tram stops on safety grounds and only one tram is allowed at the Fleetwood end of the system at any one time. The trams go nowhere near Blackpool North station, making onward connection difficult for those living in a town of 27,000 people with no train service.
    We were promised a tram every ten minutes, yet the published timetable is for a 20-minute frequency in the day and trams only every 30 minutes in the evening. The people of Fleetwood are wondering if the £100 million and three years of disruption were worth it. the rev paul benfield Fleetwood, Lancs