Blackpool’s far from ‘super’ tram service

Jam packed: Passengers cram on to a tram during half-term. Staff members at Blackpool Transport say trams were overcapacity in the past week
Jam packed: Passengers cram on to a tram during half-term. Staff members at Blackpool Transport say trams were overcapacity in the past week
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Passengers and business bosses today told of concerns over horrendous half-term overcrowding on Blackpool’s supertrams.

Staff at Blackpool Transport, which runs the ultra-modern fleet, have told The Gazette of their ‘week of hell’, with massive overcrowding, abuse and service problems.

And passengers shared those concerns.

Marc Jones and wife Tina were in town with their children Max, seven and Sophie, six from London.

Mr Jones said the resort should take the capital’s lead and introduce an Oyster card system – a plastic pay-as-you-go smartcard, similar to the London Underground – to pay for journeys.

He added: “When it is as busy as this you can see the conductors struggling to get round. A ticketless system would be far easier – people can just come on, scan in and then scan back out again.

“It should be something the council should look at.”

Fred Horwood, 72, was with wife Jean 71, visiting from Preston. He said the evening had been “very, very busy.”

He added: “I would say most of the time the trams were at least three-quarters full. You have to be lucky and hope people will give up their seat – but it doesn’t happen all the time. A lot of the conductors are young lads – they do their best but it is not easy for them.”

Gary Kent, 38, was with his family, including their youngest Mia, just seven months old.

He said he had seen major problems with prams and had issues himself.

He added: “When it is as busy as this getting on and off is a nightmare. You are forcing people into the aisles to try and get a bit of extra space.

“One guy I saw was stuck next to a door with a pram for most of the journey and had to keep getting out and going back in to allow people on and off nearby – it should not be like that.”

Stacie Jones, 22, was travelling home from work to Fleetwood. She said: “It was like that most of the week with it being half-term. I’m lucky I don’t have to get on too often, but it’s a nightmare especially for families.

“There are lots of young children about and it is hard for them, having to constantly move about.”

Ray Davison, 54, of Bolton, said the volume of people in the carriages was similar to the London Underground.

He added: “When they are as packed as this it really is like being in London.

“You’re lucky in London in the sense trains are frequent, but here it can be between 15 to 20 minutes for the trams to come. The conductors are missing out on a lot of money too – through no fault of their own. They have to stand near doors to get off and on at stops so there are no accidents, but when they get back on they are often blocked by prams or groups of people. They can’t really do anything.”

Concerns have also been aired by business bosses in the town, who said lessons must be learned from the complaints.

Hugh Evans, deputy chief executive of the North West Chamber of Commerce said: “It seems clear that a combination of factors including the unseasonably warm weather and half-term holiday contributed to the issues that were faced on the trams last week.

“Nevertheless the trams are an iconic part of the Blackpool offer and their popularity should never be underestimated. Passenger safety and comfort are paramount and lessons will have been learnt for the future.”

Becky Lancaster, of the Funky Towers Hotel on the Promenade said: “We did get a lot of people saying how busy it was. The trams were really busy – they were chock-a-block. I could see from the window of the hotel how packed they were – there were people literally standing up end to end.

“Some guests said they had problems getting on with pushchairs and having to stand up. Parents said they were worried about their children getting squashed.”

Gazette reporter rides the trams

Gazette reporter Gareth Vickers took a trip on Blackpool’s trams at the weekend to see the issues for himself.

Starting from Starr Gate on both Friday and Saturday evenings the trams were around half-full – but the closer to the Pleasure Beach, Manchester Square, Central Pier and Tower stops, an exceptional number of people boarded.

Conductors faced major problems trying to move up and down the carriages to collect tickets due to the volume of people. They were blocked in.

On Saturday, I travelled from Starr Gate to North Pier and back, without being asked to pay.

Other issues included a lack of space for prams, with some families put off from boarding.

After getting off at North Pier, I waited about 30 minutes for a tram to take me back the opposite way – it should have been half that time.

This delayed service was packed and I was forced to go to the end of the tram and squeeze on. The tram was overcrowded, with passengers – including many young children – left to battle to hold onto something.