Not so supertram

THIS is the dramatic moment when a "supertram" burst into flames during a test run in Blackpool.

Passers-by looked on in horror as fire engulfed the vehicle.

Thankfully, no passengers were on board the new City Class tram, but the driver had to bail out. He escaped when the electrical console in the cab reportedly blew up.

Within minutes fire had taken hold and flames were seen shooting out of the windows.

Three fire crews from Blackpool and South Shore were called to deal with the blaze, thought to have been sparked by an electrical fault, while police cordoned off the Promenade.

The driver was taken to hospital suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Dave Hislop, engineering director for Blackpool Transport, said: "Thankfully the operator noticed the smoke and got out quickly before the fire started. He was taken to hospital as a precaution.

"The prototype City Class 611 tram was being tested on behalf of Tram Power to see if it would be able to go into passenger service.

"It is very upsetting for all those who put a lot of hard work into the development of the tram to see it go up in flames like that.

"Now there will be a full investigation and inspection of the tram, to find out what happened, and the tracks to ensure everything is OK before we send vehicles out there again."

The blaze broke out around 4.15pm yesterday, just as rush hour began.

Many people witnessed the intense fire which reduced the state-of-the-art tram to a charred mass of tangled metal. It happened as the tram approached Central Pier, just north of The Manchester pub.

Crew manager Andy Hulls from South Shore fire station said: "The driver heard a flash bang and jumped out pretty quickly. Engineers will be investigating, but our first thoughts are it was an electrical fault. Thankfully nobody was seriously injured."

A police spokeswoman added: "It was quite a big fire. We had to shut that section of the Promenade off for a time to give firefighters access to the tram and put the fire out.

"We reopened the road about 45 minutes later. No one was hurt at all."

One eyewitness said: "It was a pretty big fire, it looked quite spectacular. It brought that part of the Promenade to a standstill and about 60 people stood there watching."

Gazette reader Leighton Naylor added: "It happened as we were coming up the prom. The next thing we saw smoke and people, who were working on the Prom, directing cars to the other side of the road."

Blackpool Transport has been testing Merseyside-based Tram Power's vehicles since last summer as part of a bid to replace the resort's world famous, but antiquated tram cars.

Steve Burd, managing director of Blackpool Transport, said: "One of the reasons why we are testing the tram here is to see if it's a solution to our longer term problems. Quite clearly there has been a major set back with this fire."