Readers win battle to save Lights tram

WE'RE well and truly back on track!

The Gazette's campaign to get one of Blackpool's most famous illuminated trains back on the resort's rails has been won.

Heritage Lottery bosses have pledged 278,000 to help restore the Western Train Tram to its former glory.

The cash bonanza will see the tram refurbished ready to carry passengers once again along Blackpool Promenade.

The Western Train first appeared on the tracks in 1962 but was withdrawn from service in 1999 and has since stood forlorn and derelict in the tram depot on Rigby Road.

The Gazette's campaign won backing from tourism bosses, tram enthusiasts and readers who flooded transport chiefs with more than a 1,000 letters of support for the tram.

Blackpool Transport managing director, Steve Burd, said: "The Illuminated Western Train tramcar is a very special and unique vehicle. It is an icon, both in terms of the world-renowned Blackpool

Illuminations and also the historic and much-loved tramway experience.

"I feel that it will provide one of the most exciting and tangible links for future generations from all ages and all walks of life to enjoy their heritage."

A Gazette dossier of public support was included in the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which was proposed by Blackpool Transport bosses in April last year.

Tony Jones, HLF manager for the North West, said: "Trams are such an iconic part of Blackpool's history and part of the memories of summer holidays for generations.

"This grant will help keep them on track for future generations to experience."

One fan of the trams, Sir Cliff Richard, who travelled on the tram in 1963 to launch his first summer show, welcomed today's news.

He said: "It's hard to imagine Blackpool without its historic trams and without initiatives such as this, they could one day be lost forever.

"Like thousands of others, I have fond memories of my trip on this famous tram and think it's fantastic that a whole new generation will be able to share this experience."