IT was a day to remember for Gazette competition winners who can boast they are now part of Blackpool’s tram history.
The holders of 40 ‘golden tickets’ joined VIPs and dignitaries for the first passenger service of the new Bombardier Flexity tram. They ranged in age from pre-school to pensioners – with all giving a thumbs up to the revamped tramway.
Retired tram conductor Peter Atkinson, 69, from South Shore, said it was a proud day for the town.
He added: “It has been a long time coming, but it has been worth the wait. The new trams are very bright and spacious and along with the improvements to the Promenade, it is a great achievement for Blackpool.
I started off working for Blackpool Transport as a points boy and was part of a cavalcade of trams for the 75th anniversary in 1960, so am very proud to be part of what is happening today.”
Paul Archer, 60, from Layton, remembers when the network stretched inland from the Promenade.
He said: “When I was a child I used to travel along Whitegate Drive and down Church Street on the trams.
“Blackpool wouldn’t be Blackpool without trams so it’s great to see this investment.”
Sally Wilson, 27, of Davenport Avenue, Bispham, and her dad Martin, were delighted to be present for the big launch.
Martin said: “I wrote a book about the last fleet of trams in 1953 and 60 years later, this is the first fleet since.
“The new tramway is excellent and it’s really nice local people are involved today.”
Caroline Ansell, 28, from Cleveleys, said she would definitely use the new service.
She added: “They are a lot more comfortable, bigger and warmer than the old trams. I will use them because it is cheaper to use the tram to get to Blackpool than to drive.”
Some of those on board had travelled from other parts of the North West to take part in the event.
Angela Garner, from Stockport, was with her five-year-old son Kyle. She said: “I come to Blackpool every year and I think the new trams will be great for visitors.
“They are a lot bigger so passengers won’t be as crammed in and squashed during busy times.”
And as the first tram rolled into Cleveleys members of the public had also gathered to greet it.
Seth Muckelt and Millie Bickerstaffe, from Northfold Primary School, presented flowers to the civic party as Wyre Mayor Coun David Bannister officially welcomed the maiden service.
Residents said they would definitely use the trams.
Elaine Pilcher – who was with her son Harry, seven – said: “The new service will be a big boost for Cleveleys and will bring a lot of trade to the town. We can’t wait to use it once the service starts.” Claire Muckelt added: “My daughter will definitely use them to get to Blackpool and to see her friends, and for us it will save the hassle of parking.”
It was also a proud day for Blackpool Transport workers Adele Taylor, who drove the first service, and Phillip McGreavey who was chosen to be the first conductor.
Phillip, of Revoe, said: “I think every guard was hoping to be the first and I was very lucky to be chosen. I think the public will love these trams once they start travelling on them. It’s a smoother ride, open and more spacious and as conductors we will be very customer focused.
“It’s a real enhancement for Blackpool on the transport front.”