THE first fare-paying passengers will board Blackpool’s £100m new tram service on Wednesday April 4, it was announced today.
But a handful of lucky residents will join VIPs for a seat on the historic first passenger journey from Blackpool to Fleetwood which will take place on Tuesday April 3.
To celebrate the launch, there will be 20 pairs of ‘Golden Tickets’ up for grabs – with five pairs set to be won by Gazette readers.
Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for streets and transport at Blackpool Council, said: “I’m delighted the new trams will be running in time for Easter.
“The golden ticket competition gives residents a chance to be part of a historic event for the town.
“We wanted to make it a special occasion as it is such an important day for the Fylde coast.
“These new trams offer residents so many more opportunities in terms of speed and accessibility. It’s now a viable mode of transport for people travelling to work, school or shopping.
“The wait is nearly over and soon everyone will be able to try them out for themselves.”
The upgrade, which began after funding was secured in 2008, has seen the track replaced, a new £20m depot built at Starr Gate and 16 Bombardier trams built.
The first of the new trams arrived in the resort last September for testing.
Business leaders have welcomed the start date for the new service.
Mark Wilson, managing director of Sleepwell Hotels which operates The Carousel on South Promenade, said: “There has been disruption at times so I think everybody will be looking forward to the work finishing and we’ll all see the benefits of it.
“We have seen the new trams as they have been being tested and they look very striking and modern. We have to keep some of the heritage but at the same time we must move forward, and I think everybody is thrilled at the prospect of this great new transport infrastructure.”
A fleet of heritage trams will continue to operate during the main holiday seasons as part of Blackpool’s tourism offer.
The launch of the new service is also set to trigger celebrations in Wyre.
Chairman of Fleetwood Town Council Coun Alan Marsh said: “It’s just fabulous news that at last we are going to get the trams back.
“We are having banners made saying Fleetwood welcomes the trams and we are working with Wyre Borough and the chamber of trade to make it a special day.
“It’s going to be a tremendous day. We have to get the public out to see this first tram and make a big day of it.”
Timetable details will be released closer to the launch date.