Blackpool North tramway extension official opening (Photo Blackpool Council)

UK: Revenue passenger services on the Talbot Road branch of the Blackpool tramway are set to begin on June 16, following an official opening ceremony on June 12 when the winners of a prize draw travelled on an inaugural tram.

The 600 m double-track extension branches from the main north–south seafront route at the North Pier and runs inland along Talbot Road to a terminus near Blackpool North railway station.

‘Opening this new tramway extension has many benefits’, said Alan Cavill, Director of Communications & Regeneration at Blackpool Council. ‘It provides more sustainable commuting routes for workers getting into the town centre or connecting with the station, while for our tourism businesses, it also means that customers can reach their hotel, shop or attraction even easier, supporting the local economy.’

Construction of the £23·4m branch has been funded by the council, including £16·4m from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Deal funding.

Legal powers were granted in late 2017, when opening was envisaged for 2019.

A new timetable is to be launched, with three route numbers being introduced. T1 will be the traditional 18 km main line from Starr Gate in the south to Fleetwood in the north, which does not serve the station. Route T2 will run from North Station to the southern terminus at Starr Gate, and T3 from North Station north to Fleetwood. Each route will operate a basic half-hourly service, providing a tram every 15 min on each section.

The seaside town in northwest England has the only traditional tramway in the UK not to have been closed down in the 20th century. However, a previous line along Talbot Road was abandoned in 1936 and Blackpool North station was last served by tram in 1963.

Provision for the branch was made during the £100m four-year modernisation of the tramway completed in 2012. This included the acquisition of a fleet of Bombardier Transportation Flexity 2 low-floor light rail vehicles to replace the historic double-deck trams which are now deployed on tourist services; two additional Flexity 2s were ordered as part of the extension project.