Sunday, 12 August 2012

Riding Blackpool's Flexity2 Trams

Yesterday Miss Franny and I decided we were going to have a ride on one of the new Blackpool Trams, the Bombadier Flexity2.

The Flexity2 came into operation from April 2012 and has replaced the older trams for which Blackpool was so famous. Some of the older trams run as a heritage fleet, running from the Pleasure Beach to Bispham only with a round trip costing £5 per adult or with an option to pay £10 for a full day ticket. It operates on a 4-stop hop on-hop off basis.

But it's the Flexity2 that we are about today. Our first trip took us from Bispham to Fleetwood.

We were lucky to get a seat, it was fairly crowded, though this we were to find was the norm. The interior shot was taken looking forwards (though the trams are symmetrical - they look the same from either direction) and to explain the above sentence was taken later in the day after leaving the Starr Gate terminus.

We are sitting close to one of the flexible junctions between our section and the one in front. The Flexity2 has five such sections which severely restricts the number of seats. There were far fewer than I had expected.

There are two wheelchair stations included - one each in the second and fourth segments. The entry points for these are helpfully marked on the platforms. The new platforms mean that you walk onto the tram from the same level as the tram floor rather than having a step to climb.

In this shot the tram is turning quite steeply to the right (taken at Fleetwood Ferry loop). The flexibility of the trams is very smooth, with the flooring coping by having a circle from one segment fitted into a socket on the next segment. It means people standing are not affected unless they have one foot on the circle and the other in the next segment and even then one foot will move in relation to the other no more than six inches at the very most. Again although the tram has spare seats at this stage, this was after leaving the Fleetwood terminus.

But it is the standing aspect that I found the most disappointing. The trams run every 15 minutes. In the middle of August in Blackpool that is nowhere near enough. The effect is that unless you get on at one of the terminus stops - Starr Gate or Fleetwood Ferry - there is a very good chance that you will have to stand or may not even get on.

The number of people standing was ridiculous. It also meant that not only was it hard to get off when you reached your stop, but the poor conductors had one hell of a job. I suspect at times they were taking only a quarter of the potential fares through no fault of their own.

So no way should Blackpool Transport claim it would be uneconomical to run more trams - I reckon that even running them every 5 minutes they would still have been full yesterday and the conductors would have a chance to collect all fares due.

As it was, the trams were uncomfortable - even sitting down I was constantly prodded with whatever the person standing next to me was carrying. At every stop there were huge queues, some of whom were left behind, who then faced a further quarter hour wait. The old trams used to almost move in convoy. So should the new.

A case of design by someone who had never been to Blackpool and could not envisage the demand. To end on a positive note - whilst one or two adverts have started to appear on the sides of trams I'm glad to see that they have not been painted over the windows. The amount of complaints about that from riders of the old fleet were sky high.

Large versions of the photos: tram near pleasure beach, interior 1, tram at south shore, interior 2, two trams

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