Sunday, 10 September 2017

Happy Birthday Blackpool Transport - 125 Years - the oldest municipal

2016 bus, 1985 tram - just two of the many eras of Blackpool Transport (Brian Turner)
On 10th September 1892 Blackpool Council commenced operation of the Blackpool Tramway having purchased it from the private company that had operated it since 1885. Today therefore marks 125 years of continuous municipal transport operation in Blackpool. Municipal operation of local transport commenced in Huddersfield in 1883. Prior to this councils were able to construct but not operate tramways, but Huddersfield couldn't find an operator so were granted permission for in house operation. More authorities followed suit by taking over the companies which developed local transport. 

Since the 1960s most local authority operations have been privatised or reorganised out of existence, Huddersfield for example becoming part of West Yorkshire PTE in 1974 and today there are ten survivors Great Britain, but non have been operation as long as Blackpool. We believe Blackpool may well even be the world's oldest municipal tramway operator as we cannot identify any others at least in Europe or America. Do you know better?

In 1892 Blackpool Council had ten tramcars on a single route. The network and fleet grew to around 200 cars in the 1930s when Walter Luff introduced his modernisation plan. The first buses joined the fleet in 1921 and the bus fleet had grown to 158 in the 1930s, helped by the closure of two tram route sections. The remaining town routes closed in 1961-1963, so the tram fleet dropped to 119 in 1965 with 178 buses making 297 vehicles. Contraction saw the fleet size dwindle to 108 buses and 81 trams when deregulation occurred in 1986. A new company - Blackpool Transport Services Ltd - was formed to take over the transport department, but remains 100% owned by Blackpool Council.

Neighbour Fylde Transport was bought in May 1994. Originally a private tramway opened in 1896, it was bought by St. Annes Council in 1920 which became Lytham St. Annes Corporation in 1922 and Fylde Borough Council in 1974. It was privatised by sale to its management in December 1993 but was quickly bought by BTS thus reverting to municipal ownership. This brought the bus fleet to its peak of 214 buses when the two operations merged in July 1996. Since then as much rationalisation of services; withdrawal from most school work and closure of Seagull Coaches the fleet is now 132. The tramway was completely modernised from 2009 to 2012 and now has a fleet of 16 low floor trams, supported by 9 little used 'B fleet' Balloons and a heritage fleet of over 40 trams.

The bus fleet is now under going a major modernisation with a plan to replace the entire fleet by 2020 and no doubt will continue for many years. Happy birthday!