Posted 8th September 2011 | 5 Comments

Blackpool hosts global launch for Bombardier tram

BOMBARDIER has unveiled its next-generation Flexity 2 tram to the world in the Lancashire resort which is famous not only for its trams but also a tower, rock and Albert and the Lion.

Blackpool's long-lasting tramway was one of the earliest in the world to be electrified, in the 1880s, and is now welcoming a fleet of 16 state-of-art trams, worth £33 million, which will be joining its venerable fleet.

Sim Harris was on the Fylde Coast to see the new tram revealed to an international audience.

Blackpool is, perhaps, an unlikely venue for a glittering international launch, but French, German and other languages mingled with familiar Lancashire accents as an excited audience waiited for the unveiling at the town's new tram depot in Starr Gate, not far from the Pleasure Beach.

The town has bitten the bullet and decided to update its famous fleet of heritage trams, which includes double deckers built well before the last war. These will stay in service, but from next Easter every other tram arriving at each stop between Blackpool and Fleetwood will be a new one -- a Flexity 2 built in Vienna by Bombardier.

By chance, the first new trams for Blackpool to be built since the 1970s are also the first of a new Bombardier model, which is lighter than its predecessor, with its five articulated sections stretching for just over 32 metres.

It has 74 seats, but there is also standing room and space for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

Until now, it has been a struggle to get wheelchairs on to the old trams, but the Flexity 2 is ultra low floor throughout.

Just one tram has arrived so far, but this will be followed by number two -- which has already been built -- around the end of October. The remaining 14 should all be available for service  by next Easter.

Blackpool council leader Simon Blackburn said that the launch marked a 'significant milestone', adding that he was delighted that his town was chosen to launch Bombardier's latest tram to the world, and that soon Blackpool would be offering an 'effective transport system', with old and new trams running at the same time.

Today's launch is not the end of the story for Bombardier. Not only must it deliver another fifteen trams over the next few months, but is currently in negotiations to maintain them as well.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Tony Killeen , Bristol, UK

    I look forward to riding on one of the new trams when I am next in my fformer home town. It is marvellous news that they kept faith with trams, and I hope the link to Blackpool North goes ahead soon. Other towns and cities take note; and make this the normal core for urban transport.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire, England

    The arrival of the new Flexity Swift is a landmark in the history of Blackpool trams. This borough was just about the ONLY place in Breat Britain which maintained an aggressive faith in the tram in the dreadful period between the wars and afterward up to their extinction in 1962 - apart from in Blackpool. For this the great Walter Luff will always be remembered. He was the pioneer of modern trams in the UK introducing silent wheeled vehicles when no other city did except for one single tram in Leeds, ( this was due to the fitting of resilient wheels, thus at a stroke disposing of the terrible clanking and groaning long associated with British trams - even on those in Blackpool not so fitted.)

  • Lee, Manchester, England

    Congratulations are in order to Blackpool Transport in the continuing evolution of the Fylde coasts tramway. i think these new cars represent the next step-change following on from the introduction of the streamlined cars in the 1930's. It is also good to see the council recognising the intrinsic historical value of the old cars by operating them alongside the new Flexity Swift vehicles. Some of the 1930's built baloon double deckers are being refurbished to operate in revenue service alongside the new trams and to provide an improved level of elderlty and disabled accessibility to these services.

    I would however take issue with the ex councillors views regarding the term fully DDA compliant. As she clearly states, it is impossible to cater for every diasbility, however the new trams are accessible to mobility impaired passengers. Whether or not ticketing issues preclude the use of disabled travel passes is nothing at all to do with the trams or Bombardier.

  • ExCllr Wendy M.Harbon[disabled], Blackpool, UK

    Blackpool Council claim these new trams and redevelopment of the tramway, costing British Tax Payers over 100 million pounds, is FULLY DDA COMPIANT.
    The Only problem is there is no such thing as Fully DDA Compliant in law?.
    For these new trams to be so called Fully DDA Compiant, they would have to fully provided for all types of disabilities and for all individual disabled people individual needs and requirements, which neither Blackpool Council or Bombardier could afford to buy or built any tram to fully provided legally for all disabilities.
    Also if disabled people have to pay, they cannot use disabled travel passes, there will not be many disabled users on these trams, whether they are so called accessible or not.
    Along with how safe are they going to be for disabled people, with different types of disabilities too, Blackpool Council will not answer questions over this, neither will Bombardier?.
    Not even when Freedom of Information Act Requests have been made, what have they got to hide?.

  • David Spencer, Bolton, Lancashire

    I have to say that I am really excited at the prospect of these trams going into service and offering a step change in service. I hope however that Blackpool Transport will think carefully about ticket pricing since the parallel bus route is available free to concession pass holders. I understand that concession pass holders will need to pay to travel on the tram. Metrolink in Manchester shows that the tram brings a sparkle to transport in a city or large town and these trams should help to revive the tramway. However will Blackpool Transport please integrate the bus and the tram services properly so that there isnt duplicate running. I wish the tramway well.