Outrage at travel card tram axe

A  Flexity 2 tram outside the North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood.
A Flexity 2 tram outside the North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood.

Wyre Council has slammed controversial plans by Blackpool to scrap free tram travel for pensioners who don’t live in the town.

Wyre leader, Coun Peter Gibson, is furious Wyre had not been consulted about the plans.

And now a petition has been raised by Fleetwood residents to convince Blackpool to drop the proposals, which have already been criticised by port traders.

Blackpool says it can save £700,000 a year if it implements the plans. Until now, non-residents have been able to ride for free as part of the OAP concessionary fares scheme.

There is anger about the move because pensioners from Fleetwood, Cleveleys and Thornton would have to pay if they used the trams.

And Fleetwood traders say the move would affect the number of visitors from outside the Fylde coast 
coming to the town.

Coun Gibson blasted: “It is outrageous there are plans to bring this in without even 
having the courtesy to consult the council in Wyre.

“This will affect residents in Wyre and will also have an effect on our traders.

“We will be seeking to discuss this with Blackpool Council. As far as I concerned, this goes against what has been agreed in the past and is particularly unwelcome given the problems that traders in Cleveleys – and especially Fleetwood – suffered during the tram track upgrade.

“It is totally unacceptable.”

Fleetwood’s Wyre councillor, Coun Terry Rogers, is the shadow economic portfolio holder for Wyre, and he intendeds to submit a notice of motion at Wyre calling for support to ask Blackpool to reconsider its plans.

He said: “This move from Blackpool will have repercussions for our residents, and we must ask them to look again at this.”

Coun Gibson says he will back Coun Rogers’ proposal.

Angela Patchett, president of Fleetwood Women’s Institute, is behind the petition, based at St Peter’s Church, on Agnew Road, calling for a rethink.

She said: “We have already got quite a few signatures and we will be giving it in about three weeks from now. The feeling is really strong – everybody is really upset about this.

“Pensioners have said if they start charging to use the trams they won’t go to Blackpool any more. It will have a knock-on effect.

“But the petition is gathering momentum and I’m expecting about 3,000 signatures.”

Coun Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, argued the taxpayers of Blackpool should not be funding activities of people from outside of the area.

He said the concessions could continue only if there was Lancashire County Council support.

County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “The size of the cuts being imposed by the Government is unprecedented and all councils are faced with difficult decisions.

“Lancashire County Council contributed £36,000 towards funding free travel on Blackpool’s trams for NoWcard (bus pass) holders but the majority of the cost was borne by Blackpool and there’s no way we could make up the difference.

“We will continue to fund the mandatory scheme to allow free travel on buses for NoWcard holders, who will be able to use the very regular service between Fleetwood and Blackpool.”