No extra buses as free trams end

Free travel on the trams for NowCard holders living outside Blackpool will end on April 1.
Free travel on the trams for NowCard holders living outside Blackpool will end on April 1.

No extra buses will be in place to cope with the increased demand when free tram travel for pensioners is scrapped next month.

Transport bosses have said they are reviewing services ahead of the change but any alterations to services would take eight weeks to come into force.

Fleetwood councillors have hit out at the decision to stop accepting NowCards from passengers who do not live in Blackpool, saying it will hit the disabled particularly hard.

Town council vice-chair-man Steve Clarke said: “For disabled people in Wyre, the bus stops on the Number 1 route are not suitable. Nobody has ever given that a thought.

“And the trams are environmentally friendly yet now they are talking about putting a load of dirty diesel buses back on.

“The trams were getting so full during the holiday season as it was.”

Blackpool Council has said that from April 1 it will no longer fund free trips on the trams for passengers from outside the resort with a NowCard, a move it claims will save £700,000.

The move means many people are expected to switch to the Number 1 bus, which runs parallel to the tram route, where the concessionary travel cards will continue to be accepted.

Fleetwood Town Council chairman Alan Marsh said he had sympathy for Blackpool Council’s situation but he could not understand the logic of the decision.

Blackpool Council has said it should not be paying to support free travel for non-residents but the authority owns Blackpool Transport, an arms-length company that would be left picking up the cost of putting on the extra buses.

Coun Marsh said: “It’s economics of the madhouse.

“Blackpool Transport have just lost £700,000 because nobody is going to pick the bill up.

“They are now going to have to reschedule the buses and they still have the cost of the track, the wages and the overheads.”

Bob Mason, director of delivery for Blackpool Transport, said: “We are obviously looking at a number of options which include frequency improvements to services serving the Promenade that runs parallel to the tramway.

“However, at this moment in time we have made no definitive decisions.

“We will need to review the situation and watch closely before we get to the summer season as this would be when we would envisage real issues.

“Furthermore, any registration changes will require a minimum of 56 days notice with the Traffic Commissioner.”

Lancashire County Council has confirmed it will not be putting up the funding for its residents to continue using the trams without paying.

However, Blackpool Transport said that while the impact of the changes are difficult to predict it is not expecting its income will be seriously affected.

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