Blackpool has the oldest electric street tramway in the world with records dating back to 1884 when track plans were produced for an electric tramway that would connect North and South Shore. Blackpool Corporation paid for and maintained the infrastructure, whilst the Blackpool Electric Tramway Company, formed in January 1885 provided the electrical equipment, depot and tramcars. The tramway opened on the 29th September 1885
Originally picking up its electrical current from a grooved slot in the centre of the track, the system operated somewhat haphazardly during its early years due to difficulties with this method of current collection in a seaside location. Salt water and sand regularly filled the slot causing terrible difficulties. On regular occasions, trams had to be pulled by horses, which must have been very embarrassing!
The system was however a commercial success and in 1892 the Corporation took over the running of the tramway and the first of many extensions began in 1895. By the late 1890’s the difficulties with the Conduit system led to the conversion of the tramway to the overhead wire system
In 1898, the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramroad Company opened a rival line between Gynn Square and Fleetwood Ferry. The two tramways were not connected until the Fleetwood line was taken over by Blackpool Corporation in 1920 and for the first time, through running was introduced between South Shore and Fleetwood. By this time Blackpool enjoyed an extensive network of street tramways to Layton, to Squires Gate, along Central Drive and round Marton, as well as along the Promenade. In the 1920’s Blackpool also began the first of its bus operations.
General Manager Walter Luff’s arrival in 1933 heralded a golden age of Transport in Blackpool with the introduction of a luxury tram fleet and a matching fleet of streamlined buses and during this decade, some tram routes were replaced by buses. After the second world war, there was gradual consolidation and by 1962, the trams were confined to the 11 mile route from Starr Gate to Fleetwood which still operates today. The bus services expanded along with the town throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties.
Since bus deregulation in 1986, the trams and buses have been operated by Blackpool Transport Services Ltd, a Blackpool Council Company. While the trams themselves are owned and run by Blackpool Transport, the tramway infrastructure is currently owned by Blackpool Council and leased to the Company, which pays an annual track rental fee for the privilege. The bus services suffered from local competition throughout the 1980s and early 90s, culminating in the purchase by Blackpool Transport of the former Lytham St Annes corporation services, which by 1993 were running as Blue Buses. The Blue Buses depot at Squires Gate was kept for several years until all operations were consolidated on one site at Rigby Road.
In 2001 all the bus services were re-branded as the Metro Coastlines network with colour specific vehicles on each route and at the time this proved very successful. Times change however and the ultimate inflexibility of operating dedicated vehicles on specific routes made it difficult to revise the network to reflect the needs of an ever changing environment. Blackpool Transport has therefore switched to a corporate snappy black and yellow livery with cheerful swashes of red and silver down the sides. In 2015 we launched our new Palladium service with an investment of £1.7 million on new Mercedes Citaro buses, this demonstates our commitment to growing and investing in Blackpool.
In 2008 the Department for Transport announced that Blackpool and Lancashire Councils had been granted multi-million pound funding to upgrade the tramway infrastructure to light rail standard with new wheelchair-accessible trams which entered service on 3rd April 2012. A number of the heritage and vintage trams have been retained to supplement the new trams and to provide heritage, open-top and illuminated trams to operate on the upgraded tracks. These exciting new developments have created an opportunity for Blackpool Transport to build on its 125 year history and to lay the foundations for the future.