Blackpool tramway opens after £100m upgrade
Blackpool's new tramway is to be officially opened after the famous attraction underwent a £100m upgrade.
A fleet of 16 computerised trams have replaced the old heritage vehicles, which will continue to run for tourists in the Lancashire resort.
The four-year upgrade saw 11km of track replaced and a new tram depot built.
Transport Minister Norman Baker will open the tramway before 40 competition winners take the first passenger tram from Blackpool Tower to Fleetwood.
The passengers, accompanied by a tour guide, will have a short stop at Cleveleys before arriving at Fleetwood for a welcome party.
Members of the public will be able to board the trams from Wednesday and heritage tours will start on Good Friday.
'Good for passengers'
The heritage fleet includes three trams which will be decked with coloured lights during the illuminations and an open top tram which Blackpool Football Club can use in the event of any soccer triumph.
The new articulated trams, built by Bombardier in Germany, are 32m (105ft) long and split into five sections. They can accommodate up to 150 passengers and will travel across 11 miles of coastline.
They have a more efficient acceleration rate than the previous trams and are expected to reduce some journey times by up to 15 minutes.
Mr Baker said: "Trams are good for passengers, good for the local economy and good for the local environment - and the travelling public enjoy using them.
"Blackpool has a long and proud history of tram use, indeed its tramway is among the oldest in the world.
"We want to ensure that the future of tram use in the town is even brighter and that is why I was happy to give £68m towards this fantastic project. Blackpool's trams are absolutely on the right track."
County Councillor Tim Ashton, Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: "The new Blackpool to Fleetwood tramway is a world class transport system and a great tribute to everyone who shared our vision to replace what was fast becoming an obsolete system with a tramway fit for the future.
"We've realised an opportunity to invest in a tramway which will do as much to boost regeneration by improving our residents' commuting and travel options as it will to support existing traders and grow tourism.
"I'm very much looking forward to what will be a historic occasion for Lancashire and Blackpool when the first tram sets off."
Funding for the trams came from the Department for Transport, Blackpool Council, Lancashire County Council and the Interreg IVB North West Europe Programme.