The Tram Lines

September 14th 1957

September 14th 1957

When Liverpool’s last tram paraded along Lord Street for the last time in 1957 I was there, crying. I loved the trams and was broken hearted to see them leaving so early in my life, as I was only 3. Ever since, I’ve missed them and lamented their absence. And I suppose I’d assumed most of the tram lines had been dug up by now. But not so, as a walk along Penny Lane at the weekend showed me.dsc05889

The Smithdown end of Penny Lane is closed at the moment as the Ullet and Smithdown roadworks proceed slowly along to wherever they’re going to stop.

So we're seeing a lot of notices like these.

So we’re seeing a lot of notices like these.

And scenes like this.

And scenes like this.

But as I crossed the road towards home there was a surprise waiting for me.

But as I crossed the road towards home there was a surprise waiting for me.

The tram lines are still there.

The tram lines are still there.

With no trams running on them for nearly 60 years now.

With no trams running on them for nearly 60 years now.

The silent parallels beneath our streets.

The silent parallels beneath our streets.

And you think, don't you, if only?

And you think, don’t you, if only?

If only we could have the trams back?

If only we could have the trams back?

What a happy person I'd be.

What a happy person I’d be.

For all I know they’re already covered up with new tarmac by now. But for a few minutes on Sunday I was happily back in the rattle and sway of a Liverpool tram.

You may say I'm a dreamer.

You may say I’m a dreamer.

But I'm not the only one.

But I’m not the only one.

There were at least half a dozen tram fans poking around the roadworks alongside me.

Still, while I’m on, a word.

What on earth is going on here?

What on earth is going on here?

The bus shelter in 'Penny Lane'

The bus shelter in ‘Penny Lane’

'Sergeant Pepper's Bistro'

‘Sergeant Pepper’s Bistro’

The idlest and longest running site in Liverpool and a complete show. Anyone know why it’s taking so long and how long we’re going to allow it to take?

I know it’s not a matter of life or death, it just irritates me.

I'll stop now!

I’ll stop now!

19 thoughts on “The Tram Lines

  1. Paul Cook

    Hi Ronnie! Have you ever been on the Wirral Tramway? It runs from the Transport Museum in Birkenhead to Woodside Ferry. The Museum has some lovely working teams including from Wallasey, Birkenhead, Lisbon and Hong Kong. Pride of place belongs to a restored Liverpool tram. There is the possibility of it being extended to Seacombe and eventually to New Brighton.

    They’re also looking for new volunteer drivers if you’re interested. Maybe an idea for a new blog entry?

    Reply
  2. J. C. Greenway

    I know it’s a shame they went, but there is something lovely about them being there underground all the time, isn’t there? As if they were waiting. Like if you were out on Penny Lane late at night and there was no moon and no one around, you might hear the distant ringing of a bell…

    Reply
  3. J. C. Greenway

    Aye, they would be such a good sight to see going through the city again.
    And putting the romance of ghostly trams aside for a mo, I know you’ve been working with North Liverpool organisations, think Anfield/Walton could really use an extra public transport link. The numbers going to the football grounds could justify it as Bank Hall and Sandhill are not right on the doorstep and it would benefit that area loads. Wonder if all the rails are still there or just the bit you saw?!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Yes, the lack of extra public transport to and from Anfield and Goodison on match days is pathetic. Trams lining up to take everyone home, to Lime Street or the airport would be not just wonderful but practical.

      Reply
      1. Owen

        As one who spent many hours watching the trams at Penny Lane, and going in and out of Prince Alfred Rd sheds and Smithdown Rd sheds, I sympathise with all the sentiments, but am sorry to remind you that after the fiasco a few years ago when we ALMOST had a new system, there’s no chance. No government would help a council which behaved as it did then.

  4. John Viggars

    http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/re-opening-rail-lines#nw No trams here but have a look at the local rail lines put forward for reopening… some are only pipe dreams? Note one branch is to ‘Anfield’ & another ‘Spellow’ . I understand that Halton Curve is a goer & reinstatement of Wapping Tunnel (to connect City Line to Northern line) is under investigation soon. Maybe trains not trams is the future for cross city transport?

    Reply
  5. robertday154

    Of course, trams are making something of a comeback – Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham and South London; even Blackpool’s trams have been modernised. But the Edinburgh scheme has shown up major financing pitfalls – the traditional ‘over time and over budget’ model which has mainly been absent in other schemes. And the Birmingham scheme is a shadow of what was previously proposed, mainly because of nimby-ism from residents along a couple of the potential routes. You have to go to Europe to see long-established and modernised tram schemes – oops, I forgot, we aren’t supposed to talk about Europe these days as if there could be anything good come out of it…

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      If they can work all over Europe and those other British cities then trams could work here.

      Today I did a long walk with someone who’s an architect from London, and he was very struck by how much Liverpool is still shaping itself around the needs of the car. Some of that is definitely because our public transport is such a mess.

      Reply
  6. Mitch Markovitz

    Greetings from the cornyards of Indiana once again. In Chicago most of the streetcar (tram) tracks remain buried under many layers of paving. At one point they carried return current (aside from that of the trolley circuit) for the electric company. When I was researching the Liverpool Overhead Railway I studied a little bit of history of the Liverpool trams. They suffered the same fate as most of ours in the states. The madness of rubber tires and gasoline. Tram driving can be addictive. I first qualified at a museum in 1970. Then I went to work on the railway and ended as an electric railway engineman (driver) in 1999. In retirement I’m back to qualifying at a tram museum in Pennsylvania. By the way in some studies it’s been found that property values and business values flourish when trams are installed or restored. Trams now go by the name of “Light Rail.”

    Reply
  7. John Viggars

    I’d love to see a new ‘Dockers Umbrella’ serving Liverpool Waters but it’s just one of many pipe dreams I have as it is unlikely to be economically viable. Haven’t heard anything on Light Rail in our region but have noted that the line to Manchester Airport which went live last year is struggling due to low passenger numbers (the route is circuitous though). In Munich a number of tram & bus routes have been replaced over recent years by extending the underground system. But then the Germans have always been good at public transport solutions.
    Our new city region LEP has set out ideas for an integrated transport policy that go some way to alleviate the car being prime mode of transport & recently included some elements in it’s bid for local growth fund monies. Don’t think documents are in the public domain but I remember these that may be of interest to your readers:
    http://www.merseytravel.gov.uk/about-us/local-transport-delivery/Documents/8375%20Plan%20for%20growth%20WEB%20FINAL.pdf
    http://moderngov.merseytravel.uk.net/documents/s12878/Enc.%25201%2520for%2520Long%2520Term%2520Rail%2520Strategy.pdf
    No trams sorry.
    Many cities integrated transport policies are mutimodal. I note cycling & walking are becoming much more focused on due to the health benefits. This is what we need for the Liverpool City Region…… a policy that integrates several modes of public transport & therefore encourages us to use it over the car.

    Reply
  8. robertday154

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. We really don’t have much idea about transport planning in this country. For instance: I’m currently looking for work. I live four miles outside Leicester. 300 yards away, there’s a railway which carries aggregates from quarries to all parts of the country. The railway runs from Leicester to Burton-on-Trent. It lost its passenger service in 1967, but for years people have been trying to get it re-opened. The County Council, which deals with transport planning, takes the attitude of “We’re fed up of telling people there’s no demand for such a service.”

    I do have a bus that runs from outside my front door into Leicester. But to connect to anywhere else by transferring to rail, I have a twenty-minute walk across town.

    I have an interview for a job in Nottingham on Monday. At the moment, my car is playing up, so much so that I’m reluctant to go to this interview in it. (Motorway speeds are a problem.) I can get to the interview by public transport – drive into Leicester, get the train, 30 minutes or less to Nottingham, then a cross-platform change to the tram; I get off at the first stop and the interview venue is eight minutes away on foot. That’s fine. But if I get the job, I’d actually be working in a different building that isn’t accessible by public transport in the same way. And in any case, a £15 return fare off-peak for an interview in the middle of the day is one thing; the extra cost for peak-time fares, plus the timings, would make it more problematical for a commute.

    I’m looking for work in a wide radius from Leicester, but it’s all based on the motorway network. Some places where I’m entertaining jobs can only be accessed by public transport with one or tow changes. Others – say, Northampton or Milton Keynes – which are just on the hour away by car have much more convoluted journeys by rail because a number of rail links were closed in the Beeching era. And because IT jobs are based around attracting talent from a wide catchment area, IT companies aren’t in town centres but are usually on trading estates on the edge of towns, convenient to motorways and truck roads. So even if I could get by train from Leicester to, say, Northampton (where I had an interview the other week), I’d still then have to get from the centre of town out to the trading estate – twenty minutes at least on a bus, if one exists, and more than likely a walk at each end of the journey because the stops aren’t convenient.

    There are no easy answers to any of this. But the decision to change from public to private transport – and worse still, to tear up the infrastructure so that it couldn’t be reinstated if conditions or traffic patterns changed in future – must count as one of the major crimes against working people of the 20th century.

    Reply
  9. Mitch Markovitz

    It’s the same problem in the U.S. The population will pay and do anything to widen or expand on highways. Then they complain of the over-crowding on them. But when the subject of improved or expanded rail service, be it light rail (tram) or heavy rail (commuter, subway, elevated, or intercity) it is always met with political opposition, and the cry, “But it won’t make money,” as if a highway will make money. However…What’s becoming more and more evident is that the generation now in their late teens, into their early 30s has lost interest in owning cars, and prefers
    public transportation as they can devote all their attention to their I-phones, or lap-tops.

    Reply

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