Viewers will this week see the most catastrophic scenes in Weatherfield’s history as Coronation Street marks its half century with blood on the cobbles.
A tram will plummet on to soap’s best-loved street tonight leaving landmarks crushed among the twisted wreckage and favourites fighting for their lives.
The crash will pave the way for a week – and beyond – of high drama, including a live edition of the programme on Thursday, the day of the soap’s 50th birthday.
Much-loved characters such as Rita Sullivan, Ken Barlow and Ashley Peacock will be seen lying motionless, surrounded by burning debris in scenes which cast members say left them on the verge of tears when they saw a preview screening.
Viewers will be left to wonder who will survive the devastation with three members of the cast expected to perish.
The chaos unfolds when an explosion rocks The Joinery bar, causing a Weatherfield tram to plunge from the viaduct above.
After celebrating his stag night in the new bar, Peter Barlow (Chris Gascoyne) is left trapped and fighting for his life alongside love rival Nick Tilsley (Ben Price).
Others left stricken in the rubble are butcher Peacock (Steven Arnold), cabbie Lloyd Mullaney (Craig Charles), barman Ciaran McCarthy (Keith Duffy), barmaid Cheryl Gray (Holly Quin-Ankrah), businessman Dev Alahan (Jimmi Harkishin) and Cheryl’s ex Chris (Will Thorp).
Familiar sights such as The Kabin and the corner shop are flattened, leaving Molly Dobbs (Vicky Binns) and her baby Jack, Dev’s wife Sunita (Shobna Gulati) and Kabin owner Rita (Barbara Knox) overcome by flying bricks and shards of glass.
Ken (William Roache) and bride-to-be Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) are also knocked off their feet by the blast.
The shocking scenes have taken months to prepare – with weeks of night shooting - and the tram stunt is thought to have cost up to £1m (€1.2m).
After seeing a preview screening of the crash, Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster) said: “I nearly cried at the end. Just seeing the devastation on the street was quite emotional.”
And Roache added: “I had tears of pride to belong to a team that can produce something like that – which is not only the best thing in Coronation Street ever, the best thing on TV ever.”
The disaster and its aftermath will unfold over five nights from today, with a special hour-long live episode. The last live episode of the show was staged a decade ago to mark the show’s 40th birthday.