Friday, 17 November 2017

Lytham Gearless Lion Returns

Lion 34 on Clifton Drive North in St. Annes (David Umpleby)
The Lancastrian Transport Trust's 1936 Gearless Leyland Lion 34 is nearing a return to use. 34 ran with Lytham St. Annes from 1936 to 1957 and was then preserved passing through various owners until it was purchased by Fylde Transport - the successor to Lytham St. Annes in 1988. After a three year restoration it returned to use in 1992. 'Use' was mainly on private hires and the occasional bus rally, though it sometimes worked free event services and even put in a turn on service 21 from Blackpool Zoo once Blackpool Transport had taken over Fylde.

BTS retired it in 2006, as it needed further attention and it was purchased for LTT in July 2008. Recently work to reactivate it, with new seat cushions, repairs to the interior bodywork and a full repaint have culminated with repairs to the vacuum brake system. Some local test runs had taken place, but on Wednesday 34 was taken for a longer run reaching both St. Annes and Blackpool Town Centres. 34 will be joining the Catch 22 Bus hire fleet for 2018, though restricted to Fylde Coast hires

In other Catch 22 news, withdrawn Darts 466 and 617 have passed into preservation. One of the two ex First Bristol Volvo B6s has returned to use (812) - the other is still stored (813). A fourth Routemaster has been purchased, with RML2290 rejoining the fleet - it had formed part of the original Classic Bus operation back in 2007 on hire from Graham Oliver and was used on Seafront service 12 in 2012, leaving in early 2013 on sale to Ensignbus. It has spent much of the intervening period in Cornwall.

Lion 34 stands in St. Annes Square, about to be passed by a Blackpool Transport DAF (David Umpleby)

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Squires Gate Depot to Return?; Tridents for Sale; Sold Solo Update

Squires Gate Depot to Return?
The recent release of a masterplan for Blackpool Airport, now in Blackpool Council ownership includes a proposal for the long rumoured relocation of Blackpool Transport's bus depot from Rigby Road to the enterprise zone at the Airport. This is, of course, merely a proposal - but the document suggests there are limited alternatives. The new site would be at the opposite end of Squires Gate Lane from the former Fylde Squires Gate depot closed in 1999.

Tridents for Sale
The withdrawn ex Isle of Man Dennis Tridents have been re-advertised on Facebook by Chartwell Bus and Coach Sales at £9,000.

Sold Solo Update
Recently sold Sold Solos 254, 256, 258 and 260 are now registered C17BUS to C20BUS and are in service with Newbury and District in their red and black livery. Sisters 251/2 are C15/6BUS - but have not yet been reported in use.

Not previously reported is the sale of 285 from a local owner to Easyway, Bridgend as BW53BUS - note this is the third Solo to carry this identity according to Flickr!


Rail Replacement

Enviro 448 picks up customers at Poulton-le-Fylde railway station on its way to Preston

Enviro 451 heads through the new exit from North station specially for Rail Replacement Buses (Paul Turner)

Meanwhile Solo 241 waits time outside the Library on Abingdon Street, due to Town Centre diversions. Note that the temporary stop shows Line 3 and Line 4 - a throwback to the Metro Coastlines era (Paul Turner)

Enviro 441 on the direct service leads 451 on the stopping service at 1200 (Paul Turner)

455 pulls onto stand for the 1215 departure while 448 arrives from Preston (Paul Turner)

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Changed Lifestyle

The second Lifestyle Line identity was blue and yellow as previously used on Line 10. The aim of the service was to link housing areas (such as Mereside here) with shopping, work and health facilities away from the Town Centre (Brian Turner)
Back in 2001 Blackpool Borough Council was awarded a grant a grant of £809,225 from the Department of Transport's Urban Bus Challenge. This was to purchase six Optare Solos and provide revenue support for a new bus service from Morrisons near Halfway House to Norcross Government Offices near Thornton. Blackpool Transport was awarded the contract and the six Solos arrived during May/June 2002 and were initially kept in storage at the Council's Layton yard. They moved to Rigby Road in late June and the service commenced on 8 July. It started at Norcross and ran via Norcross Lane, Whiteholme Road, Ashfield Rd, Kincraig Road, Moor Park Avenue, Bispham Road, Plymouth Road, Garstang Road, Dinmore Avenue, Easington Cres, Dinmore Avenue, Tarnbrook Drive, Newton Drive, Hospital, East Park Drive, South Park Drive, Preston New Road, Kentmere Road, Langdale Rd, Clifton Rd, Tesco, Clifton Rd, Cherry Tree Rd, Midgeland Rd, Highfield Road, St. Annes Rd to Halfway House. Initially it terminated on Amy Johnson Way but was later extended into Morrisons. The route was largely new but helped replace services 8/9/10 linking South Shore and Mereside; and Mereside with Victoria Hospital which had been withdrawn a few months before.
The original Solos carried this uninspiring Blackpool Council livery, strangely devoid of promotional material for the new route with just the "Lifestyle Line" name carried. (Brian Turner)
A half hourly service was provided using four Solos until c2100 with an hourly Saturday service until c1900. The six buses were allocated fleet numbers 277-282 (YG02FWH, YG02FVP/R/S/T/U), but 277 remained in store as having two licensed spares was excessive. Buses carried the council red and cream livery with Lifestyle Line branding and the route was numbered L1

The L1 terminated on Blundell Street behind the Somerfield Store and adjacent to the bus and tram depot, here 278 heads up Hopton Road, where in a previous era vast numbers of express coaches would be arriving at the Coliseum Coach Station (Brian Turner)
A second successful Urban Bus Challenge bid in 2002 saw a further £865,600 awarded to Blackpool and Lancashire County Councils in partnership. This saw two more Solos arrive - owned by LCC according to legal lettering - as 283/4 (PN03UGG/H). The service was extended from 1 June 2003 from Norcross to Fleetwood with buses running from Rossall Point via The Esplanade, Queens Terrace, Dock Street, Freeport, Station Road, Copse Road, Stanley Road, Radcliffe Road (back Radcliffe Rd to Station Rd), Hatfield Avenue, Highbury Avenue, Poulton Road, Beach Road, Fleetwood Road, Amounderness Way, Victoria Road East, Alexandra Road, Belvedere Road, Hawthorne Road, Beechwood Drive, Fleetwood Road South, Norcross Lane and as before. The route was also extended from Morrisons via Squires Gate Lane, Lytham Road, Harrowside, Clifton Drive, Burlington Road West, Bond Street, Station Road, Lytham Road, Hopton Road, Blundell St to Somerfield Supermarket. Seven buses were now needed with a half hourly service Monday to Saturday until about 2200. An hourly Sunday service was also started. In addition to 283/4, 277 entered service on 1 June, but within a few days was re-registered PL03BPZ as it could now legitimately carry an 03 plate rather than the 02 one.

Minor route changes had seen a diversion via Fulwood Square and St Walburgas Road between Grange Park instead of Tarnbrook Drive and Newton Drive and the Hospital and, in January 2003, a short diversion to serve the Maternity Unit at the Hospital was introduced replacing Line 5.
Handybus liveried Solo 276 stands in for a defective branded Solo near Tesco in March 2004 (Brian Turner)
The service continued to grow and it was necessary to introduce an extra peak journey at 0753 from Mereside to Norcross in November 2004. This was operated by a Line 15 Metrorider - a rare example of a scheduled allocation of a route branded bus to another service. Metroriders rarely appeared on other L1 journeys - Handybus and later pool liveried Solos were the common substitutes for 277-284. Further minor changes saw the L1 diverted via Acre Gate and Lennox Gate in December 2005 - to replace the 2A - and via the perimeter road at Victoria Hospital in May 2006.

Seeing double: Solo 289 on the routine workings overtakes Olympian 370 on the school peak working from Norcross to Manchester Square at Halfway House (Brian Turner)
Continued growth in passengers started to result in capacity issues around school and work peak times. As a result two school day only workings were added using double deckers from January 2007: 0835 from Hospital to Norcross using a bus from a St Mary's School special and 1532 from Norcross to Manchester Square. The L1 had improved in performance to such an extent that it was close to commercial viability once the Urban Bus Challenge subsidy ended. 

It was decided to upgrade the service using larger 33 seat Solos to replace the original 29 seaters and relaunch the service as part of the Metro network. Eight new Solos were ordered, six funded by Blackpool Council and two by LCC, though BTS undertook to purchase the existing eight from the councils, partially offseting the extra capaital needed. 

The route was extended to start at Blackpool Market Street via the Promenade to Manchester Square. It was also extended into Blackpool Business Park; removed from Acre Gate and Lennox Gate. From Victoria Road East it was diverted into Cleveleys then via Rossall Road, West Drive, Fleetwood Road to take up its former route at Hatfield Road. It no longer ran into Freeport, however. A half hourly service ran during the day using 8 buses, while in the early evening and on Sunday an hourly service used four buses. The extra short workings continued, though oddly still as L1s for a while.

Brand new Solo 293 crests Plymouth Road bridge on its way to Blackpool in April 2007 (Brian Turner)
Unfortunately not all of the eight new buses (286-293) were ready. On the first day 286-290 were in use and possibly 291 too. The other two workings used the L1 liveried buses one of which was 280. Unfortunately their electronic destinations had not been reprogrammed so these still showed L1! 292/3 entered service later in the week and the original Solos were progressively repainted into pool or line 2 livery. Extra peak running time was added in November 2008 and the three extra journeys at 0753 from Tesco, 0835 from Hospital and the 1525 ex Collegiate which used to be the 1532 from Norcross - were renumbered 116 to differentiate from the low floor workings. The 116 was progressively reduced with the afternoon journey going in April 2009 and the rest by February 2010.

September 2009 saw the section from Cleveleys to Fleetwood withdrawn as LCC awarded a contract to Stagecoach for a replacement service (74). Buses 286/7 were rebanded as Line 2 buses as a result. The route was also re-routed via Lytham Road rather than Bond Street/Clifton Drive. February 2010 saw the limited evening service withdrawn and the Saturday service reduced to hourly. With the end of route branding and the major network review from 26 July 2010 the 16 was radically changed as it now ran from Blackpool North Station via the former 2 route (Church St, Whitegate Drive, Waterloo Road) to Royal Oak, then along Bond St, Clifton Drive and Harrowside before running the full length of Highfield Road. It now missed out its original terminus at Morrisons. Its route to Cleveleys from Highfield Road was largely the same, save for a diversion via Fleetwood Road between Norcross and Thornton Four Lane Ends. 7 buses were needed for the half hourly Monday to Friday service and 4 for the hourly Saturday and Sunday service.
The circuitous nature of the 16 saw buses displaying Fleetwood heading down Lytham Road in completely the opposite direction than one would expect. (Brian Turner)

Although no longer known as the Lifestyle Line - the 16 is one of the few Urban Bus Challenge services to survive after its funding expired. It is still recognisable from its original service - save for the Morrisons to Highfield Road section, though it has seen several revisions. It also provides a replacement for the former Marton tram route with just two buses per hour (one at weekends and non in the evening) along Waterloo Road - a sad contrast to the era of a three minute tram service in the 1950s.
Solo 248, in line 5 livery works a 16 to Poulton in 2012 at Mereside Tesco (Brian Turner)

The 16 was diverted in July 2012 to run to Poulton instead of Cleveleys, also serving Bispham Library, Ashfield Road, Bispham College, Norcross Lane and Castle Gardens - it was soon diverted via Kincraig Avenue and Faraday Way. For a few months from January to May 2013, the 16 terminated at Castle Gardens due to a bridge closure in Poulton. From September 2013 the 16 served Preston Old Road, Lancaster Road and Lawson Road in Great Marton but missed out most of Grange Park Estate, serving Chepstow Road from Fulwood Square to Poulton Road, but not Dinmore Avenue.

The 16 ended in this format on 27 June 2015, with new circular services 12/13 and 15/16 starting the following day. The 12/13 covered the northern section from Victoria Hospital to Poulton - returning via the traditional 2 route - both continued from Hospital to Blackpool via Newton Drive. The new 16 ran over its current route from Blackpool to Tesco except it was diverted via Stanley Park instead of Whitegate Drive; then via Marton Mere Park, Preston New Road, East Park Drive and Zoo to Hospital then Newton Drive to Blackpool. The 15 ran the reverse. It ran every 30 minutes M-S and hourly Sundays. There was a limited evening service to Marton Mere (out as 15 back as 16) and this later extended to Harbour Hospital.
The rural part of the 15/16 as 294 reaches the end of Chain Lane from Staining (Brian Turner)
In April 2016 the 15/16 was diverted with buses now running from Mereside back to Blackpool via Marton Mere, Staining, Hospital, Zoo, Stanley Park - and returned to using Whitegate Drive between Devonshire and Oxford Squares. For winter 2016/7 the service was reduced to hourly, except at peak times when it remained every 30 minutes. It returned to half hourly for the summer 2017 season. The 12/13 ended in April 2016, the final link with the northern end of the Lifestyle Line, save for one school journey which remains today.

The 15/16 ended on 4 November 2017 with new services 18 Blackpool to Mereside via South Shore and 19 Blackpool to Staining replacing the service. The new 18 reinstates the link to Halfway House - therefore covers the original Mereside to Halfway House section of the L1 and its later extension as far as Royal Oak. There is now no direct link from Mereside to Victoria Hospital.
The last summer of the 15/16 saw double deckers dominate the allocation - here 369 heads through St Johns Square while on diversion (Paul Turner)

First day on the railways

Today was the first day of the rail replacement services to Blackpool North. Reported sightings of all 20 Enviros have been received indicating some changeovers during the day. BTS has 13 all stops and 5 direct workings with 7 coaches from Tyrers, Avacoach and Atlantic Travel also noted on direct workings. G Line and Archway provided coaches for the hourly South line workings.

Observations and reports show arrangements at North station including a new entrance next to Sainsbury’s petrol station and extra layover bays provided there. At Preston there are three dedicated stops in the Butler Street car park with buses laying over in the parking bays. Dropping off is reportedly done on Fishergate. Layton stop is on Benson Road, the Blackpool bound service 9 stop is used in both directions, the stop opposite Poulton station is used in both directions too, while Blackpool bound buses stop across the road from Kirkham station. Preston buses use the stop on the same side as the station entrance.

The new Enviros have three fewer seats on the lower deck. Its worth clarifying the layout on all three batches as they have been widely reported - included here - with incorrect seat layouts! 

  • 401 to 410 of 2016 seat 74 with 45 up and 29 down. All upper deck seats face forward. Downstairs there are 5 inward and 1 rear facing tip up seats, the remainder are fixed seats with 4 reward facing ones
  • 411 to 435 of spring 2017 seat 72 with 43 up and 29 down. There are three tables upstairs which mean six seats face backwards. The lower deck matches the earlier buses. 
  • 436 to 455 of autumn 2017 set 69 (43/26) - the upper deck matches 411 to 435 but there are now tip up seats on the offside which explains the difference in capacity. 436 to 442 have a luggage pen on the offside, while 443 to 455 don't.
Thanks to Mike Wilson for helping get to the bottom of this!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Observations

Ex Bus Vannin Trident 353 approaches Victoria Hospital on new service 19 on Wednesday 8th November
With the new service pattern now in place a few observations have been made of new allocations. Many thanks to David Smith for sharing some of this information. The 1 bus operation of service 19 started with a Solo on Sunday, with double deckers since, including Trident 353 on Wednesday. 

The Enviro 400s have continued on services 9, 11 and 14 and still share the 6 with Centros - Wednesday saw 5 DDs and 3 Centros. New route 18 had a mixed allocation on Wednesday of Solos 243 and 245 and Volvo B7RLE 520 and 524. Service 17 had B7RLE/Wright 521/523 and two Centros. Centros 532/3 were noted alongside Citaros on service 5.

Former Blackpool Olympian 375 has now been completed by Blackpool Design Coachworks for Delves Infant and Nursey School, Walsall as a library.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Morton's Travel

Adrian Morton, owner of Morton's Travel of Tadley, Hampshire has very kindly sent some photos of his refurbished ex Blackpool, new to Blackburn Tridents. Former 335 entered service six weeks ago and is now registered E13 BUS, with 333 arriving on Saturday from certification, and will enter service soon with new registration F13BUS. Adrian also has former Blackpool, new to Reading, Excel 225 in stock, its currently used occasionally as a spare bus.

The Tridents join a fleet of high capacity high quality double deckers and coaches used on school contracts, private hires and rail replacement work.


Morton's E13BUS, former Blackpool 335 and new as Blackburn 3 in Morton's stylish livery (Steve Foster)

The before shot: Trident 335 in service in Blackpool (Adrian Morton)

Refurbishment work has seen new coach seats with belts fitted in 333/335 (Adrian Morton)

A before interior of the Tridents (Adrian Morton)
And finally. Former Excel 225 is seen on Sunday 17th September at Reading Northern Interchange operating an all stations rail replacement service to Basingstoke on behalf of Great Western Railway. Apart from a deep clean and MOT 225 remains, at present, in as acquired condition and sees only minimal use as a spare vehicle. (Adrian Morton)
Many thanks for Adrian for taking the trouble to get in touch and share these photos.




Farewell to the Southern Circular

Yesterday marked the end of the Southern Circulars 15/16. Their replacements, 18 and 19 leave the section of route between Mythop Road and Staining unserved, so here are a few 'last week' photos. Ex Bus Vannin DAF 361 swings round ready to take the sharp left turn from Mythop Road into Chain Lane on 4th November while working a 16 (Brian Turner)

Marton Mere will be devoid of  buses this winter as service 20 also finishes today. Yesterday DAF 363 waits time on a 15 (Brian Turner)

And sister 364 calls in on a 16 (Brian Turner) 

The Circulars used a range of buses. DDs were common in the summer, Solos in the winter and the Volvo B7RLEs often appeared too. Here is 245 on 2nd November on Chain Lane (Brian Turner)

There were a number of spots where the circulars ran in the same direction - other than the Town Centre, Mereside Tesco, Victoria Hospital and Blackpool Zoo feature one way workings as does Marton Mere here. New to Blackpool Trident 331 on a 16, leads ex Manx Trident 353 out of the park on 2nd November (Brian Turner)

Ambling through the countryside, Trident 327 on Chain Lane, service 16 2nd November (Brian Turner)

A candidate for imminent withdrawal, ex IOM 350 turns form Chain Lane onto Mythop Road on the 15 on 2 November (Brian Turner)

Sister 353 approaches the same junction on 30 October (Brian Turner)

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Fleet Update

The 20 new buses are now all believed to be in stock. They differ from the previous batches as they seat 69 (v 74 for 401-10 and 72 for 411-435). 436 to 442 also have a small additional luggage pen on the lower deck. A different seat supplier has been used. Visually the only difference is some yellow relief on the front end.

It is expected these will enter service next Saturday on the Blackpool North to Preston rail replacement. It is understood BTS is providing most of the 'stopping' services via Layton, Poutlon and Kirkham & Wesham with 13 buses needed for this. BTS are also providing about 5 workings on the non stop Blackpool North to Preston workings alongside other operators.

Solo 293 is now withdrawn, the first of the 2007 batch delivered for Line 16. This suffered front end damaged recently and is not to be repaired. Currently the Solo fleet comprises:

  • 240-246 - the 7 bought for Line 2 in 2009
  • 247/8, 294-7 - the 6 bought in 2008 for Lines 2 (247), 5 (248) or 3
  • 253 - the sole survivor of the 12 bought in 2004 for Lines 3 and 5
  • 286 to 292 - 7 of the 8 bought for the 16 in 2007.



Tram Enabling Works - Town Centre Diversions

Two significant junctions on the bus network will be closed from 13 November, requiring significant diversions. The Talbot Square junction (Promenade/Talbot Road) and the Talbot Road/Dickson Road junctions are closed. This is for enabling work for the new tram route to Blackpool North Station involving diversion of utilities under the road surface.

Most significant impact is on Promenade service 1. This is split into two services. The northern section will commence on Queen Street outside the Library and run via Dickson Road and Pleasant Street where it will pick up its normal route. Buses from Fleetwood will turn off the Prom at Springfield Road then onto Abingdon Street and Queen Street. This will run every 30 minutes.

The southern section is reduced to an hourly service running from Starr Gate to Adelaide Street terminating at the 20 terminus. The bus then returns via Bank Hey Street, Central Drive and Chapel Street to the Promenade.

The 2, 2C, 18 and 19 (plus school route 12) will now use Abingdon Street as a terminus instead of Corporation Street. They will approach the terminus from Church Street via St. Johns's Square and won't serve Topping Street. Outward journeys will turn left onto Talbot Road, left onto Clifton Street, right onto Abingdon Street and back through St John's Square, Caunce Street, Grosvenor Street and Church Street. While St John's Square has been used by services in the inward direction during the Illuminations this is the first time it has been used bidirectionally since it was pedestrianised.

The 3 and 4 northbound have a simple diversion, at Topping Street they turn right into Deansgate, Cookson Street, Talbot Road, High Street and Springfield Road with a new stop before turning onto Dickson Road as normal. Southbound is much more complex as the route will not serve Gynn Square either. At Warbreck Drive, the routes turn left onto Warbreck Hill Road then Links Road and Warley Road to rejoin the normal route at Westminster Road. From Pleasant Street, the buses cross onto the Promenade, then Springfield Road, Abingdon Street, Queen Street, Dickson Road, Springfield Road, High Street, Talbot Road, Buchanan Street, George Street, Grosvenor Street and as normal to Mereside. Stops will be on Abingdon Street outside the library and Springfield Road opposite Funny Girls.

The 5, 6 and 7 northbound from Central Drive follow Albert Road, with a stop near McDonalds, Regent Road, Church Street, Topping Street (main town centre stop), then Deansgate, Cookson Street and Talbot Road with the 6 then via Buchanan Street, George Street, Grosvenor Street. Southbound Market Street is accessible until 1900, so the 5/7 run via Buchanan Street, George Street, Grosvenor Street where the 6 joins and all run through St Johns Square, Abingdon Street, Talbot Road to Market Street and as normal. After 1900 they turn off Church St onto South King Street, Adelaide Street, Coronation Street, Reads Avenue to Central Drive. Neither Market Street or Bank Hey Street will be served with stops on Church Street and Coronation Street instead.

The 9 and 14 will terminate on Clifton Street. They will approach via Buchanan Street, Grosvenor Street and St Johns Square, returning via St Johns Square, Caunce Street and Cookson Street

The 11 and 17 will terminate at Market Street as normal until 1900, but will access via Church Street and Corporation Street. After 1900 they will terminate on Bank Hey Street, returning via Central Drive and, for the 11, Chapel Street.

Map link here





Thursday, 2 November 2017

Trident disposal update

A post today by Mike Sandham on the Blackpool's Trams and Buses Facebook group has shown former 336 with Dews Coaches of Somersham. This had been rumored to be with Selby, Stockdale - but this is clearly not the case.

So far only six withdrawn Tridents have gone for further use - the younger long wheel base examples:

  • 333 with Mortons Travel of Basingstoke, refurbished and reseated with 94 coach seats still PN52XKF presently, but expected to be re-registered
  • 334 with Selby, Stockdale
  • 335 with Mortons as 333 and now registered (E13BUS)
  • 336 with Dews, Somersham
  • 337 with Selby, Stockdale
  • 342 with UK Coachways/Vision Bus, Bolton
The ex Blue Triangle (338-341) and ex Bus Vannin (343-348) Tridents remain in store.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Preston Bus wins expanded Tendered network

Route 74 will end in December with services 76/77 replacing it. Here Preston Solo 20831 waits at Abingdon Street terminus in Blackpool (Brian Turner)

Preston Bus has registered service changes following the award of new contracts by Lancashire County Council from 10th December. The 74 (Poulton to Blackpool) is withdrawn and replaced by new 76 and 77. Changes are made to route 75 which will serve Cleveleys; reinstated sevrice 76 will link Lytham, Kirkham, Poulton and Blackpool and new service 77 will replace the 80 running Preston to Blackpool via Inskip, Great Eccleston and Poulton.

Route 75 will operate via Pheasant Wood Drive, Mayfield Road, West Drive, Rossall Road, Cleveleys, Victoria Road, Four Lane Ends, Thornton Centre, Tarn Road, Breck Road to Poulton. Four buses are needed and the 75 interworks with local service 29 from Preston to Frenchwood.

The 76 has six trips from Lytham to Poulton via Kirkham and Great Eccleston and five return. Three trips continue to Blackpool via Victoria Hospital. The 77 and 77A run hourly from Preston to Great Eccleston, the 77A running off peak to Myrescough College. The 77 continues to Blackpool every 2 hours with some extra trips at peak time. The 77 also serves Myrescough at peak times with a morning Preston to Myrescough bus, running back to Blackpool with the reverse in the afternoon, albeit starting at Poulton. Four buses are needed for the 76, 77, 77A. One works all 77A journeys plus some peak 77s, the rest stick to the 76/77 cycle.




Sunday, 29 October 2017

Lost Routes: 7/7A Bispham Circulars

259, one of Blackpool's classic centre entrance PD2s waits time at Bispham Hotel as it prepares to head back into Blackpool on service 7 (John Hinchliffe)

One of Blackpool's long lost routes are the Bispham circulars 7/7A - which ended, finally, in 1994. Back in June 1926 Blackpool Corporation created a North Shore circular which ran from Gynn Square through Claremont and the Town Centre and out via Church St, Caunce St, Devonshire Road and Warbreck Hill Road back to Gynn Square. This took route number 1, with 2 used for the reverse direction. In February 1927, the circular was withdrawn and new route 5 (Gynn to Halfway House) covered the Warbreck Hill Road and Devonshire Road section, but used the more direct Talbot Road into the town centre.

In May 1929 the 5 was diverted to replace route 7 alnog Caunce Street to Hoo Hill - just beyond Layton and a new service 7 started from Town Centre to Holly Road via Talbot Road and Devonshire Road, terminating just short of Warbreck Hill Road. The link to Gynn ended. Buses turned via Links Road and Warbreck Hill Road to get back to Devonshire Road. Thus route 7 of this article was born.

For a few months in 1930 the 7 ran to Gynn Square via Warbreck Hill Road reinstating the former 5 link but this was finally killed off in May 1930. In October 1937 the 7 was extended to Bispham Tram Depot via Devonshire Road and Red Bank Road with a terminal loop via Promenade, Hesketh Avenue, Warbreck Drive back to Red Bank Road. 7A was used for shorts to Holly Road.

Meanwhile in 1932 service 12 was started operating along Park Road to Marton. In 1934 it was extended cross town along Dickson Road and Warbreck Drive to Pembroke Avenue and in 1936 further extended to Bispham Tram Depot. The 12 used Leyland Titan Double Deckers, while the 7 remained single deck operated mainly with Lions and later Tigers. The 12 was split in 1939 with the Bispham end showing 12A.

In May 1940 the 7 and 12A were linked as circulars with the 7 running out via Devonshire Road and back via Warbreck Drive and the 12A ran the opposite. 7A was still shown for the shorts to Warbreck Hill Road (Holly Road). These now returned to town via Warbreck Hill Road, Links Road, Warley Road, Devonshire Road. In 1953 the logical move of renumbering the 12A to 7A took place - the shorts now showing 7B. The service pattern was every 10 minutes on each 7/7A sharing 6 buses but before 1000 (summer) and 1200 (winter) a reduced 15 minute service was provided, with the 7B infilling as far as Warbreck Hill Road.

PD2 325 turns from Red Bank Road into Warbreck Road at Bispham Hotel on 11 May 1968 - behind the bus is the entrance to the former Bispham tram depot (Brian Turner)
In October 1959 the circular was split with the 7 running both ways along Devonshire Road and 7A both ways along Warbreck Drive. Between 0900 and 1800 Monday to Saturday alternate 7A buses became 7Cs and were extended from Bispham to Whiteholme. This only lasted a few months and the circular resumed in 1960 - the 7C becoming a stand-alone service.

4 May 1970 saw new One Man Operated AEC Swifts replace the Leyland Titans used hitherto. Economies saw the frequency reduce to a maximum 15 minutes during the 1970s, then in 1982 the Sunday service was diverted off Dickson Road into Claremont to replace service 3. The 7B ended regular operation in the early 1970s. Atlanteans took over from Swifts during the late 1970s.
Atlantean 303 departs from Talbot Road Bus Station on a 7 towards Bispham. It carries the remants of a promotional livery for service 6 which featured two orange and one yellow stripe and a green skirt (PT Collection)
At deregulation, Blackpool Transport replaced the 7/A with revisions to the 2,2A, 3 and 15. The 2 ran every 30 minutes Poulton-Blackpool-Bispham via Devonshire Road, while the 2A, 3 and 15 combined to make a 15 minute service to Bispham via Warbreck Drive with 2A/15 via Dickson Road and the 3 via Claremont. Evening/Sunday buses ran hourly on the 2 and 2A only. Lancashire County Council contracted Fylde to provide an additional evening service - over the old 7/7A route - keeping the established service going - just! Fylde tended to use Atlanteans.

Blackpool took over the evening contract in January 1988 but it ended in 1989. However a daytime service resumed in December 1988 operating over the traditional routes every 15 minutes each way - but starting from Corporation Street. This was a response to Fylde introducing its 11/11A/11B routes over the Bispham circulars (operating Lytham to Blackpool from November 1988). In January they extended these to Cleveleys, with the 11A/B on Devonshire Road now serving Claremont estate rather than Talbot Road . Fylde withdrew the 11A/B in April 1989, but kept the 11 via Warbreck Drive going - it lasted until the Metro review in 2001. 
From 1988 to 1994 the 7 was resurrected using Handybus livery City Pacers including 571, seen on Warbreck Hill Road in late October 1994 just before the end of the service (Peter Makinson)

In April 1990, Blackpool revised the 7/7A to run via Claremont in both directions - and increased the frequency to 12 minutes - making a bus every six minutes from Claremont to Blackpool - allowing the 3 to be withdrawn. The section to Corporation St was dropped, the terminus moving back to the Bus Station. The 2/A and 15 were withdrawn from Bispham in June 1991, leaving the market to the 7/7A. This lasted until November 1994 when routes 2/2A and new 2B were provided to replace the 7/7A as Bispham circulars. the 2/2B covering the 7 every 15 minutes and 2A covering the 7A at the same frequency.

The Bispham Circular finally ended in April 2001 after 61 years when the new Metro network saw Lines 3 and 4 provide a link through Claremont (3) or Dickson Road (4) to Bispham via Warbreck Drive and then via two routes to Cleveleys combining to a 10 minute frequency replacing the 7/A part 11 and 44/44A. New Line 7 (Lytham to Cleveleys) provide a 20 minute service along Talbot Road and Devonshire Square - a familiar number in a new era. With minor changes (such as the 4 serving Claremont) this remains the pattern today. 

Friday, 27 October 2017

Fresh Out of the Box

454 SN67WZV - the penultimate of the latest 20 Enviro 400s on test at Alexander Dennis in Falkirk (Photos Gordon Scott courtesy of the Oxford & Chilterns Bus Page)

454 SN67WZV - the penultimate of the  latest 20 Enviro 400s on test at Alexander Dennis in Falkirk (Photos Gordon Scott courtesy of the Oxford & Chilterns Bus Page)

From the Archives: Unlucky Numbers: Blowing Sands

Buses to Blowing Sands: Updated post from 2016, with some corrected information about the 1950s; a new map and updated to reflect the end of service 10.

The original bus to Blowing Sands was provided by William Smith's Motor Services
Blowing Sands was the delightful early name for the outskirts to Blackpool crossed by School Lane and was first served in 1922 by William Smith’s bus service 3 from Waterloo Hotel which terminated at Midgeland Road/School Road. 

In 1926 This became Blackpool’s service 10 and survived until 1962 when it was partly replaced by the 23. In South Shore the terminus moved to Waterloo Road/Promenade in the mid 1920s and South Pier in 1933. It ran hourly with some extra journeys at busy times.

Blowing Sands saw some residential development but no dense housing and today is quite affluent. It has never been promising bus territory and the history of its links to Blackpool centre is littered with short-lived services hence its appearance in the ‘unlucky numbers’ series.
Centre Entrance PD2 274 heads towards Midgeland Road on the 6B in 1968 (Brian Turner)
The first link to the town centre started in 1936 when service 21 started. This ran over the 6 route from Adelaide Street to Hawes Side Lane/Daggers Hall Lane and bridged the short unserved section to Watson Road where it joined the 10 route via Common Edge Road and School Lane to Midgeland Road. Suspended in 1939 it was formally discontinued in 1940. During the Second World War, route 11C was diverted to cover the section of route between Blackpool and Common Edge Road, on its way to St. Annes having previously used St. Annes Road the section of Blackpool Road across what is now Squires Gate Airport.

In 1946 a peak hour service was resumed on the 21 route, but showing 11B to relate it to the 11C. 
A second route was introduced in 1948 as the 18. This also ran from Adelaide Street over the 6 route but further – to Welcome Inn then straight along Midgeland Road to the terminus. It ran every 90 minutes and was co-ordinated with service 17 to make a 45 minute service as far as Welcome Inn - the 17 running to Mereside.

This continued until August 1951 when a network recast took place. The 11B was replaced by route 19, both the 18 and 19 now ran hourly and interworked at Midgeland Road and also interworked with new route 4 in the Town Centre.
Map Data c2017 Google
These routes to Blowing Sands were hampered because they really duplicated other routes on the main corridors into Blackpool. The aforementioned service 6 was coordinated with route 13 between the Town Hall and Spen Corner – the 6 continuing to Welcome Inn and Cherry Tree Gardens (later extended to Mereside) while the 13 took in Marton Drive to reach the developing housing estate at Lindale Gardens. In 1953 they provided a bus every six minutes.

Additionally service 6A ran as far as Highfield Hotel, leaving the Tower just in front of service 13 every 12 minutes. The 11C ran every 20 minutes through to St. Annes, the 18 and 19 to Blowing Sands each ran hourly and the 6C to Little Marton via Welcome Inn on a bizarre 84 minute frequency. If this was not enough, route 4 ran over the same corridor as far as Condor Square on its way to Mereside every half hour and the unadvertised 6B was a short working to Condor Square. This made at least 22 journeys over the common section to Condor Square and 20 to Spen Corner with varying frequencies. Co-ordination was unlikely, however the the timing of the 11C and 19 to leave the Town Centre at exactly the same time when the latter had over 95% of its route in common with the former was remarkable! With enough journeys to provide a 2 or 3 minute interval, the poor co-ordination resulted in four gaps of six minutes and two of five minutes in each hour!

The upshot of this was that routes like the 18 and 19 relied on their unique sections to pay their way – unlikely given the spare population – as they didn’t really generate any extra passengers on the over-bussed common section. Rationalisation was therefore inevitable. First to go was the 19 in 1956, replaced by extending the 6A to Midgeland Road – though this was also reduced to every 15 minutes at the same time.

From 1964 certain 6A journeys were diverted via the Welcome as service 6B to replace the 18. The 6A/6B were then progressively cut back through the 60s and 70s as declining passengers and increased costs caused the undertaking to review the duplication of its services. Firstly they were reduced to every 20 minutes in 1966; then their evening service was virtually eradicated in 1968; 1970 saw their frequency halved to every 40 minutes and one man operated buses took over in 1971. In 1975 the deepest cut of all saw the 6A go and just an hourly Tower to Midgeland Road service 6B remain for just one year until it too was cut in 1976. From a 15 minute service to nothing in just 10 years was a remarkable decline.

Midgeland Road did retain a link to the Town Centre, however, as route 3A (North Shore – Town – Park Road – Cherry Tree Gardens) was diverted at the Welcome Inn to run along Midgeland Road to School Road turning circle as a replacement.

Service 3A included a couple of peak journeys which extended to the Borough Boundary, mainly to serve St Nicholas School on School Lane. Here Swift 559 awaits departure for Cleveleys. (Brian Turner)
By contrast the original link to South Shore (the 10) remained largely stable until it too was axed in 1962, replaced by the 23 (Hospital to South Pier) which was extended to Midgeland Road via Highfield Road and School Lane. Other than a brief period when the 19 replaced the 23 in 1976, both the 3A and 23 continued in this form until 1986, with both buses usually terminating together at the rural turning circle.
Single Deckers (and more recently minibuses) have been the domain of the routes to Midgeland Road, apart from a brief period in 1987 when both the 10 and 23 operated with 86 seat Atlanteans! Here 313 awaits departure on service 10 in a short lived experimental livery whilst 358 promotes the Travelcard on the 23 departure behind. (Brian Turner)
At deregulation both the 3A and 23 ceased and ten years of stability ended. Midgeland Road was linked to the Town Centre by a new service, ironically numbered 10. This took most of the the old 6A route but at Highfield Hotel turned into Highfield Road and then Midgeland Road. Blackpool withdrew the service after a year and its former associate but now competitor Fylde Borough took over. Blackpool instead reinstated the link to South Shore with a revised 23. Fylde’s 10 later became the 12B and was also diverted via South Shore but ended in 1989. Since then an array of routes have tried to serve Midgeland Road. Few have been left in peace to do so, partly because of the bus industry’s obsession with tinkering at the margins of its networks. As the changes defy any simple description and chronological list follows:

  • October 1986 – BTS 10 Blackpool-Spen Corner-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road. Fylde 23A South Pier-Common Edge Rd- Midgeland Rd – Mereside (Eves/Suns) introduced
  • Jan 1987 – BTS 25 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Halfway House) extended off peak to Midgeland Rd via Common Edge Road
  • April 1987 – BTS 23 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road) introduced
  • November 1987 – Fylde take over 10
  • June 1988 – 25 no longer serves Midgeland Rd
  • November 1988 – Fylde 10 replaced by 12B Town-Lytham Rd-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road
  • March 1989 – 23 replaced by 25 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road) Fylde 12B withdrawn
  • March 1994 – 23A evening/Sunday service taken over by Blackpool
  • November 1994 – 23A evening/Sunday service replaced by extended 23
  • August 1996 –25 replaced by 23 Staining -Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Common Edge Road- Midgeland Road-Mereside (includes eves/Suns service) – now minibus operated
  • April 2001 – 9 Royal Oak-Watson Rd-Highfield Rd-Common Edge Rd-Midgeland Rd back to Highfield Rd replaces 23
  • Nov 2001 9 revised to run Poulton-Hospital-Royal Oak-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Mereside
  • April 2002 – new 2B Poulton-Blackpool-South Pier-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Mereside replaces 9 evening/Sunday service ends
  • June 2002 – 2A Poulton-Blackpool-South Pier-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Asda replaces 2B
  • December 2005 – 10 Blackpool-Lytham Rd-Watson Rd-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Rd-Common Edge Rd circle replaces 2A

2009's line 10 provided one bus an hour linking the area with the Town Centre and South Shore. 593 was the branded minibus in light blue until 518 took over in 2007 painted silver-grey. (Brian Turner)
Since 1986 Midgeland Road has therefore been served by the 10, 23A (evenings/Sundays), 12B, 23, 25, 23 (again), 9, 2B, 2A and currently – once again the 10. For good measure the Welcome Inn to Highfield Road section has also seen the 25, 8A, 8, L1, 10 and 16 in recent times. 

The 10 proved quite stable with limited changes over the years until 28 June 2015 when it was extended to St. Annes, working both ways via Highfield Road, Midgeland Road and School Lane then as service 17 via Queensway, Spring Gardens, Leach Lane, Heeley Road and St Davids Road North. Then on 4 April 2016 it was extended across Blackpool Town Centre to Poulton over the erstwhile 2 route.


Then, on 1 April 2017 route 10 was withdrawn, due in part to a series of roadworks affecting Highfield Road and Midgeland Road but also due to the end of a subsidy from Blackpool Council. After 95 years School Road lost its bus service; and Midgeland Road is now only served between Highfield Road and Vicarage Lane.