Sunday, 11 June 2017

From the Archives: 30 Years of the City Pacers

Brand new City Pacers 564 and 560 contrast with 20 year old PD3 518 in Rigby Road depot (Brian Turner)
On 24 March 1987 the first of an eventual fleet of 35 Optare City Pacers arrived at Blackpool. Minibuses had become common following experiments by the National Bus Company in Exeter in 1984. Most early minibuses were van conversions or coach built bodies on van/chassis cowl. Optare broke new ground in 1986 with the coach built City Pacer, still based on a van chassis (Volkswagen LT55) but with a stylish body and higher driving position addressing many weaknesses of the van conversions.
The coach built City Pacer body was quite high floored with a narrow door and high driving position. Here the brand new 561 contrasts with the tangled wrecks of a nearly scrapped OMO tram and burnt out Atlantean (Brian Turner)
The pioneer was numbered 560 (D560YCW) and was joined by sisters 561-564 (D561-4YCW) over the next few days. Although the City Pacer could see 25, Blackpool opted for just 19 seats - with higher backed seats on 563/4 for private hire work. They entered service, initially on tendered services, in May before moving onto the St. Annes Handybus route in June.
Demonstrator D898NUA, which became Blackpool 566, among more traditional fleet members (Brian Turner)
The second batch - bought for route 26 - arrived rather fitfully with 549 (E549GFR) first to arrive on 27 August, ten days before the launch of the 26. Earlier in the month Optare provided two demonstrators for driver training and they were soon purchased becoming 565 (D854MUA) and 566 (D898NUA). The latter (uniquely for Blackpool) featured automatic transmission and 25 seats - rather than the normal 5 speed manual gearbox.

The rest of the new batch were 550-559, 567/8 (E550GFR etc). 550-3 arrived between 12 and 20 September, 554-59/67/8 between 18 and 31 October and all were in use by early November. 565/6 were repainted into Handybus colours from their white demonstrator corridor.
560 and 562 pass on St. Thomas Road on the St. Annes Handybus route in 1987 (Brian Turner)
Batch three arrived in the last two weeks of July 1988 ready to launch route 9 on 1 August. These featured 4 speed gearboxes and were 569/70 (E569/70OCW) and 571-8 (F571-8RCW). They were followed by 579-82 (F579-82WCW) on 5 December, a week before the launch of the 7/7A.
The City Pacers settled into a routine life with little out of the ordinary, save for a charity trip from Paris to Blackpool undertaken by 582 on 9 April 1989. Blackpool Transport names and promotional lettering for the trip were applied and retained to its first repaint. In 1990 it was decided to fit an extra double seat in place of  the luggage bin making them 21 seaters.

A 35th solo joined the fleet in December 1989. Optare had provided a demonstrator (F934AWW) for a short period in January 1989 and sold the bus to Blackpool at the end of the year. Numbered 583 it was used initially in Optare's colours  - often as a driver trainer - until repaint into black and yellow during the summer. Routine repaints took place featuring a yellow roof to reduce sun absorption during the early 1990s.
Several City Pacers became caravans, including 573 which remained local to the Fylde as seen here at Fairhaven Lake in 2004 (Brian Turner)
Run Down
The take-over of Fylde Borough in May 1994 saw the Handybus fleet expand with 20 Renaults, though several were withdrawn during the integration of the two networks in November 1994. Soon after the launch of the City Pacer MCW launched the integral Metrorider - with no van influences, but this was not enough to secure MCW's future and it closed down. Optare bought rights to the Metrorider which hastened the end of the City Pacer. A seed vehicle was placed with Blackpool Transport in 1995 (584) and resulted in an order for eight which arrived later in the year. October 1995 saw City Pacers 549, 550, 560 and 561 were withdrawn and were part exchanged for Metroriders 585-588 while in November 551/2, 562-4 went back to Optare in exchange for 589-592 - the ninth effectively replaced by 584.

These initial nine disposals all went for further use. 549 was briefly with Jones Llanfaethlu (flickr)before reaching Zak's of Birmingham and moving onto a brief final career with City Hopper of Portsmouth in 2001. 550's next service career was short, running with Walsh of Middleton before sale as a motor home by August 1996. It has proved long lasting, it is currently taxed and MOT. 551 went to Walsh with 550 but became a non psv with a firm in Eccleston during the summer, lasting until 2002. 552 travelled around running with Bratihwaite in Cumbria, Globe in Barnsley, J&R in Accrington and finally Jowett of Hull in 2001.

560 went to Reading Buses and later Thames Travel and has been with a preservationist as a spares donor since 2001, its understood to be intact pending a future project to restore a sister Reading example. 561 ran with Top Cat of Mirfield before becoming a non psv, while 562 ran for a Northumberland operator. In still survived in 2010 under conversion to a mobile home. 563 is believed to have survived until 2002 but with an unknown owner. 564 joined 549 at Zaks but was withdrawn after a year.

More Metroriders arrived in 1996 (593-6 in May and 501-4 in September). These, and changes to routes in August 1996, saw 553-558 and the two demonstrators (565/6) withdrawn. 553-555 went to Handybus, Warminster (a new firm using Blackpool's name) in January 1997 (555 on flickr). 553/4 moved to Powercrafts of Blackburn in December 1997 for two years service and were scrapped in 2004 after several years gathering dust in their yard. 555 passed to Virgin of Oadby and ended its career in 1999. 556-558, 566 passed to Reading Buses to compete with Reading Mainline (who had ex Blackpool Routemasters!). They lasted until 1998. 566 was exported to Guernsey, 558 ran with Thames Travel who used 557 for spares. 556 was stripped by Reading. 565 was exported to Ireland.

With 17 sold, 18 remained in service at the start of 1997. More Metroriders arrived in late 1998 but through elaborate cascades replaced Atlanteans so 559, 567-583 survived once more. Optare launched the low floor Solo minibus to replace the Metrorider and Blackpool took 15 at the end of 1999 to replace the last City Pacers. 

569 was withdrawn in October having suffered mechanical failure and started to donate spares to its sisters. The first Solos were to convert route 33 from 4 January 2000 and this allowed 559, 567/8, 570-3, 580/1 to be withdrawn on 30 December. 559/67 racked up just over 12 years service - credible for this type. 575 retired on 24 January with 576/7 soon after leaving 574, 578/9 and 582/3 for the final day on 29 January all working routes 23, 24 and 25.

Former 583 with Mac Tours in their attractive red and cream livery (James Millington)
Early disposals saw 572 and 583 pass to Mac Tours of Edinburgh in February where they ran until 2002. 570 followed for spares in October 2000. 583 rematerialised on Ebay in September 2007 as a aborted caravan conversion. 570/2 have been scrapped. 580/1 are believed to have gone to Ireland, 577 remained in Blackpool as a mobile showroom for a local bathroom company who used it until 2003. 573 was purchased privately as a caravan and was seen around the Fylde until 2006. 575 was purchased for preservation by Graham Oliver who painted in green and cream as a what might have been. It has since returned to black/yellow and is now in LTT ownership.

McKindless of Wishaw swept up the remainder - 559, 567/8, 571, 574, 576, 578, 579 and 582 and the remains of 569 (flickr 567). Not all were used, but some received Irish registrations. 559/68 were scrapped locally, several others went to Holts of Bolton dealership. 567 was later used by Craven Arms Taxis in 2001, 574 became a caravan and was still in use in 2011.

Known or probable survivors are:

  • 550 E550GFR - mobile caravan, taxed and MOT'd (photo here 2016)
  • 560 D560YCW - long term store as future spares donor for another bus
  • 562 D562YCW - SORN - static home in Blyth (photo here Feb 2017)
  • 574 F574RCW  - SORN, MOT Expired 2011
  • 575 F575RCW - LTT stored

Market Street Contrasts

Enviro 418 on the 11 (MA5), Stagecoach 15576 on the 68 (MA4) and Trident 302 on the 7 (MA2) on 8 June
23rd May saw the opening of the new bus stops on Market Street. Four bays in chevron format now accommodate the space of the previous three, with a the extra stop in place outside the Town Hall. 

  • Stop MA5 nearest the camera is used by BTS 11, 
  • Stop MA4 by Stagecoach 68, 
  • Stop MA3 by 5, 
  • Stop MA2 by the 7
  • Stop MA1 by the 6 and 17 outside the Town Hall north of West Street
Initially the 11 and 68 were to use MA5, with the 7 on MA4 and 6 on MA2 but this proved unworkable due to clashes between the 11 and 68, both terminating services and the arrangements changed on 23rd.  Corporation Street stops have settled to CO1 6, CO2 2/2C, CO3 14 with CO4 outside the Town Hall used by 15, 16 and Stagecoach 61.

A contrasting Trio. Atlantean 324 leads the line with sister 353 and 349 behind in September 1982. (Brian Turner)

Disposal Updates

342 has now been withdrawn again after its brief reinstatement and it is understood to be leaving imminently. The other five long Tridents, 333-337, are understood to have passed to North West Bus Sales for onward disposal. 333 has been reported in the yard of Tyrers of Adlington but this may just be for storage. 334/337 are currently taxed, 333/5/6 SORN. 337 has been reported in Selby with Stockdale's Coaches. 

Solo 253 has passed to an operator in the Cheltenham area, leaving on 31 May.

Enviro 435 has received a revised version of the 'Love your Bus' graphic on its offside with a larger font and incorporating the rainbow shades of the LGBT community to mark the recent pride event.

Friday, 2 June 2017

From the Archives: A Big Hand for Handybus - 30 years ago

A typical light load of three for City Pacer 564 in September heading for Spring Gardens (Brian Turner)
The bus industry in the mid 1980s was fixated on the minibus. Ribble had introduced them to the Fylde coast in 1986 at Fleetwood and it was inevitable that others would follow. Blackpool Transport's chose the new Optare City Pacer and introduced the "Handybus" brand. A distinctive black scheme with yellow skirt was adopted for the new minibus fleet in 1987. 
560 signals left to turn into St Davids Road North as 562 heads up St Thomas Road bridge (Brian Turner)
Five City Pacers arrived at the end of March 1987, numbered 560-4 D560-4YCW and entered service on tendered service 33 (Cleveleys to Marton Hypermarket) and the F3-F5 evening/Sunday contracts in Fleetwood and Cleveleys in May. The 33 was only a temporary arrangement as on June 1st they moved to St. Annes operating a free launch day service on the new Handybus route that started for real the following day. Four buses were required providing a ten minute service starting at Spring Gardens and serving almost entirely previously under served roads to St. Annes Square before continuing to Whalley Place. The northern leg competed with Fylde's 193 which ran half hourly and the southern leg arguably competed with the hourly Roamer but also both Blackpool and Fylde's main services along Church Road.
Handybus leaflet front and back covers showing the two route legs
The high frequency was somewhat ambitious and loadings were not particularly encouraging. The service was daytimes only with buses from St. Annes to Spring Gardens at 0751, 0811, 0831 and every 10 minutes to 1721 then 1741 and from St. Annes to Whalley Place at 0730, 0750, 0810 and every 10 minutes until 1700 and 1720. Buses started their day by operating as service 11C from Blackpool to Spring Gardens where they picked up their first working. Likewise their final journeys from St. Annes to Spring Gardens continued to Blackpool. From there one retired to depot but three ran to Fleetwood to work the evening services and positioning journeys on the 14 (Fleetwood) and 4 (Thornton).
One of the hired in Ford Transits heads to Whalley Place (Brian Turner)
A further 15 City Pacers were obtained to convert service 26 to high frequency operation in September 1987 but only one had arrived by launch day! Two demonstrators were purchased and a third borrowed but Blackpool Transport had to hire some two year old Ford Transit minibuses from Midland Red North. These - amongst the earliest of the first generation minibuses - were normally used in St. Annes to release the five City Pacers for the 26. C39-43WBF arrived in late August and were temporarily Blackpool's 379-383, C37WBF followed in September (385) and C49WBF in October (389). All except 49 arrived in blue, grey and purple livery and as part of the loan deal Blackpool Transport repainted each one into Midland Red North's new red/yellow livery. 39 went back first in early October (replaced by 49) and the rest followed by the end of October.
The Transits were repainted as shown by 43 (new red livery) and 37 (old blue livery) (Brian Turner)
Blackpool covered this hire under the blanket of a research exercise and passengers were given a questionnaire to fill in to compared the Transit and the City Pacer. The results were never published.

The other marketing initiative was to provide through fares to the extended Routemaster operated service 12 (St. Annes to Blackpool). However loadings were still poor and the inevitable notice was issued in February advising that the service would cease on 27 February 1988 - ironically the buses were used to part convert service 12 to minibus operation.

562 demonstrates how the buses penetrated local housing estates in St. Annes (Brian Turner)
This was not the end of minibus experiments in St. Annes for Fylde had a couple of valiant attempts. First was the Shoplink 1 and 2 from 9 December 1989. Each ran hourly with the 1 serving Alexandria Drive, Clifton Hospital Grounds and Kingsway to Ansdell then through South Park to Lytham with the 2 serving Mayfield Road, Shepherd Road, Jubilee Way, Hall Park and joining the 1 route in Ansdell to Lytham. Five journeys ran each way on each route and Renaults 111 and 114 launched the services. Oddly at times Bristol REs stood in - which with 44 seats provided a huge excess of supply over demand. The services were unsuccessful and ceased in February 1990.

Route map for services 1 and 2
The next attempt started on May 10 1993 when service 88 started. This followed much of the route of the Handybus from St. Annes via Oxford Road, Dobson Avenue and Frobisher Drive but terminated at the recent housing development on Appealing Lane known as "The Hamlet" - not a name which screams 'good bus territory'. The 88 ran every half hour from 0945 to 1415 (1645 on Saturdays) and 15 minutes later back from St. Annes with a break for the regular driver's lunch. The leaflet (below) credited the idea to a local councillor and quoted fares from St. Annes:

  • to St Patricks Road North of 25p (20p on the Handybus in 1987); 
  • to Links Hotel of 40p (25p in 1987), 
  • to Rodney Avenue of 50p (v 35p) 
  • and to the Hamlet of 65p compared to the 45p maximum on the Handybus. 
Like the 1 and 2 the service lasted just two months, ceasing at the end of July.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Happy 15th Birthday - Blackpool's Dennis Tridents

332, the last new Trident purchased, heads through the pedestrianised St John's Square (Brian Turner)
May 31 2017 is the 15th anniversary of the Blackpool Dennis Trident. Late 2001 saw an order placed with Dennis for nine Trident chassis to receive East Lancs Lolyne bodywork. UK operators purchased "Trident 2s" which were not the second version of the type, but the 2 referred to the axle count. The chassis was unveiled in 1997, but the first did not enter service until the start of 1999. Over 2,000 had been produced before Blackpool's arrived. 
301 - the first Trident on a short working Line 14 in July 2006 (Brian Turner)
Dennis went through several owners since the 1982 Lancets - Blackpool's only other buses from this maker. At the time it was part of Hestair (who also owned Blackpool coach builder Duple) but passed to a management buyout (t/a Trinity) in 1989. It was sold to Mayflower in 1998 who also bought Alexander. In 2001 a merger with Henleys (owner of Plaxton) saw Dennis become part of Transbus International. The Dennis brand was later dropped but parent Mayflower entered administration and Transbus was rescued in May 2004 as Alexander Dennis (less Plaxton which was sold to other owners).

Blackpool's first Tridents were badged as "Dennis" vehicles and on 10 May 2002 301 arrived from East Lancs - the first new double decker since 1994 and the first East Lancs body since the 1989 Olympians. Like the Atlanteans before, the number series restarted at 301. Its two predecessors were Burlingham bodied Leyland Titan PD2 301 (LFV301) which ran from 1957 to 1970 and Atlantean / East Lancs 301 (BFR301R) which ran from 1977 to 1989. It seems highly likely that 301 will have a much longer service life in the town.

The other eight vehicles followed with 304 arriving on the 14th, 303 16th, 305 17th, 302 20th, 306 on 22nd with 307/9 on 28th and finally 308 on 29th. The launch date was 31 May when the buses were lined up at North Pier. They were all dedicated to Line 14 and received its dark green and yellow livery - the first buses to be delivered in a Metro livery. 

After the launch all nine entered service, symbolically replacing Atlanteans at Corporation Street on Line 14 journeys. The 14 required 16 buses on weekdays, 10 working Fleetwood to St. Annes and 6 working Fleetwood to Blackpool. The nine Tridents typically worked St. Annes trips supported by Atlanteans of two generations earlier. These, Blackpool Transport's first low floor double deckers, were 10.5m long and seated 77 (nine less than the Atlanteans) with 47 upstairs and 30 down. Cummins engines were fitted.
Brand new Tridents 317 (l) and 315 (r) in base livery prior to branding on 9 May 2003 just after arrival from East Lancs (Brian Turner)
301-309 clearly impressed as nine more were ordered for 2003 delivery they arrived as 310-318 between 1 May and 15th May, ahead of a launch on 23rd May. 310, 312-317 entered service the following day on Line 14, with 311 noted by the 29th after minor damage repairs and 318 on the 26th. Like their sisters 310-316 were in Line 14 green and yellow, but 317/8 introduced a new black and yellow pool livery. Tridents had so far been restricted to Line 14 with the odd appearance on schools work and tram replacement duties but 317/8 were now 'go anywhere' buses - though blinds covered only 11 and 14 destinations. On 5 June 317 was noted on Line 11 for the first time. Both black Tridents had tachographs allowing private hire duties.

Side by side in service - Line 11 was often beset by late running and bunching as 323 overtakes 322 at Starr Gate (Brian Turner)
2004 saw a third batch of Tridents, this time seven strong. First to arrive was 319 in black/yellow on 30 April, while six painted in turquoise and yellow followed in early May for Line 11. These were numbered 322-327 as 320/1 were to be reserved for two more pool buses which never appeared. 319 entered service on 25 May, followed by the Line 11 six on 29 May. After a year gap, in 2006 the fourth and final order was delivered - 328-332 arriving in June and with four entering service after launch on 23 June, with 332 following on 26th June. 322-332 allowed half of the Line 11 PVR of 22 to be rostered for Tridents. 

1 November 2007 and 334 and 336 are on route learning/driver familiarisation duties prior to their deployment on Line 1 four days later - as well as the extra length these featured rubber mounted windows, not bonded glazing like their new sisters (Brian Turner)
With a fleet of 30 new Tridents Blackpool then turned its attention to the second hand market, taking 21 between 2007 and 2012. They came from Lancashire United (5), Go Ahead London (4), South Lancs Travel (1) and Bus Vannin (11). The first batch was new to Blackburn Transport. They purchased five near 12m Tridents in 2002, but having been privatised they passed to its successor Lancashire United who sold these to Blackpool in August 2007. These youthful leviathans - Blackpool's biggest double deckers, seat 90 with 53 upstairs and 37 downstairs. They were painted into orange and yellow between September and October and entered service on Line 1 - the new year round Promenade service on 5 November 2007. Flickr link: 337 with Blackburn

The length of the Blackburn buses is apparent from this interior view of 336 (Brian Turner)

2008 saw the first of two pairs of redundant London Tridents were acquired. Unusually they were new to Independent Blue Triangle of Rainham, but by the time of purchase the operator had been bought by Go-Ahead and had been used almost exclusively on route 248. TL911/3 (PO51UMG/UMJ) were purchased through Ensignbus dealership they arrived on 20 October 2008, however the former suffered the ignominy of being rescued from the hard shoulder of the M55 by Blackpool's tow wagon having suffered engine failure. They were new in September/October 2001 and featured an older style of bodywork. They were dual doored seating just 66 - 46 up and 20 down. TL913 entered the workshops immediately and was converted to single door and upseated to 75 (46/29) and received new Blackpool style roller blinds. It received Line 1 orange livery and fleet number 339 in February but did not enter service until 15 June - eight months after arrival.

338 ready for repaint in May 2009 (Paul Turner)
TL911 became 338 and conversion work similar to 339 commenced in February and was completed with a repaint into Line 1 colours in May. After this a replacement engine was sourced and fitted but it was not until December that work was completed allowing 338 to make its debut on 5 January 2010 after 442 preparation. 
339 in Line 1 colours but debranded on route 11 (Brian Turner)
Two sister buses were dispatched from Ensign on 15 February 2010 as the former TL919/20 (PO51UMT/V). TL920 duly arrived but had left a defective TL919 on the M6 in the Midlands. This was recovered to Ensign for repair and eventually arrived on 25 March as seen here. TL920 became 341 and was converted to single door as per 338/9 but received LED destination displays. It was repainted in the new fleet livery during May. TL919 became 340 and was completed in July. 341 entered service on 21 August with 340 following around 2nd September.

Ex South Lancs 342 heads through Lytham with a defective destination display
 A tenth second hand Trident arrived on 15 April 2010. Blackpool's new 342 was new as X80SLT to South Lancs Transport and was another 90 seater like the ex Blackburn's - indeed it was built alongside them being licensed in December 2002. SLT kept the cherished plate and 342 became PL52XAD. A repaint into the new fleet livery followed in June/July and it entered service on 28th August. Flickr link: 342 with SLT at Fleetwood Freeport and 342 at Leigh with SLT

In 2011 Blackpool turned to the Isle of Man to replace older Olympians with 11 Tridents and 19 DAFs purchased. The Tridents started with 343 first to arrive after refurbishment and repaint and it entered service in December 2011, with 344 to 353 following between March and May. The buses were brought in to Bus and Coach World at Blackburn for a refurbishment which included new front ends and a retrim.  

Ex Bus Vannin Isle of Man Tridents
NoRegIOM NoIOM RegChassis NoBody NoStatus
343H1FBT53EMN53Y2106734305To Service 30 Dec 2011
344E11BTS50EMN50Y2105534303To Service 24 Mar 2012
345  E12BTS  48EMN50Y2104534301To Service 9 Mar 2012
346E13BTS51EMN51Y2106634304To Service 8 Mar 2012
347E14BTS52EMN52Y2106834306To Service 21 Apr 2012
348E15BTS49EMN49Y2104634302To Service 21 Apr 2012
349E16BTS71MAN93F3130336802To Service 1 May 2012
350E17BTS75GMN324F 3130836805To Service 2 May 2012
351E18BTS74FMN540E3130736804To Service 2 May 2012 
352E19BTS73FMN412E3130436803To Service 5 May 2012
353E20BTS72FMN158E3129936801To Service 21 May 2012  

New as Isle of Man Transport 51 - Blackpool 346 is seen at the former Peel Park terminus of the 14 in 2013 (Brian Turner)
In the Metro era Tridents were used on the 1 (333-339), 11 (322-332) and 14 (301-316) with pool buses 317-9 standing in when required. These occasionally appeared on other Metro routes such as the 2, 6 and 7 and all would put in turns on school service when required. Under the current network, Tridents dominate routes 9, 11 and 14 and see regular use on the 1 at weekends and one works routes 2/2C on weekdays.

Routine repaints commenced with 304 in February 2009 and all of the first batch received a full repaint in Line 14 colours by December 2009. Only three of the second batch have yet been repainted with 314 treated in June 2009 after front end accident repairs, 310 in February 2010 and 311 in April. Accident damage to 310 saw a second repaint, this time into the new livery in September 2011.

341 was the first of the second pair of London examples to enter service - it had LED destinations (Brian Turner)
The new livery premiered on 340-342, but surprisingly it was the orange ex Blackburn buses which were next to be repainted after four years in service. 333/4/5/7 were treated between September and November 2010 with 336 following in January 2011. The 2006 Tridents were all treated between November 2010 and February 2011 with the 2004 Line 11 examples 322-327 treated from February to July 2011. 338/9 were then treated in August/September 2011.

301/2 and 312-5 were repainted in 2012 were painted during 2012, of which 312-315 received all-over adverts. 303-309, 311/6-9 all gained new livery in 2013. A number of Tridents have carried all-over adverts:

  • 313 Tower Dungeon  - March 2012 to May 2014
  • 312 Tower Eye  - April 2012 to December 2014
  • 315 Madam Tussauds - May 2012 to December 2014
  • 314 Sealife Centre - June 2012 to February 2014
  • 313 Sands Venue - May 2014 (current)
  • 311 Sainsburys - July 2014 to October 2015
  • 301 British Legion - October 2014 to June 2015
  • 328 Sealife Centre - April 2015 to 2016
  • 329 Madam Tussauds - May 2015 to February 2017
  • 330 Tower May 2015 to late 2016 or early 2017
  • 331 Tower Dungeon - May 2015 to June 2016
  • 332 Tower Circus - June 2015 to September 2016
  • 301 Heart FM - June 2015 to February 2017
  • 331 Blackpool & Fylde College - July 2016 to June 2017
  • 329 Heart FM - February 2017 (current)
  • 331 Blackpool & Fylde College - June 2017 (current)

Withdrawals and Modifications
Few modifications have taken place over the life of the Tridents, but there have been two notable ones. 318 was fitted with LED destinations in June 2012. All 30 new Tridents had roller blinds; 338/9 were also fitted with roller blinds when overhauled, but all other second had ones came with LED blinds, except 340/1 which were fitted by BTS. After 318, a programme of further retrofits commenced with 319, 323/4, 326-332, 338 and 339 treated. 301-317, 322, 325 and 330 retain roller blinds.

In 2016 - 306 to 319, 322-332 had exhaust treatment modifications and electric fans fitted to improve their emissions. 305 later received 318's kit after it was withdrawn.

The first Trident to be withdrawn, at 13 years old, was 303 in May 2015 which was converted to a driver trainer as 973. 304 soon followed and was repainted into a new grey based training livery returning to use as 974 in September 2015. 973 was then painted to match. 318 was the third withdrawal after an arson attach on 23 January 2016. After cannibalisation it was sold for scrap on 14 October 2016.

The arrival of the second batch of Enviro 400 Cities has accounted for most of the second hand Tridents. 344-6 were withdrawn at the end of February, 333-343, 347-349 following in March, though 342/9 have since returned to use. 333, 334 and 337 have since found new owners, 333 at Tyrers, Adlington 334/7 not yet reported.

So today, 27 out of 30 new to Blackpool Tridents remain in use as do six of the 21 second hand ones.

Mereside Moments

The Alexander Dennis Enviro 200 has seen service on the 3 and 4 cycle - here it passes Little Marton Mill on the way to Tesco on service 4 (Brian Turner)

Then, it returns as a 3 heaving to Cleveleys Park (Brian Turner)

The first of the 35 Enviro 400s, 401 approaches Tesco terminus on service 6 (Brian Turner)

Solo 294 shows the current order on the 3 and 4 at Tesco - 294 to 296 retain the resort hopper advertising - a reminder of an ill fated attempt to allocate these to service 20 back in 2013 (Brian Turner)

Monday, 22 May 2017

London bound

National Express services from Blackpool seem a shadow of their former self. On 8 May Passengers board LSK839 a Plaxton Elite bodied Volvo B13RT of Parks of Hamilton on the 1450 service 570 to London (Brian Turner)

On the 18th a quiet moment before departure (Brian Turner)

LSK835 awaits departure on 18th May - the departure board lists around ten journeys per day to London, Plymouth, Bournemouth, Leeds, Leicester and Coventry (Brian Turner)

LSK835 starts its journey to London - a 6 hour 40 minute journey via Preston, Birmingham and Milton Keynes Coachway. This service is operated by Parks of Hamilton - who took over previous operator Trathens of Plymouth - neither owner being particularly close to the line of route! (Brian Turner)

Friday, 19 May 2017

New Demonstrator

Enviro 200 YX17NXA is now in use on service 3 demonstrating ADL's latest single deck model. In due course the remaining Solos will need replacing, other than 257, the survivors are all 8 to 10 years old, eight from 2007, 6 from 2008 and 7 from 2009. The Enviro 200 is available in a number of lengths with 32 seats in the 8.9mn length, 36 in the 9.7m model, 40 in 10.4m, 41 in 10.8m and 46 in 11.5/11.8m models. (Liam Underwood).
Update: not previously reported is the withdrawal of Solos 249-253, leaving just 257 of the 2004 batch in use. This means the 25 new Enviros have replaced 17 Tridents and 9 Solos (though two Tridents are back in use).

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Event: Totally Models Weekend

An interesting new event has been added to the Blackpool Calendar. Organised by volunteers at Blackpool Tram Tours, Totally Models Weekend features a model tram show in the workshops at Rigby Road depot. Admission is £5. A limited number of depot tours are available at £10. A 'Gold' heritage tram service is scheduled the timetable including the annual 'Starr Gate' service with most journeys extended beyond the usual southern heritage terminus at Pleasure Beach. An hourly service to Fleetwood is also provided. A further service will take people to the tram depot and heritage buses are also programmed. Search on Facebook for 'totally models' for the latest event news.

New Blackpool and Fylde College Livery for 331

Blackpool Trident 331 has received a new all-over advert for Blackpool and Fylde College, replacing the version carried since July 2016. It is seen alongside sister 332 in its classic livery (copyright reserved, please do not repost)

Hot Dogs, Slush and Cut Price Rock

Three contrasting liveries and three contrasting local delicacies at the temporary stop at West Street. DAF 354 in the Roberts era black and yellow competes for attention with mixed Slush (Brian Turner)

Traditional Blackpool Rock or Traditional Blackpool livery. B7RLE 524 in the 1990 Delta livery departs on service 17 to St. Annes (Brian Turner)
Temptation: A choice of Palladium branded single deckers Citaro 550 and Centro 532 or a seaside three course meal with coffee.  (Brian Turner)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Farewell to the Last Excel

Optare Excel 225 departed Blackpool on Tuesday 9th heading back to the Reading area to Morton's Travel - who have a collection of historic vehicles, including some former Reading buses and Preston Bus Lynx 215 and Olympian 107. 225 started its career with Reading Buses as their 935 in June 1999, initially on town network services, but moving to their Park and Ride in 2002 and returned to town services in 2007. With sisters 932-4/6 it moved to Blackpool on 9 October 2008, entering service on 26 January 2009 as 222-226. 225 was the final example to be withdrawn on 29 November 2016. Blackpool bought their first Excels in 1996. 

Trident 331 has received an updated advertisement for Blackpool and the Fylde College.

Southern Circular Scenes

Southern Circulars 15 and 16 serve the Fylde countryside between Staining and Mereside. For a brave photographer prepared to do battle with passing cars there is scope for some attractive photographs. The routes use a mix bag of buses as this photos from Thursday 11th May show. Solo 294 approaches the end of Chain Lane to turn right into Mythop Road on a 15 (Brian Turner)

Trident 323 shows the opposite extreme, with a high capacity double decker seemingly in the middle of nowhere - this is on Chain Lane approaching Staining (Brian Turner)

The Wright bodied Volvos have become common on the 15/16 reccently. Here 521 is on Chain Lane on a 15 (Brian Turner)

Sister bus 523 has waited for traffic to clear before swining into Chain Lane on service 16 (Brian Turner)
A previous incarnation of the 15 saw pink liveried Optare Metroriders such as 585 here in 2004 operate via Chain Lane and Mythop Road. This ran November 2004 to September 2009. The current 15/16 adopted the route once more in April 2016
For a brief period after the 15 ceased, BTS ran a Tesco free bus from Poulton to Mereside via Staining. Here Olympian 415 heads out of Staining (Brian Turner)

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Enviros in Lytham

Four views of Enviros in Lytham: Enviro 408 from the 2016 batch crosses Station Road operating service 11 to Blackpool (Brian Turner)

The first of this years intake, 411 turns into Station Road at the start of the terminal loop to Lytham Hospital  (Brian Turner)

Four minutes later, 411 is back at the junction at the start of its trip to Blackpool (Brian Turner)

Not to be outdone, a Stagecoach first generation Enviro 15882 turns from Station Road on service 68 (Brian Turner)