|The attractive new double deckers were launched by the Comedy Carpet. Here is 406 being positioned (Mike Wilson)|
Blackpool Transport's year was dominated by the arrival of its first new double deckers since 2006 in the form of 10 Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 City models. These are mainly used on the 9 with Sunday duties on the 14. They entered service on Sunday 24 July.
The previous day had seen a farewell event for the final step entrance buses in the Blackpool fleet with Olympians 374, 375 and 377 used on service 1 - sisters 376/8 having been withdrawn a few weeks earlier. The last to operate was 374 on the 1845 from Fleetwood to Starr Gate.
|Olympian 374 returns to depot after the final working of the farewell day. It has since been preserved|
Additionally the last Mercedes engined Solos were withdrawn, 278 and 284 were retired in May, 279 in July and 277 in August.
The last Optare Excels were also withdrawn during the year. 224 by May, 216 in August 219 and 220 in September, with 225 hanging on to work its final duty on service 11 on 29 November
The nine 2010 built Plaxton bodied Volvo B7RLEs were refurbished during 2016, with 527 leaving in December 2015 and returning to use in February with 526 completing the programme in November.
|Refurbished Volvo B7RLE 527 on service 5 (David Umpleby)|
Few other vehicles were repainted this year. Volvo B7RLE 524 and Trident 332 gained heritage green and cream liveries to mark 30 years of BTSL, Trident 328 received fleet livery and 331 a new livery for Blackpool and Fylde College - all four losing existing adverts.
- Scrap: 214, 217, 218, 222, 223, 224, 318, 376, 378
- Blackpool Design Associates: 226, 375
- Preservation: 284, 374, 377
- Private Owner: 277, 278, 279, 285 (all but 285 since scrapped)
Network changes took place in April to account for the loss of LCC subsidy, the end of Peel Park funding for service 14. The changes comprised:
- 1 extra bus added for summer timings
- 2C withdrawn evenings throughout and curtailed at Poulton Sunday days
- 3 diverted via Faraday Way daytimes and withdrawn from Briarwood Drive. Evening/Sunday omits Kincraig Road
- 9 - half hourly (daily all day) extension to Victoria Hospital
- 10 and 17 extended from Blackpool to Poulton replacing 12/13
- 12/13 withdrawn with 10/17 covering Blackpool to Poulton and 15/16 covering Staining, with 3 covering Faraday Way. Two school day journeys remain.
- 14 most journeys terminate at Mereside Tesco, 8 daily continue to Peel Park at peak times
- 15/16 re-routed via Staining, running from Blackpool via Stanley Park, Zoo, Hospital perimeter Road, Newton Drive, Staining, Marton Mere to Tesco and now direct along Whitegate Drive from Oxford Square to Devonshire Square
|A new livery, two new routes. Catch 22 bus is now a familiar site in Cleveleys Bus Station with its new routes replacing Stagecoach services in the area (David Umpleby)|
The Catch 22 network evolved significantly during the year. Route 6 ended in August, Route 12 did not reappear for the summer, replaced by route 21 which initially ran Cleveleys to Tower then alternately to Zoo or Pleasure Beach but from July was revised to run St. Annes to Cleveleys via Promenade.
Stagecoach's withdrawal of service 84 saw Catch 22 step into replace the service with route 22 extended from Cleveleys to Fleetwood and new service 24 running from Cleveleys to Poulton. The 22 was later withdrawn between Blackpool and Mereside, but new route 23 - initially Cleveleys to Pheasants Wood but since extended via Poulton to Victoria Hospital started. The year round services 22/23/24 need nine buses, Monday to Friday with up to four more on the summer only 21. Various vintage buses were used on the 21 during the year, including Routemasters RML887, RM1583, PD3s HFR516E, LFR529F, Bristol VR OCK997K and Atlantean AHG334V.
|Former Blackpool 334 was used by Catch 22 Bus on service 21 during the year (David Umpleby)|
Fleet wise, the standard Darts were joined by ex First Bristol Volvo B6BLEs W812/3PFB, an ex Stagecoach London Volvo B7TL LX03BVJ and three youthful Optare Versas YJ61JHE, YJ61JHH and YJ10MGU. The former China/Big Bus Metrobuses were sold having been last used in 2015. A new all-over teal livery has been adopted and applied to several Darts, the 2 B6BLEs and one of the Versas. Some Darts and the two B7TLs carry all-over red and tend to be used on route 21, other Darts retain the orange/teal livery.
As already noted Stagecoach closed its Fleetwood depot in early April coinciding with the loss of Lancashire County Council tenders for the 74, 86/89 as part of their planned withdrawal of all subsidised services. The 84 was commercial in the daytime, but the depot could not sustain just a 3 PVR operation. Ironically the 74 and 89 were retained after a late policy change by LCC. Catch 22 have replaced the 84 with the 22 and 24, operating half hourly rather than the 40 minute service previously offered.
Preston Bus did well out of the tendered services which LCC did retain, picking up the 74 (Fleetwood-Blackpool) to add to the reduced 75 and existing 80 that continued. Two Solos are based at their Marton outstation for the 74/75, alongside various Tridents for LCC school contracts. Elite Travel withdrew from bus work with the withdrawal of their sole tendered service 87 (Cleveleys-Poulton) and then sold their coach operations to Rotala during the summer. They have moved from their Carelton base to the Preston Bus yard in Marton.
Coastal suffered the loss of the 76, but chose to replace part of it by extending its commercial 78 from Wesham to Poulton every hour. This now needed five buses, and Coastal added a new service 77 from St. Annes to Victoria Hospital to occupy two more. Sadly this did not generate sufficient passengers and was withdrawn in August. Two Solos have left the fleet YJ15AFX/Y passing to Bay Travel Cowdenbeath, with YJ65ETE/F/J/K/O and YJ15AFZ providing six buses for five workings.