Monday, 26 October 2009

The Ones that Got Away

Fylde RE 37 chases a speeding cyclist down Woodlands Road bridge on route 4 towards Lytham Green Drive in original livery.

Fylde Borough acquired five Bristol REs in 1975 - just as production for the home market was coming to an end. These were the third batch of OPO single deckers purchased following the three Leyland Panthers in 1969 and six Seddon RUs of 1972. They were fitted with 44 high backed seats to be attractive for private hire work and were to the shorter 10m "RESL" format with Leyland 0.680 engines in common with the Leopards and Atlanteans that arrived during the 1970s.

37-41 (HRN104-108N) entered service in July 1975 and operated mainly on the Lytham St. Annes local routes 1-4, contracts, private hire and even the odd summer National Express dupe. A joint route with Ribble was introduced from Spring Gardens via St. Annes, Lytham and Freckleton to Wesham in 1978 and REs were quite common on this and the new St. Annes Roamer services introduced the same year. They were increasingly common on the trunk services to Blackpool in the evening and on Sundays.

Service 4 was a pre-deregulation haunt of the REs and every Wednesday included a diversion to the local Cemetery where 39 is leaving in this 1982 shot. This is version two of the livery.

They carried two versions of the blue, white and yellow livery, with their first repaints between 1979 and 1981. From 1984 onwards four out of the five carried all-over adverts for bus travel:

37 Fylde Coast Rover 5/84-10/86; Blue Bus Rambler 10/86-10/89
38 Lancashire Bus Pass 8/84-2/87; Blue Bus Rambler 2/87-8/89
39 Travel by Bus 6/84- 9/89
41 Lancashire Concession Passes 8/85-1988 (lettering then changed to Baby Blues until 7/89)
40 retained fleet livery, uniquely gaining the blue band version in June 1986.

All bar 40 received in house adverts 39 imploring people to "Go by Bus to your Local Club Day" in this in Elswick, whilst 37 encouraged you to use the Fylde Coast Rover bus ticket.
Deregulation gave the Bristol REs new vistas with various tendered services picked up from both Ribble and Blackpool. For example 27 April 1987 found:

37 on routes 190-2 (Blackpool-Great Eccleston/Kirkham) during the day and the 23A (South Pier to Mereside) in the evening
38 did a morning and evening contract for Langdale School and the off peak 8A/8B St. Annes Roamer and the evening service 3 (Gynn Square to Mereside)
39 did morning peak trips on the 15 (Staining to Blackpool), an afternoon contract and provided the second duty on evening service 3
40 did an afternoon college contract and the peak and evening work on service 15.
41 enjoyed the day off!

After renumbering 15 ex 38 heads along Corporation Street on service 44 to Mereside (Keith West)

Tendered services came and went and the REs continued to appear on the St. Annes Roamer and the 193s to Wesham as well. In 1989 all five received the new two tone blue scheme, 41 with a yellow band and lettering for Baby Blues services and Seagull Coaches excursions, though it gained the standard version (but without the white stripe) in February 1991. All four were renumbered 14-18 in March 1992 as part of a tidy up of the fleet numbering system. By this time REs had begun to see regular use on the trunk 11/11A (Cleveleys to Lytham) services, alongside Atlanteans and three new Deltas of 1991 as minibuses took over much of the tendered duties.

Their use had always been quite bitty, with their working day often made up of several different duties and it was not until August 1992 that they had a single regular route. The 44 (Blackpool to Mereside via Whitegate Drive and Great Marton) was a minibus route that had seen an escalation of competition from Blackpool. Fylde converted it to RE operation - incongruously with "Baby Blue" fleetnames and four of the five were required daily. It reverted to minibus operation the following March and the REs utilisation declined. Generally they could be found on the 11/11A and 193. During 1993 four Atlanteans single deck rebodies arrived and entered service, virtually sidelining the REs. The inevitable happened and on 3 August 1993 all five were noted without tax, ticket machines and destination blinds, just 15 and 16 seeing use in August with 16 believed to be the last to operate on 2 August (route 3 Town Centre to Zoo).

All five were quickly snapped up by Northern Bus of Sheffield who at the time had a large fleet of REs. They left on 27 August in convoy and became their 2504-2508. Initially used in Fylde livery they gained Northern Bus blue and cream. However their second career was to be short as Leyland Nationals started to oust the REs and progressively the Fylde ones journeyed to PVS in Barnsley for scrap during 1996. 41 was advertised for sale to preservationists but sadly went unclaimed. Still you cannot save everything sadly, though personally this batch represents the one that got away.

Line 11 goes orange

Following last week's Solo exploits, its the turn of the Trent Olympians today. 401 and 409 have both, briefly, operated on Line 11 before the appropriate pool or branded buses became available as swaps. 364, fresh from its role in the mini Atlantean line up at the LTT Depot open day yesterday is out on Line 6. Another orange Olympian - 410 - covered a Line 7 working on Saturday before settling onto its normal Line 1 duties.

The Olympians have evaded the camera, but here is 364 leaving the newly reopened section of Abingdon Street on Line 6 today.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Solos Broaden their Horizons

An apparent full size vehicle shortage has stimulated some unusual Solo workings on 'big bus' routes:

Tuesday 20th: 262 on Line 11 (above c M Crisp)
Thursday 22nd: unknown Solo on Line 11, 279 on Line 14.
Friday 23rd: 261 on Line 14, 263 on Line 11 (above c B Turner).
Saturday 24th: 273 on Line 11, 275 on Line 6

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


More Solo repaints have taken place with 282 now out in pool livery joining 279 and 281 - all three having lost Line 2 colours.

294 is now in the works for its Line 3 blue to be replaced by Line 2 green.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Route 53 The “Easyway” to run a bus service?

Easyway JWU248N at the Royal Oak on its main service 53 towards the Airport

Deregulation provided the opportunity for new bus operators to compete with existing ones. Prior to this, during 1986, licensing was relaxed with Traffic Commissioners taking the view there was little point in objecting to a service that could start at deregulation, unless it was direct competition.

A small coach operator in Blackpool, Easyway Coaches, took advantage and introduced a new service in March 1986. Most bus services in Blackpool ran to the town centre – there was no form of orbital route. Easyway therefore designed a single service, which avoided the town centre and provided several overlapping links. It ran from Squires Gate to Poulton. From the Airport it followed Blackpool’s 12 route along Lytham Road to Royal Oak; then the 26 route via Waterloo Road to Spen Corner, and the 6 via Daggers Hall Lane and Vicarage Lane to Cherry Tree Road, Hypermarket before running via Penrose Avenue, Oxford Square, East Park Drive to Victoria Hospital. Here it took the 23 route via Grange Road to Layton, 5 route to Grange Park then continued via Collegiate School and the 14 route to Castle Gardens and then into Poulton. An hourly service was provided including Sundays. The evening service was restricted to journeys around Hospital visiting times. As its fleet was primarily 53 seaters – Easyway chose this number and provided two of its coaches for the route.

This was a rare innovation – a new operator providing new links and probably the sort of initiative deregulation was supposed to encourage. At deregulation Easyway expanded competing on Blackpool’s 9 and 14 routes.

Easyway kept its buses on Princess Street, here two of the six Leopards from West Yorkshire PTE (JWU244/7N) repose shortly before they and two others returned to the PTE. 244 is now preserved.

It purchased six Leopard Buses from West Yorkshire PTE (JWU244-249N) and two Bristol RE coaches (NCN815L from Northern General and XBW74N from Hampshire Bus) for these routes.. There were regularly press reports of poor behaviour from the company and by the end of 1986 it had been banned from operating the 9 and 14. Four of the Leopards returned from where they came leaving JWU248/9N and the two REs to cover the 53 route. There was a running battle with the traffic commissioner and Easyway ran for a period on a “free” basis with passengers able to make donations! Easyway expanded with a new route 54 (Town Centre to Lindale Gardens via Lytham Rd and Harrowside in summer 1988 and briefly ran this as a circular from Layton to Lindale Gardens via Lytham Road and Marton before giving up at the end of the year. For this two ex Great Yarmouth AEC Swifts joined the fleet. Operating and maintenance problems persisted and the final straw came in November 1989 when the traffic commissioner withdrew Easway’s license and operations ended.

Seeing an opportunity and no doubt being aware of the business generated by the 53, Blackpool Transport took over the service immediately. Within six months new Optare Deltas were provided. In April 1990 a review of the route was undertaken. To reduce competition with its own services, it was re-routed via St. Annes Road and Marton Drive between Waterloo Hotel and Spen Corner and from Hypermarket to Hospital via Mereside Estate, Great Marton, Stanley Park and Newton Drive. The Sunday service was withdrawn with Lancashire County Council procuring a replacement provided by Fylde – oddly this used Highfield Road instead of serving Royal Oak. In June the Marton Drive and Stanley Park diversions were discontinued by BTS, though it still served Mereside and the new Tesco store there.

In the meantime a new operator, set up by a relative of Easyway’s owner, began trading. Town Bus purchased three former Easyway vehicles, including JWU248/9N, and introduced a competing service in August 1990. The original route was followed with buses leaving five minutes earlier than Blackpool’s journeys using number 53A. After three weeks the timetable was, sensibly, revised with Town Bus operating on the opposite half hour. This presumably was not worthwhile as two months later they returned to running 5 minutes ahead!

Blackpool decided to withdraw from the battle in June 1991, though it continued to operate between Poulton and Grange Park by way of an extension to service 6. There was a somewhat odd position where Fylde continued to run the Sunday 53 to a version of Blackpool’s route, but Town Bus ran the original route as a 53A. Town Bus continued unchanged until 1994 when it decided to re-route its buses along Whitegate Drive and Newton Drive instead of via East Park Drive over the 2 and 26 routes. This prompted Blackpool to use a spare minibus five minutes in front of Town Bus from Airport to Victoria Hospital. Town Bus then reverted to its original route and Blackpool ceased its 53 in July. Meanwhile Lancashire County Council withdrew support for the Sunday service and it ceased in April 1994. For a while an early weekday morning journey ran from Airport to Poulton Industrial Estate via the former Blackpool route, operated at times by Carriages and Archway Travel.

Town Bus replaced its Leopards (having bought a third similar bus from West Yorkshire as LUG515P) with a Dodge minibus and a Leyland Cub single decker (C813KBT). It expanded into schools services in 1994 and in September 1995 won a contract to take over Blackpool Transport service 15. Having already cut the Saturday service to every 2 hours, Town Bus withdrew the 53A in September 1995. Fylde, now a Blackpool subsidiary, won a short term contract for its replacement.
Meanwhile a new local independent was being set up. Phoenix North West commenced some contract services and arranged to operate a revised 53/53A on a franchise with Blackpool Transport. From 13 January 1996 a new half hourly service re-routed to penetrate further housing developments en route commenced using minibuses. For a while it was extended to St. Annes but in 2000 was split. The 53 continued to run from Squires Gate to Poulton, but on the alternate half hour service 10 was provided operating from Squires Gate to Cleveleys (Pheasant Wood) on a common route to Victoria Hospital. Meanwhile Town Bus ran the 15 for six months – Fylde providing a commercial replacement for the summer, which was then integrated into the 23 service. Like its predecessor Town Bus was closed down by the traffic commissioner. It seems the 53 may have been a curse. Easyway, Town Bus, Carriages and even Fylde were now defunct and the suddenly in March 2001 Phoenix North West ceased trading. After a day without service, Blackpool Transport provided an emergency contract. This lasted until November when a permanent arrangement was made, including revisions to other services. The 53 was replaced by service 9 which ran from Poulton to Royal Oak then onto Mereside – jointly funded by Blackpool Borough and Lancashire County Councils. Sadly the two councils went their separate ways after six months and the service ceased. Parts were incorporated into a new service 2A but the 53 had finally died. Its spirit lives on, however, as the Lifestyle Line L1 (now 16) was started in July 2002 providing an orbital service centred on Victoria Hospital and links several points once served by the 53 – but via a very different route.

Buses run on normal routes

With 2009 as the year of the diversion, an element of normality returned this morning when buses began operating through the newly titled St John's precinct. Lines 2, 3, 4 and 6 returned to their established route via Abingdon Street and the Winter Gardens through the new 'shared space' zone. Line 15 previously also served this area, but from the September changes it was re-routed to serve Layton and thus approaches the Town Centre via Talbot Road.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Town Centre Diversions and Pontins closure

Lines 2 and 15 (and the 3 and 4) have been on diversion via Talbot Square since February.

Monday 19 October is the scheduled date for the end of the diversions in Blackpool Town Centre with the reopening of Abingdon Street and Church Street. These will see the ending of the diversions in place since February.

According to BTs website Line 2 and 2C will operate into the Town Centre via Church Street and Abingdon St then Talbot Road to North Station and leave via Larkhill Street and Grosvenor Street. It implies this applies regardless of destination with the Poulton/Knott End and South Pier/Wesham workings taking the same route. Lines 3 and 4 will once again serve Tesco and the 4A shuttle will end.

Promenade buses have used Pontins forecourt as a terminus since 1988 but this comes to an end this month with the site closure.

Pontins Holiday Centre closed ealier in October but the forecourt has continued to be used for service buses. This will end on Sunday and on Monday Lines 1 and the City Sightseeing Line 20 will now terminate at Blackpool Airport. The 'Blackpool By Night' City Sightseeing Illumination Tours will continue to depart from Pontins at 1930 each night, but will use the main road stop rather than the centre forecourt.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Atlantean Afterlife

The sole surviving Atlantean with Blackpool Transport is 364 seen here on Line 2 in August 2009

Blackpool's solitary Atlantean has had something of an Indian summer appearing on various Metro routes including Line 2, 6, 7, 10 and 11 - and even the 4A - Wordsworth Avenue to Tesco. Blackpool bought 64 Atlanteans new and inherited 46 from Fylde in 1996. 3 were destroyed by fire in October 1986 (310, 335 and 342) but otherwise routine withdrawals commenced in 1989. The Fylde takeover saw disposals of the East Lancs examples cease in 1994 and not resume until 2002, since when 54 remained with the last (other than 364) withdrawals taking place in 2008.

This article reviews the disposals and the survivors in batch order.

301-310 BFR301-304R, CBV305-10S new July/August 1977
The first to arrive and the first to leave, 301-307 were withdrawn in March/April 1989 after just 11.5 years service. 308/9 followed in March 1990. 301/4-6 were repainted out of expired route branding (or a Hitachi advert livery for 304) whilst stored, 305 being the only one to run again - operating for a few weeks in October 1989. Sale did not take place until May 1990 when 303 left for Toxteth Community Council, 305-309 for Norfolk's of Nayland. 301/2/4 left in June for Liverline, Liverpool. All had several other homes, 301/2/4 with Sheffield Omnibuses, 302 ending up with First Devon and Cornwall in Exeter. 305-309 went to Hedingham Omnibuses, 305 returned north to ABC of Southport and 307-9 finished with Thorne's Bubwith. 301-308 are believed to have now been scrapped - 308 after being over-turned for an episode of "The Royal" - set several years before it was built! 309 has a valid SORN declaration (to July 2010) so is presumably still in store with Thornes. 310 was one of the 1986 fire victims.

311-320 JFV311-320S new July 1978
These were withdrawn in two batches - 311-314 in May 1991 (at nearly 13 years old) and 315-320 between July and October 1993 (at around 15 years). 311-314 left in August 1991 to North Devon (311/2) or Blue Bus of Horwich (313/4). 315-320 hung on in 'reserve' until February 1994 when they were sold. 315/6 heading to Eastbourne Buses while 317-320 (and newer 321) forming the initial fleet of new operator North Birmingham Busways. 311/2 survived (with 302) until 2001 by which time First had absorbed North Devon. 312 then became a store at their Plymouth depot for local preservationists until it was scrapped in 2008. The Blue Bus pair went in different directions, 313 ending up in Scotland (where it was deroofed and scrapped) while 314 was exported to Saudi Arabia. 315 passed to Philip's Penrhiwceiber then Shamrock, Pontypridd before being scrapped in 2000 while 316 was broken up by Eastbourne. The North Birmingham Busways ones went for scrap, save for 320 which ran for Sutton Trailways (who used 318 for spares) before it too reached the breakers yard. Unless 314 survives, this batch is now extinct.

321 to 330 URN321-330V new September 1979.
This batch had a protracted disposal. 321 was retired in October 1993 and sold to North Birmingham in February 1994. It returned for the 2004 open day but has since been scrapped. 322-330 all went to Fylde after it was taken over in 1994 but later rejoined the fold when the subsidiary was absorbed. 322/3 became driver trainers in 1999, lasting until 2007. 323 was sold for scrap, 322 was sold - possibly for preservation. 324-330 survived until May 2002 (June for 328) accruing over 22 years in service. 325-7, 329/30 went to Liddel's of Auchinleck in Scotland, 324 to Red Kite, St Helens and 328 to GM, Bridgend. 324 ended up with KJB, Lincoln and after a period of SORN has been unlicensed since March 2009. 328 was sold for scrap in 2007. Of the Liddels examples 327/9 moved onto Howell's of Deri in 2007 who disposed of them in April 2009 - 329 certainly being scrapped. 325/6 remain on SORN, whilst 330 has been unlicensed since 2003, though was still at Liddels some time afterwards. Current status of these is unknown.

331-340 AHG331-40V new June/July 1980
Other than fire victim 335, these survived until May 2002 (331/2), Feb 2003 (333/6) or May 2003 (334, 337-340). 331 was bought by LTT and 334 by Graham Oliver who later passed it onto LTT, allowing 331 to be sold on. This moved to Fargo, Braintree rejoining 339/40 (and 343-5). Fargo gradually withdrew its Atlanteans from 2006 and 331/9/40 have all been scrapped. 332 joined 325-7/9/30 at Liddels and remains on SORN but was seen heavily stripped and partially dismantled on a lorry in June 2009 presumably heading for scrap. 333 was one of a handful sold directly for scrap by BTS, 336 went to Ayrways, Ayr (scrapped 2006) and 337 was privately preserved but broken up in 2008. 338 went to GM, Bridgend with 328 and has also been scrapped. 334 is thus now the sole survivor of this batch.

341-350 GHG341-50W new May/June 1981
2003 saw the withdrawal of 341, 343-349 in May (341) or July (the rest) with 350 surviving until November 2005. 342 was the third fire victim of October 1986. 341 joined 328/31 with GM, Bridgend and has been scrapped. 343-345 went to Fargo Coaches, 343/5 being the only two of their six to be repainted in red/yellow and they passed to Stephenson's of Essex with the Fargo business. 343 was purchased for preservation by Steven Hughes in 2009. 346-349 went to Ayrways joining 336 and all have since been scrapped. 350 was acquired by Blackpool Borough Council and converted to a mess bus for the Streetscene tramway PW gang. It remains in use.

Restored 353 on display in Birkenhead for the Wirral Bus and Tram Show 4 Oct 2009

351-354 UHG351-4Y new August 1982.
This small batch was withdrawn in stages. First to go was 351 in November 2005 and was used for spares by preservationists before being scrapped in 2007. 352 was withdrawn in June 2006 but stayed in store until April 2009 when it finally went for scrap. 354 came off in June 2006 and left in November for Scotbus of Inverness. 353 meanwhile survived its initial withdrawal of June 2006 by returning to use in January 2007 and lasting until a last day on Line 1 on 29 July 2008. In September it was collected by Chesterfield 123 Group who quickly restored it to the post 1994 livery.

362 at Blackpool Zoo on the Farewell to the Atlantean event in October 2006

355-362 A355-362HHG new August 1983.
The final bus seated batch remained intact until June 2006 when all eight were taken out of use. 355/9 were quickly sold for scrap and 356 became a playbus. 358, 360-362 were then reinstated especially for the (premature) last Atlantean event with 361/2 running on Line 20 (with 364) on Saturday 28 October and on Sunday 358/60/2 ran on the 20 and 361 on Line 6 (with 363/4). 362 was then sold to LTT for preservation, while 357 and 361 went to Scotbus, Inverness in November. 360 returned to service in January but lasted just one month, as 358 then replaced it. 360 survived in store until it was scrapped in April 2009 and 358 ran until July 2008 before passing to LTT for spares in April 2009.

363/4 B363/4UBV new Sept 1984
The final pair had coach seats to a lower capacity but in their last years were used interchangeably with the bus examples. 363 was withdrawn in July 2008 and scrapped in July 2009 whilst 364 has survived as something of a company pet, regularly rallied by the Blackpool Transport Omnibus Group. Hopefully it may be restored for 2010.

16 are believed to survive - though 332 is doubtful and they can be summarised as:
Preserved: 322, 334, 343, 353, 362 (5)
On SORN: 309, 325, 326, 332, 358 (5)
Scotbus, Inverness: 354, 357, 361 (3)
Blackpool Council: 350 (1)
Playbus: 356 (1)
Blackpool Transport: 364. (1)
Directly for scrap by BTS 310, 323, 333, 335, 342, 352, 355, 359, 360, 363 (10)

Every Little Helps

Olympian 415 (A719YFS) leaves Staining for Tesco on the new free bus service on 7 October
Last month's changes to Line 15 saw the end of the link from Staining to Tesco - though in practise it had ceased in February due to the long term temporary arrangements arising from the redevelopment outside the Winter Gardens. The 15 terminated at Marton Mere where passengers could wait for the 4A shuttle to Tesco.

Last Wednesday (30 Sept) saw the start of service T1 - a Tesco free bus operated by Blackpool Transport from Poulton via Highcross Road, Normoss Road, Staining Road, Chain Lane, Mythop Road, Preston New Road to Tesco at Mereside. It operates on a trail basis until the end of December on Wednesdays and Fridays with two journeys each way departing from Poulton at 0930 and 1230 and from Tesco at 1100 and 1330. Journey time is 23 minutes each way.