Saturday, 28 August 2010

Lost termini: 2 Pontins

Autumn 2009 saw the closure of Pontins Holiday Camp ending a long tradition of holiday accommodation on this site - just within St. Annes on Clifton Drive North- and a much shorter life as a bus terminus.

Atlanteans 334 and 362 (with 304 behind the coach on the right) on an event service in 1986 - booth now preserved by LTT
The Pontins site was first used as a terminus in 1988 when Fylde's Promenade minibus service was reintroduced after its winter break. During its first season, 1987, it started outside the camp on the main road turning in a service road further down the road. Pontins was not unfamiliar territory for buses - or rather coaches in the main - and both Blackpool and Fylde buses did put in appearances on several occasions - on private hires; National Express workings or conference/event services.

Fylde 106 and 116 (the latter on loan from GM Buses) await trade at the original Pontins terminus
Pontins was quite a prize for the two competing Promenade operators - Fylde having sole access in 1988 and 1989 with its Renault minibuses on route 55 (later 35), Blackpool winning the access rights in 1990 and keeping them until the businesses merged using Routemasters as service 40. Fylde responded to this in 1990 by converting their service to double deck operation with elderly Atlanteans, renumbered it one and extended it to St. Annes so that it at least passed the camp. For 1989 Fylde painted two minibuses in all-over adverts for Pontins, but this was trumped from 1990 when Blackpool Routemaster 522 and Balloon 707 emerged so treated. 522 was later replaced by 527 (and 707 by 709 and later 722 then 622).

Routemaster 521 awaits another run along the Promenade to Gynn Square
Blackpool had started its Routemaster service in 1988 running initially from Starr Gate and later from Harrowside. It settled down in 1990 to a simple ten minute frequency service from Pontins to Gynn Square with 6 Routemasters required. From 1992 it was curtailed to run to the Tower only using 4 Routemasters - generally six of the twelve owned were operated each year followed by 18 months off!

Olympians 369 and 368 at the purpose built bus terminus, roughly where the two Atlanteans are in the earlier view 
When Blackpool took-over Fylde in 1994 the two Promenade services were co-ordinated but for 1995 Fylde took-over in its entirety with service 1. A 7/8 minute service was provided from Cabin to Pontins with alternate buses carrying onto St. Annes - though a reduced service was provided on non bank holiday weekends between Easter and whit. Various ageing Atlanteans were used with yellow fronts on the otherwise now standard blue and cream livery - a much more restrained identity compared to previous seasons. 1996 saw the service extend to Little Bispham with the yellow fronts dropped so that any double decker would appear. July 1996 saw Fylde absorbed into Blackpool Transport but for 1997/8 seasons the 1 continued to be run from Squires Gate but terminating at Cabin in 1997 and Bispham in 1998. A brief period of competition saw Bluebird of Middleton serve the site using one on a day trip to Blackpool to earn some money on the Promenade during the school holidays.

1999 saw the service operate from Rigby Road, typically using ex Trent Olympians and various Atlanteans. Most daytime journeys commenced at St. Annes with the evening service starting at Pontins but the northern terminus now became Cleveleys. Each year it seemed fewer journeys would run to/from St. Annes and for 2006 this was dropped completely. Route branding returned in 2003 with Olympians 365-7, 407-410 in use on a new orange and yellow Metro Line 1 livery - 401-406 later following suit.

City Sightseeing - the international brand - came to Blackpool in 2001 and the initial tour served Pontins. From 2002 this became Pontins to Zoo as service 21. In 2006 Line 1 was unsuccessfully operated with the open toppers but form 2007 they returned to the Zoo service which had morphed into Line 20 Pontins to Marton Mere. The initial Metrobuses gave way Olympians around this time too.

The site could be windblown at times - here 334 heads out onto Clifton Drive for another run to Fleetwood
November 2007 saw Line 1 become a year round service to cope with a tramway closure and five low floor Dennis Tridents were purchased from Blackburn Transport to provide an accessible service (though Olympians were still needed to make up the numbers).

Ex Blackburn Olympian 412 in the car park on an event shuttle service
Pontins closed at the start of October 2010 but Lines 1 and 20 continued to serve the vacant site until permission was received to implement a service change and the last bus left the site on Sunday 18 October with both services terminating at Squires Gate Airport instead.