Monday, 24 January 2011

Kirkham Roamer

Fylde RE waits at Wrea Green terminus ready for another journey to Lower Lane
Just over 30 years ago on 8th December 1980 the Kirkham Community Roamer was born. Fylde Borough had developed the concept - an off peak local estate service in St. Annes in 1978 and applied it to Kirkham in 1980. It was an in house operation by Fylde's own bus company which had first served Kirkham in 1978 with route 193 on a joint basis with Ribble. The route comprised four cross Kirkham journeys each hour.
Lower Lane estate was very narrow though buses have successfully negotiated it for 30 years now.
The service started at Wrea Green and followed the Ribble 154 route into Kirkham and then the 193 route to Kirkham prison before entering the married quarters housing area at Lower Lane. From here it returned to Kirkham and followed the 193 to Wesham and back to Kirkham with a short double run to Wesham Hospital. It then followed the 154/8 out of Kirkham turning through Newton Village and back to Kirkham and Wrea Green. Only Lower Lane, Newton Village and Wesham Hospital were unserved.
This was Wesham Park Hospital, 40 has reversed into Derby Road before heading off to Newton as a 7C
An hourly service ran from 0903 to 1503 with an extra journey on school holidays - there was no Saturday or Sunday service. The first and last journeys started or finished at Lytham and ran via Ballam. The service was numbered 7 but used suffices to denote the individual leg (7A to Lower Lane, 7B to Wesham, 7C to Newton, 7D to Wrea Green). Bristol RE 40 was suitably route branded.
Branded Ribble National 2 830 crosses the railway line at Weeton on a positioning run
May 1982 saw the service pass to Ribble operating to the same basic pattern but with a revised timetable with extra journeys from Lower Lane to Willows Primary School. The Lytham section was dropped and Leyland National 2 830 replaced 40 as the branded bus. The route suffices were dropped.
AEC Swift 572 represents Blackpool's first offerings - no branding and no destination display let the side down somewhat
Deregulation saw Blackpool Transport take over on behalf of Lancashire County Council and AEC Swifts Nationals and Lancets shared the operation. The operation passed to Granville Coaches of Freckleton in early 1988 but quickly moved onto McLaughlin's who operated the service until 1997. Minibuses were now used and this allowed the service to be diverted via Market Street, Morland Avenue and Mowbreck Drive in Wesham. A Saturday service was later added and McLaughlin's registered the service commercially.

572 leaves Kirkham Market Square for Lower Lane
McLaughlin's ceased operating the service in January 1997 with Blackpool Transport taking over from the former Fylde depot at Squires Gate using a Metrorider transferred from Rigby Road. This was only a temporary arrangement as it was taken over by Harry's coaches - a small operator based at Treales near Kirkham. They revised the route to run from Lower Lane - Kirkham- Wrea Green - Kirkham - Clifton-Newton-Kirkham-Wesham-Kirkham and back to Lower Lane. The Saturday service was more complex with five journeys which omitted Wrea Green, but three were extended to Preston. Wrea Green was later dropped from the route.

Harry's lost their vehicles in a depot fire and ceased operating the Roamer as a result with Phoenix North West taking over. From February 2000 it was operating to a further route variation now Lower Lane- Kirkham - Station - Wrea Green- Kirkham - Clifton - Newton - Kirkham- Wesham - Kirkham - Lower Lane. Initially it ran Monday to Friday only but Saturday services resumed in April.
In 2005 the Roamer was treated to a brand new bus - Solo 285 owned by Lancashire County Council but operated by Blackpool Transport in a dedicated livery
April 2001 saw Blackpool Transport take-over on Phoenix's demise. Again a Metrorider was used. Hampsons Travel of Fleetwood took over in April 2002 during a short period where they took over various services including local routes in Fleetwood and the evening Blackpool to Knott End route. Within a few weeks Blackpool had resumed at short notice - their fourth spell of operation. In May 2004 a new Optare Solo was purchased by Lancashire County Council as part of their strategy to support low floor operation on tendered services using capital funds. The bus was painted blue with route branding and was numbered 285 in the Blackpool fleet. Changes to other commercial and tendered routes meant that Wrea Green was over served so the route was diverted to Weeton in 2005 and was also withdrawn from Clifton, though still served Newton. At some stage during this process the route was renumbered 70 to differentiate from Blackpool Transport's Line 7.
Weeton Community Centre was the terminus in 2005, here 285 demonstrates the excellent turning circle on the Solo
October 2005 saw the Roamer evolve into a conventional service to replace the Stagecoach 69 service. It ran every 30 minutes from Lytham Saltcotes Road via Warton, Freckleton, Lower Lane and Kirkham to Wesham. Newton and Weeton were now served by Fylde Villager service 75. 2 buses were used, Solo 285 being joined by a pool example. Saltcotes Road was an unusual terminus - there was insufficient running time to reach Lytham centre. This was resolved in September 2006 when the 70 was replaced by an extended Line 2. This did not serve the estates in Wesham and tendered 77 was revised to replace this. Solo 285 was integrated into the Fylde fleet and the 2 was later replaced by Line 7 and is shortly to become Coastal Coaches service 78.
Metro liveried Solo 276 heads down Mowbreck Drive in Wesham