Saturday, 26 February 2011

Closed for Business

Solo 256 heads down the still to be developed back road in the Business Park in October 2008
After four years Blackpool Business Park loses its bus service after the last Line 5 departure on Sunday 27 February. The Park has been developed on part of Blackpool Airport and is accessed by Amy Johnson Way from a junction with Squires Gate Lane at Halfway House. This road was formerly Blackpool Road which closed in 1940 to extend the Airport - it used to link Blackpool to Lytham and was served by route 11 from 1935.

Buses first ran onto Amy Johnson way in August 1996 when the 12A (Blackpool to Lindale Gardens) was revised to terminate at Morrisons. Buses turned at the first roundabout on Amy Johnson Way and stopped alongside the current petrol station before retuning to Blackpool. Lindale Gardens was served in both directions. At the time the route was operated by Deltas but the diversion was not successful and ended in November 1996.
Lifestyle Line L1 stopped close to the door as seen on dedicated bus 280 in 2004. These Solos carried council livery, previously reflecting their direct ownership of the buses which were operated on their behalf by Blackpool Transport
Solo 275, in Handybus livery enters Morrisons car park on the L1 in March 2004

Sister bus 276 heads to Manchester Square amongst the shoppers cars
Next attempt commenced on 8 July 2002 with the launch of the Lifestyle Line L1. This route was funded by two successful Urban Bus Challenge bids and phase one provided a service from Norcross to Morrisons via Grange Park, Victoria Hospital and Mereside. It initially terminated on Amy Johnson Way but later waited time at the Line 7 stop at Halfway House. From January 2003 a route into Morrisons car park was introduced with the bus now stopping virtually at the shop door. Phase 2 in July 2003 saw the route extend from Norcross to Fleetwood and Morrisons to Manchester Square with buses in both direction serving the Supermarket. Dedicated Solos 277-284 were allocated.

With the Hot Tub Showroom in the background new Solo 287 heads along Amy Johnson Way in the Business Park in the second month of Line 16 operation, May 2007

Deep in the Business Park, 287 has a long and circuitous journey ahead of it to Fleetwood

287 splashes through the puddles. Although the bus served roads were all named Amy Johnson Way this section was only served by the 16 with the 5 rejoining from the right reflecting further expansion of the estate by the time it started in 2008
The L1 was relaunched as Line 16 in April 2007 and was extended into Blackpool Business Park. Buses no longer entered Morrisons car park but continued along Amy Johnson Way into the depths of the Business Park - a round trip of  1.2 miles from Halfway House. New Solos 286-293 were dedicated. A half hourly frequency was maintained.

....or at least that was the plan. Solo 250 showing that some of first day Line 5s simply followed the 16 route.
 21 January 2008 saw the extension of Line 5 into the Business Park, following the 16 down Amy Johnson Way but also serving the new outer road where the Lightworks Illuminations Department facility is located. The 5 ran every 10 minutes during the day and half hourly evenings/Sundays. With two 16s per hour to both Blackpool and Fleetwood no less than 10 buses per hour served the Business Park. The diversion of the 5 rather undermined the terminal loop at Lindale Gardens which dated back to the 12A launch in 1988. Now passengers boarding in Lindale Gardens wishing to reach Blackpool had to endure a circuit of the Business Park or walk down to St. Annes Road.

With Morrisons Car Park no longer served new bus stops on Amy Johnson Way served the Supermarket - though it was now a long walk from the shop door.
 The extension of the 5 was funded by a 'Section 106' planning application condition and this is understood to have been exhausted and without a commercial case for continuation the service has been withdrawn, Line 16 having been routed away in July 2010. Although the business park is well developed and successful, as an industrial unit the main bus passengers would be workers with likely peaks in demand around shift finishing times. The diversion contributed to delays on the 5 as at peak times long queues backed up from Halfway House along Amy Johnson Way as the 5pm exodus took place.

The end of route branding has seen blue and green Solos augment the red ones associated with Line 5. The last pair of light blue Line 16 liveried examples appeared occasionally as demonstrated by 292 on 26 February.
 So from Monday the 5 returns to a simple terminal loop to Halfway House out via Lindale Gardens, back via St. Annes Road - probably to the benefit of its core market. The Business Park becomes a bus free zone and the car remains king. Sadly few are likely to be inconvenienced by the changes to the 5 - Morrisons becomes a little less accessible to the bus user though - but loadings in the Business Park were always low - especially on the last Boxing Day and New Years Day when an hourly service was provided somewhat optimistically!

Further along Squires Gate Lane are two further business parks. One which adjoins Amy Johnson Way was the home of Red Bus - a short lived operator of MCW Metrobuses on Blackpool Promeande in 2001. Beyond that is Sycamore Trading Estate where Phoenix North West was based until its demise in 2001. This estate was established many years ago and in the early 1980s feature the 'Venitian Glass Works' which had a factory tour. Fylde ran excursions there and a free bus ran from Blackpool Town Centre, initially run by Fylde but later by the Glass Works using ex Fylde 89 (609KD). This ended in 1984 when the Glass Works closed down. With two failed bus companies and several failed bus services sadly it seems bus ventures associated with Amy Johnson Way just cannot take off.