Sunday, 6 March 2011

Lifestyle Line

The second Lifestyle Line identity was blue and yellow as previously used on Line 10. The aim of the service was to link housing areas (such as Mereside here) with shopping, work and health facilities away from the Town Centre
Back in 2001 Blackpool Borough Council was awarded a grant a grant of £809,225 from the Department of Transport's Urban Bus Challenge. This was to purchase six Optare Solos and provide revenue support a new bus service from Morrisons near Halfway House to Norcross. Blackpool Transport was awarded the contract and the six Solos arrived during May/June 2002 and were initially kept in storage at the Council's Layton yard. They moved to Rigby Road in late June and the service commenced on 8 July. It started at Norcross and ran via Norcross Lane, Whiteholme Road, Ashfield Rd, Kincraig Road, Moor Park Avenue, Bispham Road, Plymouth Road, Garstang Road, Dinmore Avenue, Easington Cres, Dinmore Avenue, Tarnbrook Drive, Newton Drive, Hospital, East Park Drive, South Park Drive, Preston New Road, Kentmere Road, Langdale Rd, Clifton Rd, Tesco, Clifton Rd, Cherry Tree Rd, Midgeland Rd, Highfield Road, St. Annes Rd to Halfway House. Initially it terminated on Amy Johnson Way but was later extended into Morrisons. The route was largely new but helped replace services 8/9/10 linking South Shore and Mereside; and Mereside with Victoria Hospital which had been withdrawn a few months before.
The original Solos carried this uninspiring Blackpool Council livery, strangely devoid of promotional material for the new route with just the "Lifestyle Line" name carried.
A half hourly service was provided using four Solos until c2100 with an hourly Saturday service until c1900. The six buses were allocated fleet numbers 277-282 (YG02FWH, YG02FVP/R/S/T/U), but 277 remained in store as having two licensed spares was excessive. Buses carried the council red and cream livery with Lifestyle Line branding and the route was numbered L1

The L1 terminated on Blundell Street behind the Somerfield Store and adjacent to the bus and tram depot, here 278 heads up Hopton Road, where in a previous era vast numbers of express coaches would be arriving at the Coliseum Coach Station
A second successful Urban Bus Challenge bid in 2002 saw a further £865,600 awarded to Blackpool and Lancashire County Councils in partnership. This saw two more Solos arrive - owned by LCC according to legal lettering - as 283/4 (PN03UGG/H). The service was extended from 1 June 2003 from Norcross to Fleetwood with buses running from Rossall Point via The Esplanade, Queens Terrace, Dock Street, Freeport, Station Road, Copse Road, Stanley Road, Radcliffe Road (back Radcliffe Rd to Station Rd), Hatfield Avenue, Highbury Avenue, Poulton Road, Beach Road, Fleetwood Road, Amounderness Way, Victoria Road East, Alexandra Road, Belvedere Road, Hawthorne Road, Beechwood Drive, Fleetwood Road South, Norcross Lane and as before. The route was also extended from Morrisons via Squires Gate Lane, Lytham Road, Harrowside, Clifton Drive, Burlington Road West, Bond Street, Station Road, Lytham Road, Hopton Road, Blundell St to Somerfield Supermarket. Seven buses were now needed with a half hourly service Monday to Saturday until about 2200. An hourly Sunday service was also started. In addition to 283/4, 277 entered service on 1 June, but within a few days was re-registered PL03BPZ as it could now legitimately carry an 03 plate rather than the 02 one.

Minor route changes had seen a diversion via Fulwood Square and St Walburgas Road between Grange Park instead of Tarnbrook Drive and Newton Drive and the Hospital and, in January 2003, a short diversion to serve the Maternity Unit at the Hospital was introduced replacing Line 5.
Handybus liveried Solo 276 stands in for a defective branded Solo near Tesco in March 2004
The service continued to grow and it was necessary to introduce an extra peak journey at 0753 from Mereside to Norcross in November 2004. This was operated by a Line 15 Metrorider - a rare example of a scheduled allocation of a route branded bus to another service. Metroriders rarely appeared on other L1 journeys - Handybus and later pool liveried Solos were the common substitutes for 277-284. Further minor changes saw the L1 diverted via Acre Gate and Lennox Gate in December 2005 - to replace the 2A - and via the perimeter road at Victoria Hospital in May 2006.

Seeing double: Solo 289 on the routine workings overtakes Olympian 370 on the school peak working from Norcross to Manchester Square at Halfway House
Continued growth in passengers started to result in capacity issues around school and work peak times. As a result two school day only workings were added using double deckers from January 2007: 0835 from Hospital to Norcross using a bus from a St Mary's School special and 1532 from Norcross to Manchester Square. The L1 had improved in performance to such an extent that it could survive the end of the Urban Bus Challenge subsidy and by 2007 was commercially viable in Blackpool, but still required revenue support from Lancashire in Wyre.
It was decided to upgrade the service using larger 33 seat Solos to replace the original 29 seaters and relaunch the service as part of the Metro network. From April 2007 the service was rebranded as Lifestyle Line 16 with a new blue and yellow identity. The route was extended to start at Blackpool Market Street via the Promenade to Manchester Square. It was also extended into Blackpool Business Park; removed from Acre Gate and Lennox Gate. From Victoria Road East it was diverted into Cleveleys then via Rossall Road, West Drive, Fleetwood Road to take up its former route at Hatfield Road. It no longer ran into Freeport, however. A half hourly service ran during the day using 8 buses, while in the early evening and on Sunday an hourly service used four buses. The extra short workings continued, though oddly still as L1s for a while.

Brand new Solo 293 crests Plymouth Road bridge on its way to Blackpool in April 2007
Unfortunately not all of the eight new buses (286-293) were ready. On the first day 286-290 were in use and possibly 291 too. The other two workings used the L1 liveried buses one of which was 280. Unfortunately their electronic destinations had not been reprogrammed so these still showed L1! 292/3 entered service later in the week and the original Solos were progressively repainted into pool or line 2 livery. Extra peak running time was added in November 2008 and the three extra journeys at 0753 from Tesco, 0835 from Hospital and the 1525 ex Collegiate which used to be the 1532 from Norcross - were renumbered 116 to differentiate from the low floor workings. The 116 was progressively reduced with the afternoon journey going in April 2009 and the rest by February 2010.
September 2009 saw the section from Cleveleys to Fleetwood withdrawn as LCC awarded a contract to Stagecoach for a replacement service (74). Buses 286/7 were rebanded as Line 2 buses as a result. The route was also re-routed via Lytham Road rather than Bond Street/Clifton Drive. February 2010 saw the limited evening service withdrawn and the Saturday service reduced to hourly. With the end of route branding and the major network review from 26 July 2010 the 16 was radically changed as it now ran from Blackpool North Station via the former 2 route (Church St, Whitegate Drive, Waterloo Road) to Royal Oak, then along Bond St, Clifton Drive and Harrowside before running the full length of Highfield Road. It now missed out its original terminus at Morrisons. Its route to Cleveleys from Highfield Road was largely the same, save for a diversion via Fleetwood Road between Norcross and Thornton Four Lane Ends. 7 buses were needed for the half hourly Monday to Friday service and 4 for the hourly Saturday and Sunday service.
The circuitous nature of the 16 saw buses displaying Fleetwood heading down Lytham Road in completely the opposite direction than one would expect.
Although no longer known as the Lifestyle Line - the 16 is one of the few Urban Bus Challenge services to survive after its funding expired. It is still recognisable from its original service - save for the Morrisons to Highfield Road section, though it has seen several revisions. It also provides a replacement for the former Marton tram route with just two buses per hour (one at weekends and non in the evening) along Waterloo Road - a sad contrast to the era of a three minute tram service in the 1950s.