Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Metro Years: 2001

Metro Line 7 was the flagship launch route with 7 purple and yellow refurbished Deltas supported by 4 pool liveried ones bringing the new identity to the first complete route. The 7 replaced much of the 22/22A and parts of the 2/A/B and - as here on Cambridge Road - the 11A. Delta 126 shows off its new image
Monday 30 April 2001 saw the introduction of the Metro Coastlines network by Blackpool Transport. This, with variations, remained in place until June 2010. This was the biggest network change since deregulation and saw off some long established services. The new network comprised:
  • Line 2 (Black) - Blackpool to Poulton via Hospital and Highcross Road every 10 minutes (7 buses), 30 mins eves/suns (2 buses). Replaced parts of 2, 2A and 2B. Hardhorn Road no longer served by Blackpool Transport, with county contract service 52/54 replacing it.
  • Line 3 (Blue) - Cleveleys to Mereside via Bispham, Blackpool and Park Road every 20 minutes (6 buses), hourly e/su sharing 3 buses with Line 4. Replaced 33 Cleveleys-College; then 22A to Bispham Village via Kincraig Rd; then as 2/2A/2B to Town Centre via Warbreck Drive and Claremont and as 33 to Mereside.
  • Line 4 (Cadbury Blue) - Cleveleys Park to Mereside via Bispham, Blackpool and Great Marton every 20 minutes (7 buses), hourly e/su sharing 3 buses with Line 3. Replaced 44A/B and parts 2/2A/2B and 11
  • Line 5 (Red) - Staining to Halfway House/Lindale Gardens via Hospital, Blackpool and South Shore every 10 minutes (only every 30 minutes Staining to Hospital) with 9 buses. 30 mins e/su with 3 buses - replaces 23-25 Staining to Royal Oak and 12A to Halfway House
  • Line 6 (Maroon) Mereside-Grange Park every 10 minutes (10 buses), every 20 E/Su (5 buses) largely unchanged
  • Line 7 (Purple) Cleveleys to Lytham Square every 20 minutes (8 buses), every 30 mins E/Su with hourly extension from Lytham to Wesham (5 buses) replacing 22/22A Cleveleys-Bispham, 2/2A/B Bispham-Devonshire Arms, 33 to Blackpool, 22/22A to St. Annes and 11A to Lytham.
  • Line 11 (Turquoise) Cleveleys to Lytham Saltcotes Road via Bispham, Layton, Blackpool, Lytham Road, St. Annes every 7/8 mins (15 beyond St. Annes) using 21 buses. Eves/Suns every 30 Cleveleys-St. Annes and 30 Bispham to Lytham (8 buses) replaced 11, 11A, 12, 22/22A
  • Line 14 (Dark Green) Fleetwood to St. Annes via Thornton, Blackpool, Common Edge Road every 10 mins (20 Blackpool-St. Annes) using 16 buses. E/Su every 30 mins (5/6 buses) with extra Sunday daytime Tower-Fleetwood service (4 buses). Replaced 14/14A
  • Line 26 (Green) South Pier to Town Centre via Marton every 8 minutes (7 buses) 15 Eves/Suns (3 buses).

The 22 was one of the long established (1936-2001) services withdrawn as part of the Metro review. Here on Saturday 28th April, 329 works on the last day of the Lytham section of the 22. Sister 327 was the last bus repainted in green and cream in February.
In addition routes 8, 8A and 9 each ran hourly all day daily from Royal Oak to Mereside via Watson Road (8), Mereside via Bond St and Highfield Road (8A) or Midgeland Road via Acre Gate (9) using two buses. Supported by Blackpool Council, these were not branded as Metro routes, nor were seasonal services 1 (Pontins to Cleveleys), 20 (Town Centre to Marton Mere) and 21 (Town Centre to Zoo). Lancashire County Contracts 154/8 (Blackpool to Preston evenings/Sundays) continued.
Metrorider 586 shows the doomed Handybus livery working the 8A from Mereside to Royal Oak which was partly supported by Blackpool Council to replace the unremunerative parts of the 23-25 group
The Phoenix Falls
With final preparations for the Metro network under way, a curved ball was thrown with the news on Wednesday 4th April that local operator Phoenix North West was closing with immediate effect. Emergency arrangements saw Blackpool Transport pick up the Kirkham Roamer service 7 the following day and on Friday routes 10 (Pheasants Wood-Cleveleys-Hospital-Halfway House), 53 (Poulton-Hospital-Halfway House) and 180/2 (Poulton to Preston). Eight additional vehicles were required (seven on the interworked 10, 53, 180/2 and one on the Kirkham Roamer). Metroriders were transferred from route 12A which was converted to single deck operation for its last few weeks - the older Metroriders having a stay of execution as their withdrawal had been expected when Metro launched.

Ironically two days before the Phoenix collapse, Blackpool Transport had taken over the contract for route 77 (St. Annes Roamer) and the previous day it started Sunday operation on Stagecoach service 167 (Preston to St. Annes). This was initially linked to route 12 with Deltas but from 6 May was converted to minibus operation on a stand-alone basis.

Route Branding and Allocation
Line 7 was the first route to be branded with several Deltas taken out of use in February and March for repaint. 118-120, 126-129 were painted into purple and yellow giving seven vehicles for eight workings reflecting the initial approach of branding fewer than the daily requirement with pool or old livery buses making up the requirement. Deltas 123/4, 130/1 were all painted in the grey, mustard and yellow scheme for the launch day with 132 and 133 soon following.
115 showing the new Line 6 image at Mereside Tesco
30 June 2001 saw the introduction of the Line 6 identity with Delta 116 entering service after repaint. 115 and 117 followed but further examples did not enter service until 2002 as the remaining vehicles became due for refurbishment in an ongoing Delta modernisation programme.
Also at Tesco, 214 displays the Line sticker as applied to old liveried buses which were dedicated to the new routes
Late June, early July saw Line stickers applied to the front of various old liveried buses which now became dedicated to their routes:
  • Line 2: Metroriders 505-510 (6 out of 7)
  • Line 3: Solos 261-265, Metrorider 517 (6 out of 6)
  • Line 4: Excels 210-215 (6 out of 7)
  • Line 5: Solos 266-269, 271-4 (8 out of 9)
  • Line 6: Deltas 108-110, 112-114, 117 plus liveried 115/6 (9 out of 10)
  • Line 7: Deltas 118-120, 126-129 fully liveried (7 out of 8)
  • Line 11: Deltas 101-3, Olympians 370-3, 401-410 (17 out of 21)
  • Line 14: Atlanteans 355-360, 363/4, Olympians 374-9 (14 out of 16)
  • Line 26: Metroriders 511-516 (6 out of 7)
This left the following spare buses:
  • Deltas 104-107, 122/5 in green/cream, 123/4, 130-3 in pool (for 6, 7, 11)
  • Excels: 216-218 (yellow/black) for Line 4
  • Solos: 275/6 for Lines 3 and 5
  • Atlanteans: 324-334, 336-341, 343-354, 361/2, 441-445, 469, 471-5, 479/80/3, 495 for schools, Lines 11 and 14, seasonal services
  • Olympians 365-369 for schools, Lines 11 and 14, seasonal services
  • Metroriders 501-504, 518, 584-596 for Lines 2, 3, 5, 26 plus 8/A/9, 10, 53, 77, 167, 180/2 and Kirkham Roamer 7. 
    Metrorider 515 displays the attractive green and yellow Line 26 livery applied to six Metroriders in the autumn
Repaints continued with 122/125 outshopped in pool livery in September and attention then turned to Metroriders. 505-510 lost their Line 2 stickers to allow the 26 dedicated buses to be repainted with 511-516 treated in numerical order during September and October. Attention then turned to creating the minibus pool with 593 the first outshopped and back in use on 23 November. 501, 502 and 592 were also painted during November; 590/1/4/5 in December. Atlanteans took over four workings on the Line 2 to release such large volumes of minibuses for simultaneous repaint.

By the end of the year 3 Line 6, 7 Line 7, 6 Line 26 and 16 pool buses had received Metro livery (total 32).

Service changes
Minor changes to Metro services took place in July 2001 when the 3 and 4 had their evening/Sunday times retimed to use two buses each. Prior to this three Solos from Line 3 worked both routes, which would cause issues once Line branding had been applied, however running time was deemed insufficient and and the extra bus was allocated with Excels now working the Line 4 journeys. Also an extra bus was allocated to Line 5 in the evenings and on Sundays.
Line 5 was one of two routes to use the 15 strong Solo fleet. Here 273 heads through the Town Centre

A further tendered service commenced on 2 July 2001 with route 88 from Fleetwood to Lancaster via Knott End operating every 2 hours with 2 Metroriders allocated. Changes to the former Phoenix routes 10 and 53 took place on 5 November 2001 also affecting routes 8, 8A and 9. The new routes comprised:
  • 8 Manchester Square-Royal Oak-Highfield Road-Acre Gate-Welcome Inn, Mereside, Tesco, Preston New Road, Hospital, Plymouth Road, Warley Road to Claremont (Egerton Square)
  • 9 Mereside- Welcome Inn - Midgeland Rd-Lindale Gardens, Highfield Road, Bond St, Royal Oak, Waterloo Road, Oxford Square and as former 53 via Hospital to Poulton
  • 10 Mereside - Penrose Avenue-Watson Road - Waterloo Road - Oxford Square and as former 10 route to Hospital then Monday to Friday only to Pheasants Wood via Bispham and Cleveleys.
Hourly services were provided, the 8 used two buses reducing to one eves/Sundays on a shorter Manchester Square-Mereside Routes, while the 9, 10 and 180/2 shared 7 buses Monday to Friday and 6 on Saturdays. On Sundays the 9 and 10 ran Mereside-Royal Oak only sharing 2 buses.

City Sightseeing and Open Golf
The Nationwide City Sightseeing brand came to Blackpool in May with five open top Metrobuses (LAT501/2V, BOK72/5V, VRG415T) used on BT licenses but operated by Ensignbus. The tour started at the Tower and followed route 21 to Stanley Park and then onto the Zoo before running via Waterloo Road to South Pier and the Promenade to Pontins and back to the Tower. A 15 minute frequency was provided.

Metrobus 815 (VRG415T) operating the City Sightseeing Tour at Pleasure Beach

The Open Golf tournament took place at Royal Lytham in July which saw summer service 1 extended to the Golf Course and several park and ride services in use with various surplus Atlanteans reinstated. At the start of the year 441-444, 466/9, 475, 479/80/3, 487, 495 and 496 were in store. 442-444 returned to use in February while 475, 479, 483 and 495 returned to use in March to cover for shortages caused by the Metro Delta livery repaints. This left 441, 469, 480 and 487 in store as 466 and 496 were sold in April with 487 following in September.

479/83 returned to store in May but returned to use in June with 441, 469 and 480 returning to use for the July Golf services. Several returned to store for the summer holidays but all returned to use in September and other than the Christmas holidays, all were in use at the end of the year.

Olympians 365-367 had also started the year in store with 365/7 returning to use in February and 366 in March. Metroriders 586/7 both returned to use in January 2001 after a period of storage with 585 placed in store between February and April. All remained active at the end of 2011.