Friday, 27 April 2012

The Metro Years: 2004

April 2004 and new Solo 252 shows off the red and yellow Line 5 livery with Olympian 372 bring up the rear in Line 11 colours
The improved financial performance of the network justified increased investment for 2003/4. May 2003 had seen the arrival of 9 new Dennis Tridents but a second order for 12 Optare Solos was placed in the autumn to arrive before the end of the financial year. This meant that the 2004 order was reduced to just six Tridents. The Solos were split between Line 5 (249-257) in red and yellow and Line 3 (258-260) and were the first ordered with the new Cummins ISB engine option and the first 9.5m examples for Blackpool.

Delta 126 passes newly repainted Excel 215 on Line 7 in Lytham in April 2004 during the relatively brief period when both types could be seen together
An elaborate cascade plan was put in place. Nine of the new 33 seat Solos arrived in February/March in red and yellow for Line 5 as 249-257 and they entered service on 21/22 March 2004. As a result 40 seat Excels 210-218 were placed into temporary store but repaints commenced immediately with 211/5 launching Excel operation onto Line 7 with 210/2-4/6/7 following progressively by August. 218 also received pool livery in June as spare for Excels on the 7 and Tridents on the 14.

Deltas 119, 122 and 126 lined up in Line 11 livery on Starr Gate car park, used as a temporary parking area during the bus depot open day in September 2004. The car park is now the site of the new tram depot
The Excels released the 46 seat Line 7 Deltas with 118 moving onto Line 6 in March to make 10 branded buses for that service while between April and June 119, 125-129 received Line 11 colours. Here they replaced Olympians 368-373/5 which received black and yellow pool livery in May and June and - with the new Tridents allowed the withdrawal of Atlanteans 443-5, 471-475.
Olympian 369 freshly outshopped in pool livery shortly before its dark front appearance was livened by red and yellow strips around the destination display to make the bus more visible at night. The more modern vehicles in pool livery benefited from more powerful interior lighting
Metroriders 587-590 were also withdrawn in May/June joining 584-586 in store. The Line 3 Solos and a new Solo purchased by Lancashire County Council for the Kirkham Roamer (285) replaced these. All Metroriders would be reinstated later in the year.
Fresh out of the box,  newly delivered Trident 319 awaits branding and entry into service in May
The six Tridents arrived in May and 319 - in black/yellow entered service first, followed by the squadron launch of 322-327 onto Line 11 on 29 May. 320/1 were left blank with plans to fill them with two more pool liveried buses eventually dropped.

Also leaving the fleet, but unexpectedly, was Delta 131 which was badly damaged by an engine fire at St. Annes Square on 18 May. Also taken out of use was Metrorider 511 with severe accident damage sustained on Normoss Avenue on 8 October - it would be almost two years before it returned to use.

November saw Atlanteans 350/1 laid up and the year ended with the arrival of three Optare Excels bought from Go North East which would become 219 to 221.

Services Changes
As already noted 21 March saw the conversion of Line 5 from Excel to Solo while 19 April saw the first Excels enter service on Line 7 progressively replacing Deltas. 3 May saw the 7 extended to Saltcotes Road, while the 11 was retimed to save one vehicle (now 21 buses) and the Sunday short workings on the 14 from Fleetwood to Blackpool were extended to Rigby Road.
The new era on Line 7 as Excel 211 shows off its new livery

27 September saw the 11 regain its 22nd bus with the daytime terminus in Lytham move from Saltcotes Road to Lytham Hospital, except for some peak journeys which still ran to the former terminus. October/November saw tendered services 158 and 167 renumbered 58 and 68 to reflect the main Stagecoach services on these corridors.

1 November saw route 7 diverted via Mythop Road on the way to Saltcotes Road but still serve Lytham Hospital on its way back. On 22nd November route 2 journeys to Thornton were extended to Cleveleys picking up the former 2A route which was now truncated to run to Poulton. Route 5 was withdrawn between Hospital and Staining but in the evenings and on Sundays buses continued the short distance from Halfway House to Blackpool Airport.
In the pink - rescued from storage, 585 shows its  pink and yellow scheme for the new Line 15 at Tesco
Staining was now served by new Line 15 developed in partnership with Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Tesco. It started at Tesco and ran via Mythop Road, Staining, Newton Drive, Hospital, Town Centre, Dickson Road, Warbreck Drive, Bispham, College, Norcross and Castle Gardens to Poulton. A half hourly service was provided over the full route during the day using four buses. Evening and Sunday journeys ran Tesco to Bispham until 2100 with three buses and after 2100 from Staining to Gynn using two buses. Stored Metroriders 584-587 were reactivated and painted into the new pink and yellow livery. 588-590 also returned to use in October/November.

2 December 2004 saw the introduction of experimental night bus services L81 to L83 under the "L8 bus" (late bus) brand. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning three Olympians would depart Corporation Street at 0030, 0130 and 0230 with the L81 running to Cleveleys over the 11 route; L82 running to Grange Park over the 6 route (but the opposite direction round the loop) then via Carelton, Castle Gardens, Poulton and Highcross Avenue to the Highcross pub; L83 followed the 2 via Whitegate Drive to Waterloo Hotel, St. Annes Road, Highfield Road, Ansdell Road, Daggers Hall Lane and Line 6 to Mereside. Buses stopped to drop off only and tickets were sold at specially installed at stop machines on Corporation Street.

Lilac was the new colour scheme for seasonal route 20 and 402 shows off the scheme to effect
Early repaints saw 406 lose Line 11 colours for Line 1 in January and sister 401 introduced the purple/yellow livery Line 20 livery in February - 402/3 joined it in June and July, while 405 received Line 1 orange in August and 404 followed in September, completing the repaints of the Olympians out of green and cream.

The Cadbury Blue scheme on Line 4 Solos is displayed by 266 which was partially painted out of Line 3 colours before the new Solos entered service
Line 4 repaints continued with 269 treated in January, while 265/6 were modified from Line 3 to Line 4 livery pending the arrival of 258-260. 272 completed the seven dedicated buses in December

Metrorider 596 was the first to receive the new pool livery  - the only repaint it received in its Blackpool career
March to July saw efforts focused on the move of buses between the 5, 7, 11 and pool livery, while minibus repaints resumed in October with 275/6, and 596 the first of the types to gain black/yellow pool livery. November saw 584-587 all lose Handybus colours for the vivid new pink  and yellow Line 15 colours. December saw Metroriders 501/2 receive Line 2 livery. 273 also gained pool livery and 274 was in progress at the end of the year, leaving just Metrorider 588 in the yellow based Handybus scheme - the black based scheme was last carried in service by 596.
Livery Breakdown

  • Line 1: 365-7, 404-410 (10)
  • Line 2: 501-510, 512-8 (17)
  • Line 3: 258-264 (7)
  • Line 4: 265-9, 271/2 (7)
  • Line 5: 249-257 (9)
  • Line 6: 108-110, 112-118 (10)
  • Line 7: 210-7 (8)
  • Line 11: 119, 122, 125-30/2/3, 322-7, 374, 376-79 (21)
  • Line 14: 301-16 (16)
  • Line 15: 584-7 (4)
  • Line 20: 401-3 (3)
  • Old Pool: 123/4, 589-595 (9).
  • New Pool: 218, 273-6, 317-9, 368-373, 375, 596  (16)

137 buses now carried Metro schemes with just one bus left in Handybus livery (588) and Deltas 101-7 and Atlanteans 352-364 the only examples left in green and cream.