Sunday, 18 January 2015

Buses to the Caravan Park

Fylde's "Baby Blues" minibuses were the first services buses to operate into the Marton Mere Park in 1988. Here in 1990 Renault 115 departs for Blackpool (Brian Turner)
In 1988 as part of its expansion in competition with Blackpool Transport, Fylde Transport introduced a number of new minibuses services in Blackpool. In June 1988 it started "Fastlink 1" - a direct service from Blackpool to Mereside via Park Road and Preston New Road.  It ran every 20 minutes with two journeys per hour into Mereside estate and one (service 1A) running to Marton Mere Caravan Park. Prior to this the par was only served by Ribble service 158 which passed by hourly o Mythop Road - though residents could walk up to the Clifton Arms and enjoy the hourly 154 too.

The Fastlink routes changed in August 1988 with new service F4 running from Town Centre to Marton Mere via Whitegate Drive and Great Marton every 30 minutes with an hourly evening service added and Sunday service. With the park closed for the winter the F4 terminus moved to Mereside estate. Seasonal operation resumed from 1989 but under number 44. 

From March 1990 route 33 (the former F1, but now via Newhouse Road not Preston New Road) became the Caravan Park service - now operating every 20 minutes. The evening and Sunday service became the X44 via Whitegate Drive and Preston New Road - every 45 minutes. This lasted just a few months as in May 1990 the 33 was diverted to the new Mereside Tesco and a new daytime X33 via Park Road and Preston New Road serving Marton Mere every 20 minutes. The X44 continued unchanged. If this is hard to follow see "Line 4 Baby Blue to Cadbury Blue"

For 1991 it was the 33 which served Marton Mere and this now became a year round operation. Evening and Sunday saw circulars 333/444 run Gynn Square to Marton Mere every 30 minutes. May 1992 saw the route split into 33A/33B with the latter serving Marton Mere every 30 minutes. March 1993 saw a further recast, the 33A/B combined as 33 and the 44 split as 44A/B! The 44B now became the Marton Mere service again half hourly. It was extended cross town to Cleveleys in February 1994.

A second service was added from August 1996 when evening and Sunday journeys on service 23 (Staining to Tesco) was extended to Marton Mere on an hourly basis giving a link, albeit indirect, to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and South Pier.
The success of the Fylde minibus services was evident when they became the town's first low floor bus route. 8 early production Optare Excels were purchased for the 44A/B in 1996 just as Fylde was absorbed by its new parent Blackpool Transport. They proved troublesome a demonstrators regularly appeared on loan while Optare tried to rectify problems under warranty.  In September 1998, P447SWX departs for Cleveleys (Brian Turner)

A period of stability then ensured, until year round operation ended with the closure of the park for the winter in November 1999. This ended the 23, 44B and 333/444 era.
Route 20, from 2000, solved two problems. Firstly it served the Promenade, improving access to the main tourist destinations, and seconly provided extra capacity. At times, especially on Sunday, the previous routes could struggle with peak loadings. Atlantean 349 leaves the camp in August 2000 (Brian Turner)
April 2000 saw a brand new route introduced with summer only service 20 from Marton Mere via Preston New Road, Waterloo Road, Station Road to South Pier and then Promenade to Blackpool Town Centre. This used two double deckers - usually Atlanteans.  The 20 continued with minor changes each summer until 2006 when it was extended to Blackpool Zoo via Stanley Park and Model Village replacing service 21. 
Despite being a seasonal service, the 20 did not escape the Metro route branding. From 2004 it gained this lilac identity with three ex Trent Olympians painted (401-403). Sister bus 404 joined the roster for the 2006 season following an extension to Blackpool Zoo. City Sightseeing open toppers took over for the 2007 - 2010 seasons (Brian Turner).

This lasted one season, a complete revision took place from 2007. Buses now ran from Marton Mere along Preston New Road but then served the Model Village, Zoo, Stanley Park and Blackpool Town Centre then via the Promenade right through to Pontins Holiday Camp. The service became the City Sightseeing operation using Leyland Olympian open toppers - and this continued until the end of the 2010 season.

2011 and 2012 saw the 20 operate Marton Mere to Town Centre only, in 2013 it once again continued along the Promenade though only to Pleasure Beach, but this was dropped for 2014 again. For 2013 five Optare Solos received a dedicated livery promoting the 20 as the "Resort Hopper Bus" reflecting a new resort wide tourism pass, however they proved to be hopelessly inadequate capacity wise and after a brief use, the standard Tridents or DAFs resumed. 

Change here for Tesco: Town Centre redevelopment work caused disruption to most serves between February and August 2009. This included Line 15 (Poulton to Tesco) which passed Marton Mere on Mythop Road  and for the duration it turned short at Marton Mere to give more running time so as to cope with the Town Centre diversions. Service 4 was terminated in Great Marton so a shuttle service numbered 4A ran from Stanley School to Tesco via Marton Mere. Here Solo 264 on the shuttle overtakes 513 on the access road to Marton Mere (Brian Turner)

The East Lancs Olympians occasionally operated the 20. Here is 369 newly painted into Metro pool black and yellow. The dark appearance on this soon prompted some additional yellow and red stripes on the front.  (Brian Turner)

2004 saw an Indian Summer (well Spring) for the remaining ex Fylde Atlanteans which were normally used on school services. Here 27 year old 471 loads on the 20 on 8 May 2004 - three weeks before it was withdrawn. (Paul Turner)

A somewhat scruffy 471 turns onto Mythop Road, note the direction sign for services 33 and 444 on the lamppost - a legacy of the Fylde services of the 1990s. (Paul Turner)
The seven Olympians bought from Lancashire United with their Blackpool school operation in 2007 were sought after buses by enthusiasts as they rarely worked local routes. The six Lothian buses began to appear on the 20 in 2010/1, but new to London 411 seemed to be very elusive - this appearance on 25 July 2011 was quite rare
Having failed to locate a photo of an open topper at Marton Mere - here is 818 at Town Hall awaiting departure on an early season working to Marton Mere in May 2008 (Brian Turner)

This is new to Lothian Buses 414 departing from Marton Mere in July 2011 (Brian Turner)