Saturday, 27 February 2016

Can you help? Photo Request

I am currently researching the history of Ribble on the Fylde to mark the closure of the Fleetwood operations in April. I am, however, very short of photos and I wonder if readers would be able to help? I am keen to use photos from throughout the Ribble era (including Stagecoach) anywhere on the Fylde Coast including Fleetwood, Cleveleys, Thornton, Poulton, Kirkham, Lytham and Blackpool on a range of routes. I am reasonably OK for the last ten years or so. 

A further possible future post is about smaller operators. So photo submissions covering one time operators of local services would be welcome including:
  • ACE Travel 
  • Carriages
  • Easyway
  • Elite
  • Hampsons
  • Phoenix
  • Redline 
  • R&M Coaches
  • Town Bus
  • Waltons
  • Wingates 
  • Wigan Bus Company
If you are interested in supplying photos (you need to be copyright holder or have their permission) please get in touch either via Facebook or the contact form I have added on the home page.

Blackpool Transport School Services

Volvo Olympian 376 heads a line of three sisters at St Mary's School prior to working the 400 to Fleetwood. 374, 378 and 375 make up the quartet
November saw the opening of the new "Blackpool Aspire Academy" replacing both Collegiate and Bispham High Schools. The school is on the site of Collegiate school. At the end of December Blackpool Council withdraw the school services 410 (Mereside-Bispham High) and 420 (Boundary to Bispham High) that previously served the school. Former school services 411 (Marton-Collegiate) and 421 (Mereside-Bispham High) ended in December 2014 with the school merger and to the closure of the Collegiate site.

The expanded school and the cancelled school services has caused high demand for service 14 so Blackpool Transport has introduced a new school service 414 over the 14 route from the Town Centre with 3 departures from 0753 to 0813. At the end of the school day two buses are provided and based on recent observations one works as a 414 to Town Centre then works a further 414 journey back to Thornton Four Lane Ends via Sixth Form College and another bus works as a 14 duplicate through to Mereside.

The four school services to St Mary's School continue and are usually in the hands of the remaining Olympians:
  • 400 Fleetwood via Cleveleys, via 14 to West View, via 1 to Cleveleys, Anchorsholme Lane, North Drive, Warren Drive, Devonshire Road, Red Bank Road, Warbreck Drive, Warbreck Hill Road, Plymouth Road, St Walburgas Road to School.
  • 401 Lytham via South Park, Forest Drive, Ansdell Library, Church Road, St Annes Road East, St Davids Road North, Highbury Road, Kinhouse Lane, Queensway, Boundary, Hawes Side Lane, Waterloo Road, Park Road, Palatine Road, Whitegate Drive, Devonshire Road, Caunce Street, Layton Road, Westcliffe Drive and St Walburgas Road to School
  • 402 Mereside via Langdale Road, Cherry Tree Road North, Preston New Road, South Park Drive, West Park Drive, Forest Gate, Newton Drive, St Walburgas Road to School
  • 403 Halfway House via 7 to Tower, Promenade, Warley Road, Devonshire Road, Talbot Road, Westcliffe Drive and St Walburgas Road to School
The last Lancashire County Council contracts ended in April 2015 - 649 Kirkham-Lytham ended April 2015 and 840 Fleetwood-Preesall. This ends such operation after almost 30 years and the current schools operation is the smallest it has been. At a peak back in 1999 39 workings covered school services. Much of this work was taken over with the Fylde business and has since been taken over by smaller operators such as Archway, Bank View, Waltons and Bradshaws - with Preston Bus also having a small network.

Service Change Update

As part of their budget review Lancashire County Council allowed £2mn for 'parish buses' to replace tendered services. A lack of interest from Parishes in funding transport and much lobbying has prompted a rethink and the £2mn is now to be used to retain some of the at risk services. Notably a decision taken after operators had made some commercial arrangements for the better links. Details are not clear yet - and are subject to approval - but it is believed services 74 and 89 may be reprieved. This would address loss of service in Pheasants Wood and Little Thornton (74) and Over Wyre (89). 

Coastal Coaches
Route 78's extension to Poulton is confirmed as following route 76 via Elswick and Great Eccleston. Some journeys will extend to Sixth Form College

New service 77 is routed from St. Annes Square via St Davids Road, Heeley Road, Spring Gardens, Queensway, Hawes Side Lane, Highfield Road, Cherry Tree Road, Clifton Road, Tesco, Langdale Road, Kentmere Drive, Preston New Road, Oxford Square, Park Road, Condor Grove, Whitegate Drive, Newton Drive to Victoria Hospital. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

On Demonstration

Alexander Dennis Enviro 200MMC demonstrator YX65RLO has spent this week operating alongside the Citaros on service 5 - seen here on Whinney Heys Lane near Victoria Hospital on Friday (Paul Wigan)

From the Archives: 2 and 15 since deregulation

National 2 542 unloads at Bispham Hotel having arrived from Poulton on the extended 2A on 15 August 1987 (Brian Turner)
Deregulation on 26 October 1986 saw several changes to the Blackpool bus network to ensure it ran on a commercial footing. The Poulton and Staining routes 2, 2A, 15, 15A and 15B were revised with most journeys running across Blackpool to Bispham replacing the Bispham circulars 7/7A.

The 15A and 15B variants were discontinued - except for a single Sunday morning 15A from Bispham to Victoria Hospital which managed to last until the Metro era! Along Newton Drive a basic 15 minute frequency was provided from the Town Centre to Staining Road with the 2 running to Poulton via Hardhorn every 30 minutes; the 2A to Poulton via Highcross hourly and the 15 to Staining also hourly.

Between Blackpool and Bispham the 2 ran via Talbot Road, Devonshire Road and Red Bank Road to terminate at Bispham Hotel (though buses ran onto Cavendish Road to turn). The 2A and 15 ran via Dickson Road, Gynn Square, Warbreck Drive and Red Bank Road to Bispham Library where they turned on the roundabout. They made a 15 minute frequency with service 3 (Mereside to Bispham) over this section. The resulting services were:
  • 2 Poulton - Hardhorn - Newton Drive - Town Centre - Devonshire Road - Bispham Hotel every 30 minutes using 3 double deckers
  • 2A Poulton - Highcross Road - Newton Drive - Town Centre - Gynn Square - Bispham Library every 60 minutes sharing 3 single deckers with the 15
  • 15 Staining - Newton Drive - Hospital - Town Centre - Gynn Square - Bispham Library every 60 minutes sharing 3 single deckers with the 2A.
In the evening Blackpool used two buses to provide an hourly service 2A from Poulton to Bispham where buses continued back to Blackpool as service 2, terminating at the Bus Station. Lancashire County Council chose to buy back several services which had dropped below previous levels and awarded contracts to Fylde Borough Transport to run:
  • 2 Bus Station to Poulton every hour Monday to Saturday evenings only
  • 7/7A Blackpool to Bispham Circulars, each every hour Monday to Saturday evenings only
  • 15 Blackpool to Staining every hour Monday to Saturday morning peak, afternoon peak, evenings and on Sundays. 

Fylde RE 37 works a tendered journey on the 15 to Staining in 1989 shortly before a repaint into the new livery, having lost the lettering on its former Blue Bus Rambler allover advert
 This resulted in a 20 minute evening and 30 minute Sunday service along Newton Drive; a near 30 minute peak frequency to/from Staining and a near 30 minute evening service to Bispham via both Warbreck Drive and Devonshire Road.

The service pattern became quite stable with only minor tweaks. Most notable was the re-routing of the 15 to regain its former route via Warbreck Hill Road and Bispham Road to Bispham Library from July 1987. Route 2A was also now interworked with the 180/182 from Poulton to Preston - five single deckers (usually Nationals) were now deployed on a five hour cycle which worked a 15 to Staining and back, a 2A to Poulton, a round trip to Preston and then back to Bispham as a 2A.

In November 1987 Fylde introduced commercial daytime services on the 2 (Blackpool to Poulton) and 15 (Blackpool to Staining) running 3 to 5 minutes in front of a Blackpool 2 and six minutes in front of their 15. Initially they ran from the Bus Station, but from June the terminus moved to Market Street, and in November 1988 again moved to Abingdon Street. The 2s were reduced to school holidays and Saturdays only from May and the commercial services ended on 15th April 1989. Blackpool took over the evening and Sunday 15s in October 1989, with the peak workings and evening 2s withdrawn without replacement. This ended Fylde's presence on the corridor - for now.

The 7/7A evening services was taken over by Blackpool Transport on 4 January and in December 1988 a new daytime minibus service was started on the routes on a 15 minute frequency as a response to competition from Fylde's 11, 11A and 11B and the evening service ended in 1989. Blackpool later improved the 7/7A to replace the 3 and it became apparent that the Bispham end of the 2/2A was no longer necessary.  

Delta 104 heads for Poulton on Abingdon Street in September 1991 (Donald MacRae)
As a result on 10 June 1991, the 2/2A were revised to provide a 20 minute frequency service between Blackpool and Poulton only with one bus per hour via the 2A route. 5 single deckers were now used as the routes remained interworked with the 180/2. Deltas were now the usual allocation. The 15 was extended from Bispham via All Hallows Road, Fleetwood Road, Cleveleys Victoria Square to a new Safeway Store off Victoria Road West in Cleveleys. 2 buses were used - again normally Deltas. The 2A ran hourly evenings/Sundays as did the 15 but only from Staining to Bus Station as before.
30 March 1992 saw a reallocation of the company's minibus fleet and the Poulton service was doubled to every 10 minutes. Five out of the six hourly departures ran via Highcross Road as the 2A and used City Pacers (5 required) while the sixth ran as a 2 via Hardhorn and was linked to the 180/2 to Preston using three Deltas. The evening 2A continued using 1 minibus. The 15 was also converted to minibuses. For the first time the 2/2A now ventured to the Hospital, making the diversion off Newton Drive to get passengers much closer to this obvious traffic objective.

City Pacer 577 heads down Church Street from Devonshire Squire on a Poulton to Bispham 2 working, passing a Dart demonstrator on the 26 in 1998. (Brian Turner)
The contract for the evening and Sunday services on the 15 passed to Fylde in April 1992 and later in the year Fylde also won a contract for the first 2 from Poulton at 0730 Mondays to Fridays. October 1992 saw the 180/2 end and the 2 workings now became minibus operated. Single deckers took over the 15 in January 1993 but in April the service was curtailed to Gynn Square.

November 1994 saw a major recast of the Blackpool and Fylde networks as Blackpool now owned the latter. Changes saw the 2/2A and 7/7A merged as they had been eight years earlier. A 7/8 minute service was introduced with six buses per hour via Highcross (as 2A or 2B) and two via Hardhorn (as 2). From Blackpool (Odeon Cinema) the 2 and 2B ran every 15 minutes via Claremont, Devonshire Road, Red Bank Road, Warbreck Drive, Gynn Square and Claremont back to the Bus Station and onto Poulton. The 2A ran every 15 minutes in the opposite direction. Evening and Sunday buses ran every 30 minutes alternating between the 2A and 2B. 11 City Pacers were used, though reliability problems saw a 12th soon added.

The 15 continued, though the Gynn to Blackpool section was withdrawn. Fylde retained the evening service and the early morning 0730 trip. However with such a high frequency on Newton Drive, the 15 was becoming less popular and Blackpool withdrew the service in April 1995 with Fylde winning a contract for a replacement daytime service to maintain links to Staining. This was only a temporary measure as independent Town Bus took over in April 1995 using ex London and West Midlands Fleetlines amongst others. This too was short lived as Fylde registered the daytime 15s commercially in April - throughout this episode it retained the contracted evening/Sunday operations.

The 15 was finally withdrawn in August 1996 as services 23/23A were extended from Victoria Hospital to provide a half hourly service to Staining with the same resources as deployed on the hourly 15. April 1998 saw the 2 reduced to every 10 minutes with alternate buses over the 2 and 2A route but the evening/Sunday service was increased to every 15 minutes - this time with alternate 2A and 2B workings as Hardhorn was not served. Nine minibuses were required (six evenings/Sundays) and Metroriders were now common.

The evening/Sunday service dropped back to half hourly in May 2000 but the Metro network saw a complete revision. The Bispham link ended again and the all buses now ran over the former 2A route via Highcross but showed service 2. A 10 minute daytime service and 30 minute evening service ran from Blackpool to Poulton. Metroriders continued to feature, but Double Deckers took over some of the daytime only buses from September as the minibus fleet underwent a major repaint programme into Metro liveries. Hardhorn was served by an off peak tendered service 52/54 (Poulton-Hardhorn-Hospital-Carleton-Poulton) run by an independent.

508 in the Line 2 Metrorider era in 2004 waiting time on a Cleveleys working at Poulton Church (Brian Turner)
8 April 2002 saw the 2 extended over the 26 route to South Pier and the evening/Sunday service increased to every 20 minutes. Three weeks later, one bus per hour was diverted via Hardhorn Road (ironically as 2A) to replace the 52/54 and was also extended to Cleveleys via Carelton, Thornton and Pheasants Wood. Every hour one bus was extended from South Pier to Mereside alternately as a 2B or 2C via different routes in South Shore, though these were quickly replaced by extending the 2A over a consolidated route.

There then followed a period of expansion by extending the 2 over several legs, often replacing other operators services:
  • 6 January 2003 - 2 buses per hour extended from South Pier to Lytham Square incorporating Blackpool's 77 St. Annes Roamer (16 buses needed)
  • October 2003 - 1 evening bus per hour linked to tendered service 88 (Poulton to Cleveleys
  • November 2003 - Lytham to Poulton workings extended to Thornton (Hillylaid Crossing) to replace Stagecoach 167/8 workings (17 buses needed)
  • November 2004 - Thornton workings extended to Cleveleys but 2A curtailed at Poulton (still 17 buses)
  • 30 October 2005 - two buses per hour (one evenings/Sundays) extended Poulton to Knott End as service 2C replacing Stagecoach 85
  • 5 December 2005 - 2A withdrawn (10 replaces in South Shore) with 2C workings now serving Hardhorn instead
  • 4 September 2006 - Cleveleys-Lytham workings extend to Wesham replacing Kirkham Roamer 70 (20 buses needed)
  • June 2007 - evening 88 incorporated into 2 route (one bus per hour each to Poulton, Cleveleys, Knott End)
  • July 2009 - one Sunday bus per hour extended to Cleveleys as per evening service
Meanwhile on 22 November 2004 service 15 resumed. Funding from Blackpool Council, Lancashire County Council and Tesco saw the new service run from Poulton via Castle Gardens, Norcross, Bispham College, Bispham, Warbreck Drive, Dickson Road, Town Centre, Hospital, Staining and Mythop Road to Mereside Tesco. This reinstated the Bispham to Hospital link, replaced the 5 to Staining (which had itself replaced the 23/23A) and provided new links to the expanded Tesco store. A half hourly service was provided using 4 minibuses, though in the evening and on Sunday this dropped to three as the service terminated at Bispham and the late evening service ran Gynn Square to Staining only.

Excel 226 passing through St John Square on the 2C, while still in Line 7 livery (Brian Turner)
September 2009 saw the end of the Tesco funding so the 15 was cut back to Staining using the time released to extend running times and improve reliability. The late evening buses now ran Staining to Blackpool only. Daytime trips to Poulton now served Faraday Way and Kincraig Avenue between Norcross and the College. At the same time route 2 was reduced to every 15 minutes over the South Pier to Poulton section and the Cleveleys journeys were withdrawn completely. Buses now ran Wesham to Lytham or South Pier to Knott End and 14 buses were now needed. The Hardhorn section was withdrawn completely in February 2010 and further changes in July 2010 saw the South Pier to Blackpool section withdrawn.

The 15 was diverted via Grange Road and Layton in February 2010 and again via Newton Drive and Devonshire Road in July 2010. February 2010 saw the evening service reduced to hourly (Blackpool to Staining only) It has since lost its evening service completely (May 2011) and its Sunday service has been reduced to hourly (Bispham to Staining)

The 2 has also seen minor reductions in service but October 2011 saw the 2C diverted away from Highcross Road and Newton Drive as it now runs via Blackpool Old Road, Collegiate School and Grange Park between Poulton and Hospital. Seven buses are still required normally five minibuses, one Trident and a single decker (Excel or Volvo) with the bigger buses intended for school time workings - though both stay out to provide two of the three evening workings.

Service 15 was axed again after service on 21 July 2012. From the following day service 2 was diverted to work a double run to/from Staining, restoring evening buses in the process. This arrangement lasted until 27 June 2015 when the 2 itself was axed after continuous operation since 1927. It was replaced by the 12/13 Northern Circulars. From April 2016 the 12/13 will end with routes 10/17 covering the erstwhile 2 route from Blackpool to Poulton and Staining served by revised Southern Circulars 15 and 16 - bringing back the former 15 number to Staining once more. Service 2C continues to run Blackpool to Knott End but with a reduced evening service from April 2016.

Metro Buses
When the Metro network was launched the 2 was given a black and yellow identity. Metroriders 505-510 received Line 2 stickers in July 2010, but these were soon removed as up to four Atlanteans would appear from September to release minibuses for repainting in route branded liveries. The merger of the 2 and 26 in April 2002 saw Line 2 adopt the light green colour of the 26, before any buses had received the black route livery. This was later adopted for pool buses. 511-516 were the six buses allocated to the 26 and this immediately received Line 2 branding. Sisters 504-510 were treated between May and August 2002 with 517 following in December making 14 buses for the 16 workings from January 2003.

As the route expanded several more Metroriders were repainted:
  • 518 March 2003
  • 503 December 2003 (for Thornton extension)
  • 502 November 2004 (to replace 511 which was out of use for nearly two years with accident damage)
  • 501 December 2004 (total 17 buses for 17 workings)
  • 595 November 2005 (for Knott End)
  • (511 returned Aug 2006 after repaint in March) 
The Solo era started in June 2006 when 249 was painted out of Line 5 red to provide a larger capacity bus for particular workings and 285 followed in August. This had been the dedicated bus supplied by Lancashire County Council for the Kirkham Roamer which was now merged into the 2.

Solo 281 on Newton Drive during 2008. (Brian Turner)
Further Solos entered service in June/July 2007 when 279, 281-284 were transferred from the Lifestyle Line. These replaced 514-517 which were repainted into the pink Line 15 colours and replaced 584-587 which had been so attired since the route stated in 2004. 518 had also been painted into Line 10 colours earlier in the year. There were now seven Solos and 14 Metroriders in Line 2 colours. May 2008 saw the first new Solo to arrive in Line 2 colours as 247 and this replaced 595, while 240-246 arrived in May 2009 replacing 501/2/4/5/7 while 513 had moved to Line 15 earlier in the year after 516 had been withdrawn.

585 shortly before withdrawal in 2007 on the rural section of the 15 from Staining towards Tesco (Brian Turner)
The September 2009 services reduced the requirement to 14 buses and the service now became mainly Solo operated. 240-247 were joined by fellow long Solos 286/7, 294 from Lines 3 and 16 and these allowed 279/81-83 to receive pool livery with 249, 284 and 285 making up the 14 buses as Metroriders 506, 508-512 were withdrawn.

December 2007 and 353 works the regular double deck duty on the 2C to Knott End (Brian Turner)
From 2006 a double decker was allocated to the 0742 2C from Knott End as this experienced heavy loadings at school times and had outgrown 33 seat Solo 249 which was the regular bus. Initially it was swapped for a Metrorider in the Town Centre or at South Pier but this soon ceased and the bus would stay out all day - a duty which included a return trip on the 88 to Poulton. Atlanteans were commonly used, though Deltas became common as the Atlanteans were withdrawn. Since 2010 a mixture of vehicles have been used, with double deckers, single deckers and Solos all in operation.

From the Archives: Routes 2 and 15 1920s to the 1980s

Abingdon Street Bus Stop shows services 2, 2A, 15, 15A and 15C - all (with the 15B) part of the complex group of services which ran along Newton Drive (Brian Turner)
Part of Blackpool's bus network originated in private hands with William Smith running buses to Bispham, Poulton and in Fleetwood and South Shore. The routes started in the 1920s and included a bus from Talbot Mews Bus Station via Newton Drive to the Plough Inn at Staining from October 1923. This was later extended to Hardhorn and Poulton.

Smith sold out to Blackpool Council (as Smith was a Blackpool Councillor, today this move would probably be controversial!) and BCT progressively absorbed his services. The Poulton via Staining route became BCT route 2 from April 1927 but in September was split to provide two basic hourly services along Newton Drive to Staining Road End with route 2 continuing along Normoss Road, Longhouse Lane and Hardhorn Road to Poulton Market Square and the 15 taking Staining Road End to the Plough. 

For about a year in 1933/4 the 2 became a circular, linked across Poulton with route 1 via Castle Gardens and Carleton to Blackpool. A minor route change saw buses leave the Bus Station via Talbot Road, Abingdon Street and Church St rather than the more direct Cookson Street. Route 2 appeared to have the higher profile and surviving accident records show new Leyland Tigers 102-113 as regulars on the 2 in 1935, while the 15 typically used 1928 vintage Lions 55 to 66.

From October 1936 extra short workings ran from Blackpool Bus Station to the brand new Victoria Hospital via Newton Drive displaying route 15A. Neither the 2 or 15 ventured off Newton Drive to the Hospital entrance. This used double deckers from the start and was soon extended from the Bus Station to Layton Station via Dickson Road and Warbreck Hill Road giving a cross town link to the Hospital. From June 1938 a second extra service, the 15B started running as far as Staining Road End and this made a ten minute service over the common sections with the 2 and 15. The 15A evolved as a separate service, though the section to Layton was dropped for the war.

PD2 334 approaches Talbot Road Bus Station to work a 15B working to Staining Road End in 1967 (Brian Turner)
Double deckers were first introduced to the 2 and 15 in 1940 and 1942 saw the reversing point for the 15A at the Hospital gates replaced by a loop via Whinney Heys Road and Whinpark Avenue that is still followed by service buses today. Yet another service variation - the 2A - started in 1947 providing a winter service over route 2 as far as Hardhorn Road corner. With a variety of service numbers and individual timetables which didn't draw attention to the combined headway achieved along Newton Drive - the service pattern was never particularly clear to the casual observer. Analysis of the 1953 timetable reveals the following.

  • A 10 minute frequency from Bus Station to Staining Road End (just beyond the Borough Boundary) as services 2, 15 and 15B.
  • Service 2 continued every 40 minutes to Poulton via Hardhorn (into what is now Wyre Borough)
  • Service 15 turned right every 40 minutes onto Staining Road to Staining Village (in what is now Fylde Borough)
  • Service 15B terminated at Staining Road End every 20 minutes, buses reversing into Dobson Road to turn round.
  • On Summer afternoons and evenings the 2 was increase to every 20 minutes, with the extra trips running in tandem with the 15s over the common section.
  • In the winter an extra 40 minute service ran as the 2A as far as Hardhorn Corner from 1200 to 1900 Monday to Friday and 1000 to 1900 on Saturdays with two extra evening journeys.
On top of all this route 15A ran every 12 minutes from Layton to the Hospital in the winter and every 10 in the summer. The table below shows the afternoon departure pattern from Talbot Road in place in the late 1950s. A basic 5 minute summer service ran formed with either a 2 or 15B between each 15A. The 15 workings ran in tandem with the 2. Winter headways were at least every 10 minutes but with at least 12 per hour but much less even than in the winter.

Winter 58/9Summer 59
13:1115BStaining Rd End13:1115BStaining Rd End
13:3115BStaining Rd End13:3115BStaining Rd End
13:5115BStaining Rd End13:5115BStaining Rd End
Staining Rd End
Staining Rd End
14:3115BStaining Rd End14:3115BStaining Rd End
14:5115BStaining Rd End14:5115BStaining Rd End

Minor changes saw an extension of route 15 from Staining Plough to the new Whalley Estate where the buses reversed into Bibby Drive. 1955 saw the 15A extended from Layton Station to Bispham Tram Depot via Bispham Road and Red Bank Road and it was increased to every 10 minutes for most of the day in the summer but still ran every 12 minutes in the winter.

An unusual operation in Summer 1956 was service 1A which ran from Castle Gardens over the 1 and 14 route to Blackpool and then via route 2 to Poulton running every 40 minutes to make a 20 minute frequency to Poulton with service 2 (which remained every 40 minutes). From 1957 the previous pattern with service 2 running every 20 minutes in the summer resumed.

13 August 1983: An elderly clientele clambers aboard Lancet 599 at Poulton Church (Brian Turner)
Also by 1956 a summer special service 15C was in operation linking Blackpool with the Newton Hall Holiday Camp on Staining Road. This did not appear in public timetables and is believed to run on a limited basis. 

The winter service 2A ended after 1959 and the 2 was increase to every 20 minutes from 1200 (1000 on Saturdays). Cut backs began in the 1960s with a reduction in evening and Sunday services from 1963. Residential developments in Poulton and Staining encouraged a simplification and enhancements of the 2 and 15. By Winter 1964 the 2 and 15 provided a 20 minute frequency from 1200-1900 (Winter M-F) and 1000-1900 (Sat and summer Mon-Fri) with a 40 minute service at other times. The 15B now provided a handful of morning trips to supplement the lower frequency of the 2 and 15 and by the end of the decade was no longer listed as a separate route but was still displayed on the bus blinds. 5 buses were required. The 15A was cut back in frequency during the late 1960s with a 12 minute summer and 20 minute winter frequency in place.

In February 1982 the 15/15A were revised again. The 15A no longer served the Zoo - its off peak journeys were diverted to Grange Park Estate (giving a link from there to the Hospital) showing 15B while peak journeys were extended to Staining to replace the short 15 journeys. The sole difference between the 15 and 15A was that only the latter served the Hospital.
Route 15B ran from 1982-1986 providing an off peak link from Grange Park to Victoria Hospital and onto Blackpool and Bispham. 353 runs through Grange Park in 1986. (Brian Turner)
The 2/2A continued on its 20/30 minute frequency, but the enhanced service was cut back to start at 1515 meaning only four round trips along Highcross Avenue.
National 548 leaves Poulton for Blackpool on route 2 in 1986 (Brian Turner)
Deregulation in 1986 saw a simplification of the pattern with the 2 and 15 co-ordinated once more to make a 15 minute service along Newton Drive (2 every 30 minutes, 2A every hour and 15 every hour) with all buses continuing to Bispham via Devonshire Road (2) or Warbreck Drive (2A/15) replacing routes 7/7A (Bispham Circular). Evening/Sunday services ran every hour as 2A Poulton to Bispham and 2 Blackpool to Bispham only). Extra 2 (Poulton to Blackpool) evening services were provided under contract to Lancashire County Council by Fylde who also ran peak and evening/Sunday journeys on the 15.

Swift 580 leaves Talbot Road Bus Station on route 2A one afternoon in April 1980 (Brian Turner)
21 December 1971 saw route 15A converted to OPO AEC Swifts which terminated at Bispham Clinic rather than the former Tram Depot, but were later extended to terminate at Warbreck Drive/Cavendish Road where buses turned in a triangular junction layout. The 15A now ran every 20 minutes (days) and 30 mins evenings but in the summer extra buses ran every 20 minutes from Hospital to Cornwall Place (near Gynn Square) on weekdays to make a 10 minute service while the Sunday service was doubled to every 15 minutes. The Winter 1971 timetable also saw some weekday afternoon journeys on route 2 diverted via Highcross Road instead of Longhouse Lane passing Baines School. These ran every 40 minutes from 1200-1840.  
February 1973 saw the Sunday 2 and 15 reduced to every 48 minutes so they could be operated with one bus each and summer 1973 saw the extra short 15A workings continue to Antrim Road (turning via Warbreck Hill Road/Devonshire Road roundabout). From the winter the 15A dropped to every 24 minutes (3 buses) on weekdays and the even more unusual 36 minute headway evenings and Sundays. 

6 May 1974 saw the 2 and 15 converted to OMO as the 15 could now turn via the Nook near Staining Plough - depriving Whalley Estate of its bus service until c1975 when Fylde council completed the construction of the present turning circle near Bibby Drive. Route 2 now ran every 20 minutes in the morning peak and afternoon (one per hour as 2A); every 30 minutes from 9am to 12 noon and again in the evening with a 60 minute Sunday service. The 15 ran 2-3 times per hour in the morning peak, every hour 0900-1200 and every 30 minutes until 1900 then hourly evenings and Sundays. This meant there was now no co-ordination between the 2 and 15 along Newton Drive.

The 2 was a common test bed for demonstrators - here Ipswich Dennis Falcon loads alongside one of Blackpool's traditional bus shelters on Newton Drive. (Brian Turner)
1977 saw route 15A reduced to every 30 minutes (45 Sundays and no evening service) and it was extended the short distance from Victoria Hospital to Blackpool Zoo. One way systems affected the services with outbound routes diverted via Caunce Street and Grosvenor Street in Blackpool in 1976 while Poulton Square was pedestrianised in the 1970s.

January 1980 saw a merger of routes 15 and 15A which now provided a standard 30 minute frequency service from Cavendish Road (Bispham) to Newton Drive with one per hour to Staining as service 15 and one per hour to the Hospital and Zoo as 15A. Some extra peak hour Blackpool to Staining runs were provided. Atlanteans were usually used, while the 2 retain its single deckers.
Atlantean 336 at the Cavendish Road terminus of the 15/15A in 1980 (Brian Turner)

From the Archives: Blackpool and the Routemaster

Five Routemasters ran in London livery and here is 523 having received the minimum necessary preparation for service, without repaint,or destination blinds. It is seen here at St John's Church working a 5 to Grange Park (Brian Turner)

Towards the end of 1985 Blackpool Transport surprised many by announcing the trial of a London Transport AEC Routemaster with a few to purchasing six as part of its post deregulation strategy. Blackpool's actions followed those of Clydeside Scottish who had tried a Routemaster in 1985 prior to introducing a large fleet on services in Greater Glasgow ahead of deregulation. Sister business Kelvin Scottish did likewise as did Stagecoach - then a small independent operating in Perth.

RM1583 travelled up from London Bus Sales at Fulwell to Blackpool on 6 January 1986 and after an inspection entered service on routes 5 and 5A (Halfway House to Grange Park) two days later. It retained faded London Buses livery, a symptom of storage since July 1984. It was allocated number 500 which was reserved for demonstrators. It duly impressed and was purchased as the first of a batch of six and allocated number 521. Mid April saw it enter the paint shop for repaint into the 1930s lined red and white livery used on PD3 507 to commemorate the tramway centenary. This was adopted for the Routemasters, rather than the standard green and off-white livery and accentuated their age. An idea of how they may have looked in fleet livery is available on this flickr page.

RM1650 waits at Easington Crescent terminus on routes 5/5A. Destination and fleet numbers are displayed in the cab windscreen (Brian Turner)
The batch featured Leyland O.600 engines - compatible with Blackpool's PD3s but non standard for London as most of its Routemasters had AEC engines with around 400 having Leylands and these were early candidates for disposal. 521 was joined by RM848, RM1627 and RM1650 which arrived on Saturday 12th April and entered service on 15th/16th April on an emergency tram replacement service before settling onto services 5/5A. They entered service in London livery with numbers 522, 523 and 525 (resp) displayed on cards in the windscreen. Early May saw RM1640 arrived as 524, followed by RM1735 on 16 May as 526. 
526 was the only one of the first six to be repainted before use. It is seen here in the paint shop having its lining applied. Behind it is 522 which has received extensive repanelling (Brian Turner)
Brief details of their life in London are in the table below showing the dates new and the last depot and withdrawal date in London service. Routemasters were completely rebuilt every few years and bodies, engines and chassis units were separated and a vehicle would arrive at Aldenham works and its identity be applied to an overhauled bus which would then return to depot. Several vehicle identities were lost for several years while the overhaul process went on and emerged again when it finished! As a result, the buses which arrived in Blackpool did not feature the same body or chassis units as when they were built and the final body numbers are shown in the table. 

NoLT NoRegNewWdLast DepotBody NoArrived
522RM848WLT8487/6112/85Stamford BrookB84712/4/86
524RM1640640DYE6/631/85New CrossB15566or7/5/86
526RM1735735DYE10/6312/84West HamB182116/5/86

Routemasters 521 and 524 relax in depot on Sunday 2 November 1986 after the first week or deregulation and several 40 minute round trips on route 12. Alongside is a later generation of AEC - Swift 595 that would be withdrawn nine years before the two Routemasters. (Brian Turner)
521 made its debut in its new livery at the 'Leyland 90' bus rally in Leyland on Sunday 17th May and entered service a few days later. 526 became the second to be repainted, entering the body shop without seeing service. It was completed in early July and was followed by 524 and then 522 with 525 treated in August. 523 was the last to run in London livery on 30 August and went back into use in red and white in October.
The inhospitable atmosphere of Talbot Road Bus Station in January 1987 is brightened by 521's red and white livery. Route 14 departed from the centre of the Bus Station for many years - next to the hose for the radiators! Driver and guard would amble out from the canteen door just next to the Fylde Atlantean just before departure time (Brian Turner)
The 5/5A was the Routemaster's prime home, but they also ran on other crew routes 14 (Blackpool-Fleetwood) and 22/22A (Cleveleys-Halfway House and Lytham). They could be seen out until close of service on the 5/5A, whereas PD3s tended to be allocated to daytime only workings.  Deregulation in October 1986 saw the 5/5A withdrawn so Routemasters were reallocated to route 12 (Blackpool to Airport) from Monday 27th. This required four buses and was increased to run every 10 minutes with the journey time reduced from 20 to 17 minutes as crew buses could achieve faster end to end times than the OPO buses used previously. The two spare buses could often be found on the 14 and 22.

The sylvan setting of Ballam Road, Lytham disguises the Guardian Insurance offices as 522 starts its 75 minute long journey from Lytham to Cleveleys on route 22A. (Brian Turner)
In July 1987 the 12 was extended to St. Annes and PD3 512 was painted red/white and with 507 and the Routemasters providing a pool of eight matching buses for the six bus workings. The frequency was later reduced to every 15 minutes needing four buses and the Routemasters once again dominated.

Routemasters 531 (left) and 533 (right) in different stages of repaint on 14 May 1988. Sister 530 had just vacated the space in the foreground (Brian Turner)
1988 saw the doubling of the Routemaster fleet as Blackpool chose to respond to Fylde's introduction of a Promenade bus service with its own route. Six more Routemasters were purchased and arrived in pairs during April. With six weeks to prepare the buses, they were treated to a simplified version of red and white livery to expedite the repaints. 528 was the first to be painted, noted in the paint shop on 24th April and was outshopped in early May followed by 527 and then 530 which left the paint shop on 14 May. 531 followed then 533 and finally 529 which was in the paint shop on 22 May. There was no 532 as this number was still used by a PD3. Launch day for the new service was Saturday 28 May and the six buses made their debut with promotional adverts and "Beachroamer" branding applied. Numbered 55 the service ran every 10 minutes on a daily basis from Starr Gate to Gynn Square and required six buses. The Sunday operation of Routemasters on the 55 is believed to have been unqiue at the time as neither London Buses nor the other provincial Routemaster operators used them on Sundays. 

Painted and lettered, final pre service preparation takes place on 531, 527 and 529 in the bus compound (Brian Turner)

NoLT NoRegNewWdLast DepotBody NoArrived

First day and Routemaster 528 with a first batch bus behind awaits time at Starr Gate as Fylde 101 heads past on their Beachcomber service (Brian Turner)
The 55 ran until the end of the Illuminations and for the winter 527-531/3 were reallocated to crew duties on services 12, 14 and 22/22A alongside the first batch and replacing the PD3s which were placed into store, initially for the winter but never to run again. Between February and May 1989 their livery was modified to match the first batch. The Promenade service - renumbered 40 - resumed on 3 July 1989 but operating Monday to Friday only between Harrowside and Gynn Square operating until 29 September when it ran Saturdays only until the end of the season! With only four Routemasters required during the winter it was decided to store several examples and 521 523, 524, 525, 527, 528 and 530 were declared redundant. In this context it was surprising that a 13th Routemaster joined the fleet in November. Former RM1123 had been used as a promotional vehicle by Burton's Biscuits who sold it to Blackpool Transport for a nominal sum in exchange for it retaining their promotional livery for Royal Edinburgh Shortbread. Numbered 534 it entered service on 4 January 1990 and uniquely for Blackpool featured an AEC engine. 

NoLT NoRegNewWdLast DepotBody NoArrived
534RM1123123CLT5/6211/86Stamford BrookB507Nov 89

"The Biscuit Tin" 534 operated in this promotional livery for Burton's Royal Edinburgh Shortbread as part of the deal that led to its acquisition. (Donald MacRae see his Victory Guy photo albums for more from his collection)
Despite the rather half hearted operation in 1989, route 40 was back with a vengeance for 1990. Blackpool Transport secured access rights to Pontins Holiday Centre (held by Fylde in 1988/9). The 40 resumed at Easter (12 April) and ran every 10 minutes using five buses in the day with an evening service introduced every 30 minutes between Pontins and Tower using one bus. A daily service was provided. The stored Routemasters returned to use during March and April. 521 and 522 had been repainted in January and March - the latter featuring a promotional livery for Pontins on its sides and rear. 
522 carried this promotional livery for Pontin's from 1990 to 1993 in return for exclusive access to Pontin's forecourt. (Donald MacRae see his Victory Guy photo albums for more from his collection)
At the end of the 1990 season 521-526 were placed in store. Surprisingly 521 was repainted again in November, followed by 523 525 and 526 by the end of the year with 524 treated in January. 526 saw occasional use after repaint, but the remainder remained stored until the 40 resumed on 28 March 1991. The service pattern remained the same, but new destination blinds were fitted to 521-526 restricted to Promenade only destinations, condemning these to seasonal only operation so they were stored again in November. 527-31/3/4 were similarly relegated after service on 7 December as route 12 was converted to Atlantean operation due to Union complaints that these newer buses were in store while the elderly Routemasters ran in service. March saw the 12 converted to One Man Operation precluding a return for the Routemasters. 534 would never run again for Blackpool Transport though it remained in store for several years. The storage allowed 527-31/3 to receive a repaint between February and April.

521 waits time at Pontin's in 1990 for another journey along the Prom to Gynn Square. Note how the white border to the fleet number has been dropped. (Brian Turner)
The 40 resumed on 16 April 1992 and was shortened to run between Pontin's and Tower requiring only four buses, though the evening service was increased to every 20 minutes. 13 buses for 4 duties meant that only half the fleet was required in future seasons. 1992 saw Pontin's bus 522 joined by the newly repainted 527-31/3. 522 suffered engine failure in June and missed several weeks as its Pontin's signwriting was also updated during its absence. 525 was reinstated briefly as a result and 526 later bolstered the fleet. 521/3/4 and 534 spent the year in store.
8 April 1993 saw the 40 resume and this time 521-526 were allocated with the second batch confirned to depot. During the summer side adverts for Opal Fruits were applied replacing the in house Travelcard adverts carried since the Routemasters were first repainted.

For 1994 the 40 started on 1st April and 527-531/3 were the featured vehicles. All had been repainted between December 1993 and February 1994, 527 emerging in Pontin's livery, relieving 522 which was painted red and white so it could sparkle in storage. 534 was returned to Burton's on 18 March 1994 after 832 days in store. On occasions the odd Routemaster appeared on route 14 in the summer - with blank blinds - as operation had been restricted to route 40 since 1992. 527-31/3 now had yellow and black blinds which only showed route 40 destinations.

6 November 1994 was the last day of the 40 as the takeover of Fylde by Blackpool saw efforts focused on Fylde's route 1 from 1995 and the Routemasters remained confined to depot. 1996 saw the Open Golf championship held at Royal Lytham St. Annes as part of the rotation around various courses in the UK. Four Park and Ride bus services would be in operation and it was decided to reactivate the Routemasters to help provide the necessary capacity.

All were prepared for service and on from July 1st they took-over route 21 (Tower- Zoo) with two buses required to bed them back in. On 6 July 521/5 did the honours and on 7 July 527/31 performed. 526/8/31 had to be drafted onto the Promenade to replace the tram service due to an emergency on 4 July.

525 seen on Blackpool Road, St. Annes while on Open Golf Park and Ride duty
Routemasters appeared for the Open Golf between Wednesday 17th and Sunday 21st July 1996 and all 12 vehicles made an appearance - 522 making its debut in its March 1994 paint job - surely a record. With the contest and services over, all 12 returned to store. They were renumbered 421-431/3 at the end of the month to release the 5xx series for minibuses absorbed with the Fylde business. 
Routemaster 422, showing off its 1994 repaint without fleetname on the Zoo service in September 1996 (Brian Turner)
August saw all 12 confined to depot but 421-424 were reactivated at the start of September to operate route 21 with 422/3 noted in use on the 1st. These four returned to store with their sisters with the end of the 21 for the season on 27 October. This Indian Summer also saw occasional journeys on route 14/14A by now extended to run form Fleetwood to St. Annes with one bus each day from 25 to 27th September with 422 noted once (as seen here). 422 was destined to be the last Routemaster to operate for Blackpool Transport when it was hired to Granada TV for a 'Gladrags' charity collection campaign in February 1997. This was cut short by the sale of the Routemasters so PD3 driver trainer 507 had to deputise.

With limited blinds, Routemasters had these basic posters in the front nearside window for the 21 during 1996 (Brian Turner)
The Routemasters were advertised for sale in January 1997 and all 12 were purchased by Reading Mainline, who had built up a fleet of 32 on services in competition with Reading Buses. All 12 were painted into Reading's red and cream livery at Blackpool Transport from February.

This ended the career of the Blackpool Routemaster with 429, 431 and 433 the last to leave on 29 June. Over the previous 11 years the fleet spent almost as much time in store, on average active for 51% of their life in the fleet. Reading deployed the first buses to be collected almost immediately with former 523/4/6/8/30 all in service by May. Others were deployed more progressively with 525/7 not entering service until May 1998. 522 and 529 did not see service with Reading - 522 reportedly needed a replacement rear sub frame, perhaps reflecting accident damaged suffered in Blackpool in 1991.

Mainline was purchased by Reading Buses in 1998 and continued as a separate entity until 22nd June 2000. The Blackpool Routemasters, many converted to AEC engine were progressively withdrawn during 1999 and 2000 as the operation contracted but 36, 42 and 43 (526/31/3) all operated on the last day with 36 the official last bus back into depot.

Reading Mainline Fleet - click on Reading fleet number for a flickr picture
NoBTCollectedServiceW/drnDisposalFinal Engine Current
345289/3/9720/3/97ea 2000Royal NavyAECLondon Bus Hire S Wales
3552423/3/972/4/972000TfLAECCooper, Cramlington
3652630/3/9712/4/9722/7/00TfLAECCooper, Cramlington
3752520/4/9719/5/98lt 1999FarmAECTower Transit, London
3852320/4/9715/5/9799/2000BrakellAECTower Transit, London
3952120/4/9717/9/9799/2000Walkabout InnsAECCatch 22 Bus Blackpool
40522?/6/97nevern/aTfLAECPreserved Dave's Buses
41527?/6/9719/5/9899/2000ExportLeylandPoland tbc
4253129/6/9716/1/9899/2000TfLAECEast London
4353329/6/9729/11/9799/2000TfLLeylandEast London
4452929/6/97nevern/aMcKindlessLeylandLondon Bus Company

530 during its brief period in Preservation in its 1988 Promenade livery (Paul Turner)
Early disposals from Reading saw 530 pass into preservation in 2000 and it was eventually repainted into an approximation of the 1988 Beachroamer livery. It has since changed hands and is now back in PCV use with London Hertiage Travel of Rettendon on private hires. 528 passed to Royal Navy Sea Cadets and had its interior modified to represent a submarine as a recruitment vehicle. In 2009/10 it was restored to bus condition by a collector and sold to another vintage hire firm - London Bus Hire of Raglan, South Wales.
523 was sold into private ownership, 525 to a fruit farm in Kent, 521 to Walkabout Inns as a promotional bus, passing to LTT after a visit to Blackpool in March 2003. 527 was exported to Poland while 529 went to Mc Kindless of Wishaw before passing into Preservation and it is now operating with London Bus Company of Northfleet.

Return to London
Most of Reading's final Routemasters were purchased by Transport for London who were expanding bus services and needed more Routemasters. The spares donor 522, plus operational 524, 526, 531 and 533 went directly to TfL who also bought 523 and 525 from their owners

The Routemasters were sent to Marshals in Cambridge for refurbishment which included hopper windows replacing half drop windows and an interior refurbishment. New Cummins engines with Allison gearboxes were fitted and the first emerged in summer 2001 with London Sovereign on route 13 including 523, 526, 531 and 533.

December 2001/January 2002 saw 524 enter service with London Central on route 36 and 525 with First on route 23. 522 emerged last with an experimental gearbox and joined London United. 525 was one of a handful of buses wrapped in gold vinyl for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in March 2002 and reverted to red in December 2002. First painted it Silver in March 2004 to recreate its role in 1977 as part of the Queens Silver Jubilee fleet. Despite the investment in refurbished buses, Routemaster operation was run down from 2003 and 524 moved to First on route 23 in February 2003 and onto Arriva (route 38) in November. 522 also moved to Arriva having operated on the last day of route 9 with London United in September 2004.

522 returned to use in 2002 with London United. Between 1993 and 2002 it only saw service use between July and October 1996. It is seen at Aldwych operating route 9. (Paul Turner)
Route 13 ceased Routemaster operation on 21 October 2005 with former 531/3 in use. Route 38 ended on 28 October with 522 and 524 joined by 525 on loan from First in use. Mainstream Routemaster operation ended in December but two short heritage routes covering parts of the 9 and 15 started on 14 November 2005 with First London on the 9 with ten Routemasters including former Blackpool 523-526 (with 525 still in Silver) while 531/3 joined Stagecoach East London on the 15. 523/4/6/31/3 all saw service on the first day. London Bus Hire's 528 also put in a one-off appearance on the heritage routes in 2011 as part of a running day.
Since 2004 former 525 has carried its 1977 Silver Jubilee livery with First London. It is seen here on 25th July 2004 on its way to Finsbury Park for the RM 50 event. (Paul Turner)
Meanwhile 534 also returned to London. Burton's sold it to a non psv operator in 1996 and it was used to promote Motarola mobile phones. It was sold via a dealer to a private owner in 2000 and emerged restored to London red at Wisley bus rally in 2009. On New Years Day 2010 it featured on a running day in Southend on the license of Autocar, Tonbridge and remains active in their "Special Days Bus Hire" fleet.
521 partly repanelled and partly paint stripped while under restoration with LTT in 2004 (Paul Turner)
The heritage operation of service 9 ended in July 2014. First London had been sold to Tower Transit. After a period in store most Routemasters were sold in 2015, but Tower kept two former Blackpool ones (523 and 525). 524 and 526 were sold to Coopers of Cramlington, possibly for onward sale but is believed to be in store presently. Stagecoach East London still use 531 and 533 on service 15.

Of the others, 521 is operated by Catch 22 Bus on private hires, but its out of use requiring a replacement engine. 522 is preserved in "Dartmaster" condtion and used by its owner commercially trading as "Daves' Buses". 527 is possibly still in Poland, 528 runs with London Bus Hire of South Wales, 529 is with London Bus Company and sometimes operates vintage bus services in conjuction with the Epping Ongar Railway. 530 is believed now to be with Marden's of Benflet as a promotional bus as seen here in London in 2014. 534 runs with Autocar, Five Oak Green, Kent as part of its Special Bus Days hire fleet.

The introduction of Routemasters into the Blackpool fleet in 1986 was one of the most unusual developments in the undertaking's history. For seven of the 13 buses to return to use in London was more remarkable and after 30 years for at least 12 to survive, mostly in some form of commercial use demonstrates how popular these vehicles are.

First trip out after repaint, but with finishing touches outstanding, 521 stands at the Fleetwood terminus of route 14 (Paul Turner)