Sunday, 14 February 2016

From the Archives: Lost Routes - The 23 and 23A

South Pier terminus was used by the 23/23A from its inception in 1936 to its demise in 2001, albeit with periodic exceptions. Swift 579 lays over prior to a summer trip to the Zoo on the 23A in 1984  (Brian Turner)
Blackpool's town tramways were closed in two stages - 1936 for the Layton and Central Drive routes replaced by buses 22 and 23; and 1961-3 for Lytham Road (bus 12), Marton (bus 26) and Dickson Road (bus 25A). All of the tram replacement routes except for the 25A survived in a recognisable form until the Metro network changes in 2001.

The Layton tram route was extremely short, running from Talbot Square to Layton Cemetery and was an obvious bus conversion given the overlap with other bus routes and the development of housing areas beyond the Layton terminus. The Central Drive route was part of the Marton service with trams running from Central Station to Waterloo Hotel then either via Royal Oak to South Pier or to Marton Depot and onto Talbot Square.

The bus replacements followed the tram routes but differed in being linked across the Town Centre. Both the 22 and 23 ran from Layton via Talbot Road, Talbot Square, Central Station and Central Drive to Waterloo Hotel before the 22 turned left to Marton Depot and the 23 right to South Pier. Brand new centre entrance Leyland Titans contrasted with the traditional trams retained on these two routes. Route 22 was soon diverted to Halfway House but the 23 continued on the Layton to South Pier corridor for most of its life. Frequency was high with an eight minute frequency in 1939 and 1946 with six buses required.

The first extension took place in 1949 with buses carrying on from Layton to Bispham, initially terminating at Bristol Avenue and later Bispham Clinic with a short lived extension to Bispham Hotel. The eight minute headway was maintained but now needing eight buses.

In 1956 a significant change took place with the 22 and 23 swapping their northern sections - the 22 now running to Bispham and the 23 via Grange Road to Victoria Hospital. By 1958 the summer timetable still ran every eight minutes with seven buses; the winter every 10 minutes with six buses and winter evenings and Sundays four buses provided a 15 minute frequency.

Southern extensions commenced in 1961 with alternate journeys extended via Bond St, Clifton Drive and Highfield Road to Highfield Hotel. The remaining South Pier terminating journeys now showed 23A. The following year the 23 was further extended to Midgeland Road via Common Edge Lane and School Road replacing local service 10. 10 buses were now required for the summer 8 minute service, 6 on the 23 and 4 on the 23A. For about a year in 1964 the 23A was extended along Bond St and Clifton Drive to Starr Gate but otherwise continued to terminate at South Pier.
Victoria Hospital with Dennis Lancet 598 awaiting departure as two ladies give it a wide berth perhaps with a disparaging eye on the high entry steps (Brian Turner)
As with other services frequencies were progressively reduced with a 10 minute daytime service and 12 minute evening/Sunday service in Summer 1967 and a 12 minute daytime and 20 minute evening/Sunday service in winter 1968/9. Throughout the life of the 23/23A, extra seasonal short journeys ran from Layton to South Pier as service 24; rarely appearing in the timetables. In 1972, for example, the year round 24 minute evening/Sunday service was supplemented by the 24 in the summer to make a 12 minute service.

Midgeland Road turning circle was often occupied by a pair of Swifts on the 23 and the 3A. Here 583 leads a sister in the earlier plain cream livery (Brian Turner)
Leyland Titans continued to be the mainstays, generally PD2s rather than the larger PD3s as used on the 22/22A. Sunday journeys were converted to OMO in 1973. 1976 saw the withdrawal of the South Pier to Midgeland road section in favour of route 19 which now ran from Mereside-South Pier - Midgeland Road every 45 minutes. The 23A now ran every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 evenings/Sundays with just four buses needed. November 1977 saw conversion to OMO and route 23 once again ran to Midgeland Road once per hour. 5 buses were needed, but the 23A was inter worked with the now hourly 19 (once again South Pier to Mereside only) so a combined 6 buses operated the 19, 23, 23A cycle. On Sundays the 19 still covered the Midgeland Road section but this was later dropped.

Nationals appeared on the 23/23A from 1984 including 544 passing the Pleasure Beach in this March 1986 shot (Brian Turner)
From 1981 summer journeys were extended the short distance from Victoria Hospital to Blackpool Zoo and this pattern with a 15 minute daytime, 30 minute evening/Sunday service with an hourly Monday to Saturday only extension to Midgeland Road.
In the town centre the 23/23A served Market Street loading outside the town hall. This is ex Crosville 545 (CFM345S) in May 1986. (Brian Turner)
Deregulation saw major changes. A basic 15 minute service was provided from Hospital to Royal Oak provided by new services 23, 24 and 25. The 23 ran hourly via its previous route (Clifton Drive and Highfield Road) before turning down Lindale Gardens to terminate at Squires Gate Lane. The 24 also ran hourly but via Lytham Road, Watson Road and Welcome Inn to Mereside replacing the 19. The other two journeys ran as service 25 via Lytham Road, Watson Road, St. Annes Road to Halfway House replacing services 5/5A. Six single deckers were used. Evenings and Sundays saw a half hourly service on the 25 only. Fylde Borough won a county council contract for an hourly evening and Sunday service numbered 23A from South Pier to Mereside via Clifton Drive, Highfield Rd, Lindale Gardens, School Road, Midgeland Rd, Welcome Inn and Langdale Road to Mereside. This would use single deckers - particularly Bristol REs - but later minibuses appeared.
Swifts continued after deregulation, as the new fleetname shows. 576 crest Skew Bridge on its way to Halfway House on route 25. The 25A blind is redolent of the former Dickson Road tram replacement service and is shown as the correct number was not included on the old number blinds
As with most services in the deregulated era various tweaks took place which are summarised below:
  • January 1987 - 23 extended to Halfway House returning via St. Annes Road with the 25 operating via Lindale Gardens on northbound journeys. 4 25 journeys diverted to Midgeland Road mainly to serve St Nicholas School
  • April 1987 - daytime journeys extend from Hospital to Grange Park. 23 diverted at Highfield Road to Midgeland Road; alternate journeys on the 25 run clockwise and anticlockwise via St. Annes Rd/Lindale Gardens loop
In June 1988 the service was reduced to every 20 minutes with the Grange Park section withdrawn and the summer Zoo extension reinstated. Each route ran hourly with the 23 no longer serving Clifton Drive and diverted at Highfield Road to the Welcome Inn and onto Mereside. Evening and Sunday journeys on the 25 were curtailed to South Pier. Further change saw:
  • Sept 1988 25 extended from Halfway House to Airport
  • March 1989 23 serves Clifton Drive again; 25 diverted via Highfield Road to Midgeland Road; evening 25 extended to Halfway House and inter worked with the 22/22A
  • July 1990 23 and 24 extended from Mereside turning circle to nearby new Tesco store
Deltas made their debut on the 23-25 in 1990. From April 1993 to November 1994 the routes terminated at Cleveleys Bus Station where 112 loads for the long run to Midgeland Road.
The withdrawal of the AEC Swifts saw increasing Leyland National operation but, surprisingly, double deckers took over in 1989 though this was short lived as March 1990 saw the first batch of new Optare Deltas enter service operating the 23-25 and 53 (Airport to Poulton). An unusual innovation in April 1993 saw the daytime services extended to Cleveleys with two extra buses required. All three services ran via Grange Park, Bispham Road and Bispham Clinic and then split to serve:
  • 23 via Red Bank Road, Norbreck, Russel Avenue and Fleetwood Road to Cleveleys
  • 24 via Ingthorpe Avenue, Ashfield Road, Warren Drive and Fleetwood Road to Cleveleys
  • 25 via All Hallows Road and Fleetwood Road to Cleveleys
The November 1994 network change which co-ordinated the Blackpool and Fylde networks saw the Cleveleys extension withdrawn. Blackpool had taken over the contracted evening/Sunday 23A in March and integrated with its commercial journeys so that an hourly Hospital to Mereside service was provided (as 23) supplemented an hourly Hospital to South Pier service which took the 23A. While this reflected historical precedent it did mean that route 23 took two different routes depending on the time of day. At the same time the Sunday service was converted to minibus operation.
City Pacer 570 sits on Staining turning circle on route 23 in July 1998. Buses were scheduled to have 12 minutes layover here which was the only respite from otherwise tight schedules on these services
August 5 1996 saw the Deltas transferred onto services 12A and 26 while the 23-25 were converted to City Pacer minibus operation. All three routes were doubled in frequency giving a ten minute service from Hospital to Royal Oak. The 23 adopted the evening and Sunday route (Lindale Gardens and Midgeland Road) during the day and as a result the 25 was re-routed via Lytham Road, Highfield Road, Progress Way to Mereside. The 23 was extended from Hospital to Staining to allow the withdrawal of the 15 providing a half hourly service all day. 11 buses were required, with 4 in the evening and on Sundays. Minor changes followed:
  • November 1996 - 25 via Lostock Gardens between Highfield Rd and Lindale Gardens and also via Welcome Inn and Cherry Tree Road instead of Progress Way
  • January 1997 - 23 via Lostock Gardens and 25 via Acre Gate and Lennox Gate, 23/23A also serve Maternity Unit at Hospital.

Metrorider 592 stands in for a Solo on the 24 at the 2000/1 terminus at B&Q (Brian Turner)
The City Pacers were long in the tooth, but well suited to a tightly timed route. Metroriders were common on the Sunday service by the time the final batch had arrived in late 1998. 15 new Optare Solos arrived towards the end of 1999 and this allowed conversion of the 23-25 to low floor operation from the end of January 2000. The extra capacity allowed a reduction to every 15 minutes with the 23 and 24 dropping to hourly - they were also diverted to the new B&Q at Whitehills. The 25 still ran half hourly and took-over the daytime service to Staining from the 23. The evening/Sunday 23/23A continued as before. 
The introduction of Optare Solos in January 2000 brought improved quality to the services after several years with long in the tooth City Pacers. August 2000 sees 267 loading at the Maternity Unit at Victoria Hospital served by journeys to/from Staining only (Brian Turner)

The Staining extension saw the 23 (later the 25) replace route 15. Here Solo 265 heads through the village - a regular in the Britain in Bloom competition (Brian Turner)
The 23, 23A, 24 and 25 ceased operation after nearly 65 years on 29 April 2001 replaced by Line 5 from Staining to South Shore and routes 8, 8A and 9 from South Shore to Midgeland Road and Mereside. These lasted until November 2001 when they were revised to incorporate tendered services 10 and 53 with the 8 running Claremont to Manchester Square via Hospital, Mereside and the former 25 route; the 9 from Mereside to Poulton via the 23 and 53 routes and the 10 from Mereside to Pheasant's Wood via the 24 route Hospital and Cleveleys. These ended in April 2002 with parts replaced by the 2B/2C and later service 2A. Today the 10/17 and 15/6 cover much of the area previously served by the 23-25 in South Shore and Mereside, while the 5 provides the Hospital link