Saturday, 16 April 2016

From the Archives: Unlucky Numbers Part 2: Blowing Sands

The original bus to Blowing Sands was provided by William Smith's Motor Services
Blowing Sands was the delightful early name for the outskirts to Blackpool crossed by School Lane and was first served by William Smith’s bus service from South Pier which terminated at Midgeland Road/School Road. This became Blackpool’s service 10 and survived until 1962 when it was partly replaced by the 23. Blowing Sands saw some residential development but no dense housing and today is quite affluent. It has never been promising bus territory and the history of its links to Blackpool centre is littered with short-lived services hence its appearance in the ‘unlucky numbers’ series.
Centre Entrance PD2 274 heads towards Midgeland Road on the 6B in 1968 (Brian Turner)
The first link to the town centre started in 1936 when service 21 started. This ran over the 6 route from Adelaide Street to Hawes Side Lane/Daggers Hall Lane and bridged the short unserved section to Watson Road where it joined the 10 route via Common Edge Road and School Lane to Midgeland Road. Suspended in 1939 it was formally discontinued in 1940. During the Second World War, route 11C was diverted to cover the section of route between Blackpool and Common Edge Road, on its way to St. Annes having previously used St. Annes Road the section of Blackpool Road across what is now Squires Gate Airport.

In 1946 a peak hour service was resumed on the 21 route, but showing 11B to relate it to the 11C. This continued until 1956, albeit not always advertised in the timetables. A second route was introduced in 1948 as the 18. This also ran from Adelaide Street over the 6 route but further – to Welcome Inn then straight along Midgeland Road to the terminus. Sister service 19 followed in 1951 as far as Marton Moss (Chapel Road) but in 1953 was re-routed via the 11B route to Midgeland Road.

These routes to Blowing Sands were hampered because they really duplicated other routes on the main corridors into Blackpool. The aforementioned service 6 was co-ordinated with route 13 between the Town Hall and Spen Corner – the 6 continuing to Welcome Inn and Cherry Tree Gardens (later extended to Mereside) while the 13 took in Marton Drive to reach the developing housing estate at Lindale Gardens. In 1953 they provided a bus every six minutes.

Additionally service 6A ran as far as Highfield Hotel, leaving the Tower just in front of service 13 every 12 minutes. The 11C ran every 20 minutes through to St. Annes, the 18 and 19 to Blowing Sands each ran hourly and the 6C to Little Marton via Welcome Inn on a bizarre 84 minute frequency. If this was not enough, route 4 ran over the same corridor as far as Condor Square on its way to Mereside every half hour and the unadvertised 6B was a short working to Condor Square. This made at least 22 journeys over the common section to Condor Square and 20 to Spen Corner with varying frequencies. Co-ordination was unlikely, however the the timing of the 11C and 19 to leave the Town Centre at exactly the same time when the latter had over 95% of its route in common with the former was remarkable! With enough journeys to provide a 2 or 3 minute interval, the poor co-ordination resulted in four gaps of six minutes and two of five minutes in each hour!

The upshot of this was that routes like the 18 and 19 relied on their unique sections to pay their way – unlikely given the spare population – as they didn’t really generate any extra passengers on the over-bussed common section. Rationalisation was therefore inevitable. First to go was the 19 in 1956, replaced by extending the 6A to Midgeland Road – though this was also reduced to every 15 minutes at the same time.

From 1964 certain 6A journeys were diverted via the Welcome as service 6B to replace the 18. The 6A/6B were then progressively cut back through the 60s and 70s as declining passengers and increased costs caused the undertaking to review the duplication of its services. Firstly they were reduced to every 20 minutes in 1966; then their evening service was virtually eradicated in 1968; 1970 saw their frequency halved to every 40 minutes and one man operated buses took over in 1971. In 1975 the deepest cut of all saw the 6A go and just an hourly Tower to Midgeland Road service 6B remain for just one year until it too was cut in 1976. From a 15 minute service to nothing in just 10 years was a remarkable decline.

Midgeland Road did retain a link to the Town Centre, however, as route 3A (North Shore – Town – Park Road – Cherry Tree Gardens) was diverted at the Welcome Inn to run along Midgeland Road to School Road turning circle as a replacement.

Service 3A included a couple of peak journeys which extended to the Borough Boundary, mainly to serve St Nicholas School on School Lane. Here Swift 559 awaits departure for Cleveleys. (Brian Turner)
By contrast the original link to South Shore (the 10) remained largely stable until it too was axed in 1962, replaced by the 23 (Hospital to South Pier) which was extended to Midgeland Road via Highfield Road and School Lane. Other than a brief period when the 19 replaced the 23 in 1976, both the 3A and 23 continued in this form until 1986, with both buses usually terminating together at the rural turning circle.
Single Deckers (and more recently minibuses) have been the domain of the routes to Midgeland Road, apart from a brief period in 1987 when both the 10 and 23 operated with 86 seat Atlanteans! Here 313 awaits departure on service 10 in a short lived experimental livery whilst 358 promotes the Travelcard on the 23 departure behind. (Brian Turner)
At deregulation both the 3A and 23 ceased and ten years of stability ended. Midgeland Road was linked to the Town Centre by a new service, ironically numbered 10. This took most of the the old 6A route but at Highfield Hotel turned into Highfield Road and then Midgeland Road. Blackpool withdrew the service after a year and its former associate but now competitor Fylde Borough took over. Blackpool instead reinstated the link to South Shore with a revised 23. Fylde’s 10 later became the 12B and was also diverted via South Shore but ended in 1989. Since then an array of routes have tried to serve Midgeland Road. Few have been left in peace to do so, partly because of the bus industry’s obsession with tinkering at the margins of its networks. As the changes defy any simple description and chronological list follows:

  • October 1986 – BTS 10 Blackpool-Spen Corner-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road. Fylde 23A South Pier-Common Edge Rd- Midgeland Rd – Mereside (Eves/Suns) introduced
  • Jan 1987 – BTS 25 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Halfway House) extended off peak to Midgeland Rd via Common Edge Road
  • April 1987 – BTS 23 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road) introduced
  • November 1987 – Fylde take over 10
  • June 1988 – 25 no longer serves Midgeland Rd
  • November 1988 – Fylde 10 replaced by 12B Town-Lytham Rd-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road
  • March 1989 – 23 replaced by 25 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road) Fylde 12B withdrawn
  • March 1994 – 23A evening/Sunday service taken over by Blackpool
  • November 1994 – 23A evening/Sunday service replaced by extended 23
  • August 1996 –25 replaced by 23 Staining -Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Common Edge Road- Midgeland Road-Mereside (includes eves/Suns service) – now minibus operated
  • April 2001 – 9 Royal Oak-Watson Rd-Highfield Rd-Common Edge Rd-Midgeland Rd back to Highfield Rd replaces 23
  • Nov 2001 9 revised to run Poulton-Hospital-Royal Oak-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Mereside
  • April 2002 – new 2B Poulton-Blackpool-South Pier-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Mereside replaces 9 evening/Sunday service ends
  • June 2002 – 2A Poulton-Blackpool-South Pier-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Asda replaces 2B
  • December 2005 – 10 Blackpool-Lytham Rd-Watson Rd-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Rd-Common Edge Rd circle replaces 2A

2009's line 10 provided one bus an hour linking the area with the Town Centre and South Shore. 593 was the branded minibus in light blue until 518 took over in 2007 painted silver-grey. (Brian Turner)
The 10 proved quite stable with limited changes over the years until 28 June 2015 when it was extended to St. Annes, working both ways via Highfield Road, Midgeland Road and School Lane then as service 17 via Queensway, Spring Gardens, Leach Lane, Heeley Road and St Davids Road North. Then on 4 April 2016 it was extended across Blackpool Town Centre to Poulton over the erstwhile 2 route.

Since 1986 Midgeland Road has therefore been served by the 10, 23A (evenings/Sundays), 12B, 23, 25, 23 (again), 9, 2B, 2A and currently – once again the 10. For good measure the Welcome Inn to Highfield Road section has also seen the 25, 8A, 8, L1, 10 and 16 in recent times.