Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Return of the 9A

After 18 years, the 9 rejoined the Blackpool network in July 2010. Here 377 approaches Corporation Street terminus on the first day. In 2016 - just as 377 approaches retirement, the 9A varient returned
Sunday 10th July saw the return of the 9A number - a historic sub route of route 9. The 9 has origins in the 1920s, but the original service was replaced in 1959. A new 9 was created straight away and evolved into the developing Ingthorpe area until this ceased in 1992. The current 9 started in 2010. The 9A was a short working of the original 9 from October 1936. Its final variant ended in April 1988.

The 1920 to 1959 Version

In June 1920 William Smith Motor Services introduced a bus service from Layton Cemetery Tram Terminus via Bispham Road to Bispham Village. It wasn't particularly frequent - in 1922 a two hourly service was advertised - but in 1923 it was extended via the tram route along Talbot Road to Talbot Mews - the predecessor to Talbot Road Bus Station.

The route was later extended to Carr Road via All Hallows Road. The Corporation took over in 1926 and briefly merged the service with the Adelaide Place to Layton service (via Caunce Street) and extended the route to Norbreck. This took service number 9 but was quickly cut back to run from Talbot Mews to Carr Road. In 1927 a short extension along Fleetwood Road took the 9 to Mossom Lane and then in 1930 it was extended to Cleveleys Beach via Fleetwood Road, Bispham Road and Victoria Road. Two buses provided a half hourly service. From 1934 double deckers were used. 

PD3 507 in 1930s livery heads along Devonshire Road while operating service 22 over the section which replaced route 9 in 1959.
1937 saw a controversial summer extension to Fleetwood which provoked legal challenge from Ribble. Blackpool ran via Rossall Road, Broadway, Queens Hotel, Poulton Road and Lord St to Queens Terrace every 20 minutes with the year round service to Cleveleys now showing service 9A. In 1938 the route was split with the Fleetwood workings (9) serving Bispham Village and the Cleveleys workings (9A) serving Devonshire Road. In Winter the Bispham Village workings showed 9B and terminated at Cleveleys! The Fleetwood extension was suspended for the war, but never resumed, leaving the 9A/9B as year round services. A combined 15 minute service was provided form 1939, dropping to 20 minutes in 1942 due to war time economies - this needed 3 buses. 1951 saw a diversion in Anchorsholme via Valeway Avenue, North Drive and Anchorsholme Lane and the service frequency  grew to a combined 10 minutes with six buses allocated.

October 1959 saw a major network recast in the North of the town. Route 22  (Halfway House to Bispham) absorbed the Bispham to Cleveleys sections of the 9A and 9B (the latter as 22A) - this route had duplicated the 9A/B form Blackpool to Bispham and this rationalisation seemed sensible. However at peak times a higher frequency was desired so a 10 minute shuttle service from North Station to Bispham Clinic was provided - showing number 9 operating from 7am to 9am and 12noon to 7pm using 3 buses.  By summer 1960 the 9 was running all day but in October it was revised once again into the 9A and 9B!

The new 9A provided a daily 20 minute service from North Station to Ingthorpe Estate (Ashfield Road near Briarwood Drive) running from Bispham Clinic via Ingthorpe Avenue and Ashfield Road. It was supplemented by the 9B at peak times (same hours as the 9 in 1959) which ran along Devonshire Road to Russell Avenue - it was later extended to Norbreck.

In 1963 the routes were rationalised into a single service 9 again - prior to reaching Bispham the buses diverting at Moor Park via Bristol Avenue onto Ashfield Road, then as the inbound 9A route along Ingthorpe Avenue to Bispham then the 9B route via Devonshire Road, Guildford Road, Norbreck Road, Fleetwood Road to terminate near the borough boundary at Anchorsholme Lane junction. The 9 now ran into the Bus Station, rather than from the Railway Station across the road. 3 buses allowed a 20 minute frequency to be provided. The development of the Ingthorpe estates saw frequent changes. Route 8 via Dickson Road and Warbreck Drive took over the Norbreck section in summer 1965 and the 9 terminated at Bispham Village with only 2 buses now needed. By the Autumn, the 9 had been diverted away from Bispham Village and carried on along Ashfield Road to Fairfax Avenue.

In 1970 the route was converted to one man operation using AEC Swifts and was extended to the College of Technology further along the developing Ashfield Road. The extra running time saw a 24 minute service provided to retain the requirement for two buses. 1973 saw the completion of Ashfield Road and the 9 now served the Sevenoakes Estate -terminating on estate roads at Grassington Place - a third Swift was allocated to allow a 20 minute frequency to be provided.  Meanwhile route 7C (Blackpool to Anchorsholme via Warbreck Drive and Bispham) had been diverted through Ingthorpe Estate and was extended to Cleveleys in 1967.

1975 saw the 7C and 9 rationalised with the 7C terminating at "Whiteholme" - once known as "Haddle House Estate", but really Anchorsholme and only just round the corner from Sevenoakes - the terminus being the junction of Anchorsholme Lane and Luton Road. From 1982 this became route 8 and Fylde took it over at deregulation. Route 9 was now extended from Grassington Place to Cleveleys and once again split into the 9A and 9B! The 9A which ran daily used Sevenoakes Drive and Anchorsholme Lane in full, the 9B (weekdays only) used Warren Drive, North Drive, Luton Road and Anchorsholme Lane. Both ran every 40 minutes and four vehicles were now required.

Atlantean 324 in the customary pose at Cleveleys Bus Station during the period when buses faced outwards - OK for PD3s with their rear door but a somewhat less user friendly when Atlanteans appeared.
Atlanteans took over most workings from 1977 and in 1982 the route was simplified with all journeys running via Sevenoakes Drive. Route 9 was reintroduced, the 9B dropped but the 9A was now used to signify journeys that ran via North Drive and Victoria Road instead of the full length of Anchorsholme Lane. Number 9 was now in use as a regular timetable for the first time since 1960. 
1987 and the 9 had returned to crew operation - though usually still with Atlanteans such as 307 (Donald MacRae see his Victory Guy photo albums for more from his collection)
At deregulation this pattern continued - 4 Atlanteans provided the daytime service with a combined 20 minute headway. In the evening a half hourly service was provided - interworked with the 22/22A at Cleveleys whilst on Sundays a 40 minute frequency ran. Amazingly, though, in January 1987 crew operation was reinstated after 17 years! The running time was cut from 31 to 26 minutes allowing a 15 minute service to be provided. PD3s and occasionally Routemasters joined the established Atlanteans on the route.

Fylde Renault 125 loads in Cleveleys Bus Station on competing service 66A which largely followed the 9 to Blackpool but did penetrate some of the local housing areas en route (Dave Hatcher)
 Fylde was starting to stretch its muscles having won the tender for route 8 to Whiteholme and soon extended it to Cleveleys and double the frequency to every 30 minutes. By 1988 it was running through to Lytham. Also in November 1987 Fylde started a minibus route (66) along the 9 route to Sevenoakes, but diverting down many of the estate roads. In April this was extended to Cleveleys giving Fylde six buses per hour from Ashfield Road to Cleveleys compared to Blackpool's four! Blackpool introduced the 9C (Bus Station to College at peak times and lunch times) as part response.
City Pacers ruled the roost on route 9 from August 1988 to its merger with the 12 in March 1992. Here 551 heads to Corporation Street - terminus for the route in 1989 (Dave Hatcher)
Not one to take the attack lying down, Blackpool converted the 9 to Handybus minibus operation from August 1988 and standardised the route omitting Moor Park Avenue (using Bispham Road and Bristol Road) and Victoria Road West (all buses ran via Anchorsholme Lane). 8 City Pacers provided a 7/8 minute service during the day and a 15 minute service at night with all departures extended to Corporation St in Blackpool Town Centre. The 22A was also diverted via Ashfield Road between Bispham and Cleveleys to reinforce the 9s.

Delta 115 awaits time on route 12, which had replaced the 9 in March 1992 (Dave Hatcher)
In 1990 the Corporation St section was withdrawn and in March 1992 the 9 was replaced by an extended 12 using Optare Delta single deckers on a 15 minute St. Annes to Cleveleys service. Fylde cut its minibus service to half hourly in April but extended route 11A to Cleveleys via the 12 route. When the two companies merged in 1994 the 12 was cut to half hourly - the 11/11A/12 making a combined 10 minute service between St. Annes and Cleveleys, albeit two per hour serving Warbreck Drive as service 11 - all three routes used double deckers again. The 22/22A continued every 15 minutes too. Briefly in 1998/9 the 12 was extended to Fleetwood once per hour - shades of the 9 in the 1930s. The service switched back to single deckers again in 1999 
Line 11 was a haunt of Deltas for all its nine year life under the Metro banner

The Metro network change in April 2001 saw the 11, 11A, 12 and parts of the 22/22A merged into a single service "Line 11" from Lytham to Cleveleys. This ran via Talbot Road, Layton, Benson Road, Bispham Road to Bispham Library, then Ingthorpe Avenue, Ashfield Road, Sevenoakes Drive, Anchorsholme Lane, North Drive and Victoria Road West to Cleveleys. Today it is operated a mix of Deltas and low floor Tridetns with help from Olympians and the odd Excel and Solo with a bus every 7/8 minutes. Line 3 replaced the 11 route via Warbreck Drive and the ex Fylde minibus route (by then the 33), while Line 7 replaced the 22/22A north of Bispham. Line 11 continued largely unchanged on its northern end - other than the odd tweak of the running time and evening/Sunday frequency change until the post Metro network change of July 2010.

26 July 2010 saw the 11 split with the Blackpool to Cleveleys section replaced by new service 9 which operated every 10 minutes on weekday days, every 20 on Sunday days and every 30 each evening using 9 buses (3 evenings, 4 Sundays). It initially started from Corporation Street but the Town Centre terminus moved to Clifton Street on 30 August. Since then it has received minor timetable changes with a reduction of the Sunday evening service to hourly in May 2011 and a reduced evening running time of 29 minutes from June. 

Minor timetable changes have taken place, but April 2016 saw an extension every 30 minutes all day, daily from Blackpool to Victoria Hospital via Newton Drive needing 10 buses. This was further revised in July 2016 with a half hourly daytime and hourly evening/Sunday diversion from Plymouth Road via St Walburgas Road, Hospital and Newton Drive to Blackpool Centre. The PVR returned to 9 buses and the Hospital workings became service 9A.

For most of its renaissance, low floor double deckers have been the norm, with some Olympian operation and occasional single deck operation at weekends. For a while in 2015/6 Solos worked the evening duties. Paladium single deckers took over Sunday workings in late 2015 and evening workings from April 2016 (taking over at Victoria Hospital). New Enviro 400s will take over all Monday to Saturday workings from July 2016, with Citaro single deckers on Sundays.

First day of new route 9 saw 310 in service