Saturday, 15 October 2016

From the Archive: 2 and 15 Since Deregulation

National 2 542 unloads at Bispham Hotel having arrived from Poulton on the extended 2A on 15 August 1987
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.
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
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
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 had 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 were 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 stayed out to provide two of the three evening workings. The evening service on the 2 had ceased in May 2011, leaving just the 2C, but it was reinated in October following the diversion of the 2C.
Doomed bus, doomed route. With hours of its service life left, Excel stands at Poulton on route 2 on 31 May a few weeks before the entire service was withdrawn (Paul Turner)

So now the established route via Newton Drive and Hardhorn had just a half hour service once more - having been as frequent as every 7/8 minutes in 1998. In July 2012 the 15 was withdrawn with the 2 diverted to do a double run to Staining and back which it had done in the 1920s. This was no doubt to the detriment of customers making through journeys. By 5 November the 2 and 2C lost their interworking so now needed 3 and 5 buses respectively with full size buses prefered to Solos -though the latter particularly appeared on Sundays.

June 2015 saw the end of service 2 after 88 years with its Blackpool-Staining-Poulton leg incorporated into new Northern Circulars 12/13. This only lasted until the following April when routes 10/17 were extended from Blackpool to Poulton, but omitted Staining which was served by revised southern circulars 15/16 - reinstating the traditional number but via a vastly different route. The 2C continued but lost its evening service whle the Sunday daytime service was curtailed to run Blackpool to Poulton only.  

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.
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
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
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.