Sunday, 20 November 2016

Blackpool's Metrobuses

The MCW Metrobus was introduced in the 1970s as an integral bus by bodybuilder Metro Cammell Weymann to counteract a reduction in supply to bodybuilders by Leyland. It became popular with London and other operators including many PTEs - but was seemingly not considered by Blackpool with no recorded demonstration - though a West Midlands PTE example POG515Y ran on loan for a while in September 1982 during a Bus and Coach Council event as it carried their promotional livery.

It was thus something of a surprised to find two new operators both using red liveried Metrobuses on Blackpool's Promenade in 2001! Firstly, and briefly, a local minibus operator (ACE Travel) introduced a 'Red Bus' Promenade service between Pleasure Beach and Cleveleys using four of a fleet of six ex London Metrobuses. A half hourly timetable was provided but clearly this failed to attract customers and the service ended after a few months, taking ACE Travel with it. BYX205/80/92V, EYE323V, GYE382W and GYE445W were the six buses used. All passed to Archway at the end of Red Bus and some lasted in use until around 2010/1 on local school services - 280 and 445 succumbing to a role as spares donors sooner.
BYX205V and GYE382W - and a third - reprensted 1/2 the Red Bus fleet - seen here in Pleasure Beach coach park. (Brian Turner)
The longer lived operation was by Ensignbus of Purfleet, Essex which owned the City Sightseeing Brand. The service started in May and was operated in conjunction with Blackpool Transport from Rigby Road. A 15 minute frequency circular ran from Tower via Stanley Park to Zoo, then via Oxford Square a, Waterloo Road and Promenade to Pontins then back to Tower via the Prom. For 2002 Blackpool's Zoo service 21 was merged into the route which now ran out and back via Stanley Park.
One of the initial City Sightseeing Metrobuses BOX72V was Ensign 211 and Blackpool 811. The BTS numbers used the 8xx series for third party owned buses - previously used for Phoenix North West buses when fueled by Squires Gate Depot with the last two digits corresponding to Ensign's numbers which ere in the 2xx series for part open toppers and 3xx for full open toppers. (Brian Turner)

Five Metrobuses were operated on loan from Ensignbus. Unusual for Blackpool, these were standard for Ensign. 810 and 811 (BOK72/5V) were new to West Midlands PTE and were part open toppers, as was 815 (VRG415T) which was new to Tyne and Wear. 821/2 (LAT501/2V) were full open toppers and new to Kingston upon Hull.

2002 saw new to South Yorkshire EWF450V help out for the summer in generic livery, while new to London 864 (A964SYF), a full open topper, joined the fleet in 2003. Two Olympians joined the fleet for 2005, with 810/1, 821/2 returning to Ensign. 815/864 continued, with brief assistance from VRG417T as 817.

In 2006 Blackpool assumed operation of City Sightseeing's Manchester tour and the tour vehicles BXY302V, GYE392W (new to London) and BOX68V (West Midlands) became BTS 802, 892 and 814. At the end of the season 802, 814, 815 and 864 were withdrawn, replaced by more Olympians with 892 lasting into the 2007 season. At least six were exported by Ensign with 802, 821, 822 and 892 leaving for USA and the Washington tour, 864 joining CS Portugal and 850 going to Cyprus.
Fully open top 821 turns onto the Promenade from New Bonny Street (Brian Turner)

Metrobuses returned to the Prom again with A945SUL running for Classic Bus North West in 2012 and two ex Hong Kong examples running for its successor Catch 22 Bus from 2013-2015.