Thursday, 3 November 2016

From the Archive: Tendered Services

Deregulation of local bus services in 1986 segregated services into commercial or contracted - the latter procured by local authorities, normally by competitive tendering so were commonly known as 'tendered services'. Lancashire County Council's approach in 1986 was to buy back the service levels prior to deregulation and most gaps in the commercial network were filled by tendered services. This led to some curiosities. Blackpool Transport had operated a half hourly service 2 to Poulton and an hourly 15 to Staining but registered only an hourly Poulton service, so Lancashire awarded Fylde contracts to run to Poulton and Staining every hour. This led to the unusual scenario of a 20 minute evening service along Newton Drive made up of one commercial and two tendered journeys.

Several of Blackpool's evening/Sunday services were put out to tender and Fylde won the 2 (Poulton eves only), 3 (Gynn-Mereside eves/Suns), 7/7A (Bispham circulars eves), 15 (Staining peak hours, eves/Suns), 23A (South Pier - Mereside eves/Suns) and the daytime services on the 8 to Whiteholme and the occasional 13 to Bispham.

Many of Ribble's services were put out to tender and Blackpool was quite successful in securing these - Fylde did win the Blackpool to Great Eccleston and Kirkham routes (190-192) but its other successes from Ribble were mainly school services.

Service 180/182 Fleetwood - Poulton - Preston
January 1987 sees Leyland National 2 543 departing from Preston on route 180 back to Poulton. This is Friargate/Ringway junction - a road that has since been pedestrianised.
Blackpool Transport took-over these services from Ribble on 26 October. The daytime service was basically hourly from Poulton to Preston via Great Eccleston, Elswick, Inskip, Catforth then either via Lea (180) or Woodplumpton (182) then though Ingol into Preston. Evening and Sunday services broadly ran every 2 hours but started in Fleetwood ran via Thornton to Poulton and on to Preston. Additional evening journeys ran from Fleetwood to Poulton. 2 buses were required for the daytime service and by 1987 these were provided by inter-working at Poulton with route 2A. 5 buses did a complex cycle of 2A Bispham-Poulton, 180/2 Poulton-Preston-Poulton, 2A Poulton-Bispham and 15 Bispham-Staining-Bispham. Leyland Nationals were normally used supported by Lancets at times. 2 buses were used in the evenings and on Sundays but with no inter-working.
Ex Strathclyde National 165 operates the Sunday service 182 in Fleetwood. Prior to deregulaton the 180/2 ran though to Fleetwood, but Ribble registered the weekday Fleetwood-Poulton section as the 81/82 (which continued to Blackpool)
Optare Deltas replaced the Nationals around 1991, Blackpool having renewed its contract in 1989 but was unsuccessful in 1992 with Stagecoach Ribble taking over with the service later passing to Phoenix North West. Unfortunately Phoenix ceased trading suddenly in 2001 and after a day of no service, Blackpool stepped in with Optare MetroRiders. This lasted until April 2002 when Stagecoach took-over once more. After a period with ACE Travel from 2003, Stagecoach resumed the service and in 2004 it was converted to low floor operation as part of the Fylde Villager network as service 80/82.

Today the service is run by Cumfybus of Southport from their Poulton outstation and is still recognisably the service Blackpool won in 1986, other than an extension to Fleetwood to replace local Stagecoach services.

Service 165 Preston to Lytham
Nationals were also regulars on the short-lived 165 to Lytham. Here ex Crosville 548 manoevers around Preston Bus Station
Prior to deregulation Ribble had provided a half hourly service from Preston to Lytham on the 167 - and had extended it to St. Annes via Ansdell in 1983. It registered an hourly service and extended it to Blackpool leaving Lancashire to procure a stand alone hourly service to maintain service levels. This took the 165 number as it diverted via Mythop Road in Lytham to replace Fylde's service 4. Blackpool won the contract and used two buses - again normally Nationals with a third at school times for journeys to Queen Mary and King Edward Schools. This lasted until around March 1987 when Ribble registered a half hourly service, replacing the 165 with route 168 which was extended to Heyhouses and later to Blackpool - the 1986 service was a far cry from Stagecoach's double deck operated 15 minute service of 2011.
Atlantean 311 puts in a stint on the 165 - quite rare for the main Preston-Lytham workings. Atlanteans blinds had not been modified to show Preston so white blank had to suffice. This is the layover point for the 165 and 22/22A at Lytham Station.
Blackpool returned to the corridor in February 1988 with the solitary 0610 Blackpool to Preston journey on service 761 - the Ribble/North Western limited stop Blackpool to Liverpool service. A commercial return journey was later introduced and this journey outlasted the withdrawal of the remainder of the 761 in August 1990. Carriages took over 0610 in January 1991 (the return journey was dropped) with Archways succeeding it. Fylde replaced Archways in 1994 and Stagecoach replaced Fylde in 1997 before eventually absorbing this into the main 167/8 service.

In April 2001 Blackpool won the contract for the hourly Sunday St. Annes to Preston 167 service and initially used Deltas with through working on service 12 to Cleveleys. The Metro changes at the end of the month saw the service operate with MetroRiders on a stand alone basis - buses running back to depot for driver change-overs - the replacement driver bringing a fresh bus. In April 2004 the service was diverted via Ansdell to match the commercial service (previously it ran via Clifton Drive) and in November it became the 68 following changes to Stagecoach's service numbers. The contract was reduced to Sunday evenings only in March 2005 and ended in October with Stagecoach taking over.

185 Blackpool to Preston
Blackpool's final service into Preston was an unusual one as it had two distinct versions. Monday, Wednesday and Friday saw it operate from Weeton Camp via Great Plumpton, Kirkham, Treales, Salwick, Lea Town to Preston. The bus departed at 0930 from Weeton Camp to Preston then ran empty to Kirkham for the 1100 to Weeton. In the afternoon it worked a single 1400 Preston to Weeton Camp journey.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays the service ran from Blackpool via Poulton, Singleton, Weeton Camp and Great Plumpton to Kirkham with trips from Kirkham at 0916 and 1316 and from Blackpool at 1230 and 1430. Single deckers were used including AEC Swifts.
The infrequent 185 was not often photographed so we must make do with this withdrawn Swift 594 - and the hand written slip board for "WEETON CAMP 185"
Fylde took-over the contract in January 1988 and two years later it passed to Ribble who only operated the Blackpool-Kirkham section. Around 1992 it was increased in frequency to provide around six journeys per day, Monday to Saturday following the withdrawal of service 158 - the main service through Weeton. By 1995 it was operated by R&M Travel who used a Dodge minibus, or at times a Bristol LHS but by the end of the year it was being operated by Phoenix North West. The route was later extended to Preston, again serving Treales and Salwick but replacing the more frequent 184 (Preston-Salwick service). The extended service ran roughly every 90 minutes. Stagecoach took-over on the collapse of Phoenix and the 185 has evolved into the hourly service 75 provided today by Cumfybus as part of the Fylde Villager network.

7 Kirkham Roamer
Blackpool Transport operated the Kirkham Roamer from 1986 to 1988 and again from 2001-2006. The service ran Monday to Friday only on a four leg rotation, starting in Wrea Green to Lower Lane, then Weshan and Newton and back to Wrea Green passing through Kirkham each time. 
Blackpool Swift 572 operates Kirkham Roamer service 7 at Wrea Green (Brian Turner)

Fleetwood Minibus Services
Ribble introduced a commercial minibus service in Fleetwood, Cleveleys and Thornton in mid October 1986 - just before deregulation. When the initial three month 'honeymoon' period was over and operators were able to make their first service changes, Ribble chose to withdraw the evening services. Blackpool picked these up providing a half hourly Fleetwood to Cleveleys service (F3) and separate hourly services to Thornton (F4 and F5) - all interworked at Cleveleys using three single deckers until the City Pacers entered service in May. The Sunday services passed back to Ribble in early 1988 and the evening services passed to Fylde later in the year.

On the plus side August 1988 saw Blackpool take-over the Sunday 'Fleetwood Leisurelink' circular - effectively a combination of daytime services routed via Marine Hall. This served the Hatfield Avenue and Larkholme areas. It ceased in late 1989 but Blackpool's involvement was not over as a contract for three Sunday evening journeys on route F11 - a re-routed F3 from Cleveleys to Fleetwood started in November 1989 and lasted until May 1990.

The weekday evening and Sunday F11 later came back into the Blackpool fold indirectly as Fylde combined the service with its service 333 in 1994 to run from Fleetwood to Mereside and this was absorbed into the Blackpool network. In April 1996 the Sunday service withdrawn between Cleveleys and Fleetwood and the evening service followed in October 2000.

Fylde also brought with it the evening service on the F9 (Cleveleys-Poulton) and added the Sunday service in July 1996 just as Blackpool absorbed the company. The evening F9 passed to ACE Travel in October 1996 and the Sunday service to Stagecoach in October 1997. Later service changes saw the route evolve into the 88 which Blackpool operated from October 2003 until they absorbed it within Line 2 in 2007. A Sunday service was added in 2009 but the whole service ended in September 2009 partially replaced by Stagecoach service 74.

173 Blackpool to Kirkham
The loss of the 165 was partly offset by the gain of the 173 from April 1987. This Ribble service had been formed in the early 1980s by combining the Kirkham-Lytham 173 with part of the Freckleton to Blackpool 172. The resulting service ran from Kirkham to Blackpool via Wrea Green, Moss Side, Lytham Square, Park View Road, Ballam, Peel Corner, Mereside Estate, Marton Hypermarket, Oxford Square, Victoria Hospital and Layton. Ribble kept the service at deregulation but it passed to Blackpool in April.

The bus operated a Clifton - Queen Mary King Edward School variant in the morning and a return in the afternoon as well as two round trips from Kirkham at 0933 and 1218 returning at 1110 and 1450 from Blackpool. There was no weekend service. In August 1988 the service was withdrawn but partially replaced by a Tuesday and Friday only minibus from Peel Corner to Lytham Square departing at 0945 and returning at 1200. In November the service was extended to start at Wrea Green reaching Peel Corner via Westby and it was renumbered 172. In 1989 it passed to Nuttalls Coaches of Penwortham and had spells with McLaughlin's Coaches and ended up with Phoenix North West. It was withdrawn in 2001 on the closure of Phoenix North West. The original 173 route from Kirkham to Lytham via Wrea Green it today served by the 76 every hour - a far cry from the 1980s and 1990s.

190-192 Blackpool to Great Eccleston (190/1) or Kirkham (192)
Fylde Tiger 43 awaits departure for Kirkham on service 192 in 1987 (Keith West)
Ribble's pre-deregulation 87/88 to Great Eccleston and the Blackpool to Kirkham section of the 193 were replaced by contracted services 190 (Great Eccleston peak hours), 191 (Great Eccleston off peak) and 192 (Kirkham). A basic hourly service over the common section via Poulton and Singleton to Elswick was provided by alternate 191 and 192s with the 190 providing two morning journeys in from Great Eccleston. Fylde usually used Leopard coaches on the service and also provided a two hourly Sunday service between Blackpool and Kirkham which continued onto St. Annes as service 193 - exactly as the pre-deregulation service did.

Blackpool Transport took-over in October 1988, however as Fylde chose to operate the Spring Gardens to Wesham section of the 193 commercially, the Sunday service was dropped as were the early morning short journeys to Poulton. Nationals replaced Fylde's coaches. In November 1990 all 191 journeys were withdrawn except for an afternoon school duty. This left the 192 requiring one bus and the two buses used on the early 190s which ran onto other duties on arrival in Blackpool. Deltas replaced the Nationals in due course and in January 1995 the service was transferred to Fylde - by now a Blackpool subsidiary.

Fylde used a variety of vehicles on the service. It continued to use Deltas (its 1-3 and two (101/2 transferred from Blackpool). The sole Duple bodied Leyland Tiger; the four single deck Atlanteans and examples of the large fleet of Atlantean double deckers appeared. In October 1997 the service passed to Wingates - a Merseyside area firm who won a handful of contracts on the Fylde coast but gave them up almost as quickly. The 192 returned to Blackpool Transport at Squires Gate, moving to Rigby Road on its closure. A Friday and Saturday evening journey was added (1753 from Kirkham and 2230 from Blackpool) but the entire service passed to Stagecoach in 2000. In 2004 it was absorbed into the Fylde Villager network as today's service 76 operated hourly by Coastal Coaches.

754/8 Blackpool to Liverpool

Blackpool Transport's longest service was this unusual Sunday operation. It stemmed from Ribble's long established Blackpool to Preston service 154/8. The evening and Sunday service had been operated by Fylde from 1987 to 1989 and again from 1990. In 1991 the Sunday daytime service was revised to that every 2 hours it was replaced by the 754/8 operated by ABC Travel which operated through to Liverpool via Ormskirk. This replaced the Preston-Liverpool service 101 - an evening service which Blackpool once successfully bid for but pulled out prior to its introduction. The full route was Blackpool via Whitegate Drive, Preston New Road, Weeton (daytime 758) or Wrea Green (evening 754), Kirkham, Clifton, Lea, Ashton, Fylde Road (758) or Garstang Road (754), Preston Bus Station, Penwortham, Longton, Tarleton, Burscough, Ormskirk, Aintree and Liverpool.

Blackpool surprisingly won the contract from ABC in October 1994 - the first departures were at 1000 from Blackpool and 0923 from Liverpool. This meant that Blackpool introduced an X54 at 0730 and 0930 from Blackpool and a 2230 from Liverpool missing out Clifton Village and Ashton. Three Deltas were required and the six hour round trip was accommodated in the driver's schedules thanks to a 49 minute layover at Liverpool which was considered their break. From May 1997 to April 1999 the service ran from Squires Gate, and in October 1999 the contract passed to Ribble.

Fylde continued to provide the 154/158 providing a half hourly Monday to Saturday evening service, a 2 hourly Sunday daytime and evening service on the 154 and a hourly Sunday evening service on the 158. In April 2000 the evening service was reduced to hourly and the Sunday service to two hourly still co-ordinated with the 758. All journeys ran via Wrea Green and were now numbered 158 - following the pattern of the daytime service which had been revised in 1992!

In October 2003 the daily evening service was extended to Knott End to replace Stagecoach service 85. The Sunday service was increased to hourly with the end of the 758 though the daytime journeys terminated in Blackpool. MetroRiders replaced Deltas and in October 2004 the service was renumbered 58 to match Stagecoach's revised numbering. The service was withdrawn in October 2005 with limited Stagecoach replacement from Blackpool to Preston and Blackpool's 2C covering the Knott End section.

Blackpool had briefly operated on route 85 with a single weekday morning journey at 0808 from Hambleton to Blackpool from 1987 to 1992 and a 0655 from Knott End to Blackpool from around 2000 to 2005 - latterly under the 58 number.

88 Fleetwood to Lancaster
If Preston and Liverpool were not far enough, route 88 to Blackpool Transport into Lancaster. This was effectively two linked services. The Fleetwood to Knott End section began life as a temporaryKnott End Ferry during the winter and its periodic service interruptions. It must have proven useful as it became a fully fledged service running from the Marine Hall and Ferry via Amounderness Way, Hambleton, Preesall to Knott End. The bus took 14 miles and 46 minutes to cover the equivalent of a 5 minute ferry journey. After a spin round the Links Road housing estate in Knott End the bus returned to Preesall and then via Pilling and Cockerham - a double run to Glasson Dock passing the Royal Albert Hospital to terminate at Lancaster Bus Station adding 19 miles and 55 minutes to the journey time.

Journeys from Lancaster ran at 0845 1045, 1245, 1445 with an extra at 1735 as far as Hambleton and then onto Poulton. There was also a 1721 Knott End to Fleetwood bus. Fleetwood to Lancaster journeys were 0810 ST, 0840SSH, 1038, 1233 and 1533 with a 1633 to Knott End only. An 0730 Poulton to Lancaster working avoiding Knott End completed the roster. Two minibuses were used. Flickr link to photo of 594 in Lancaster

April 2002 saw the 88 replaced by the 89 from Lancaster to Knott End. Five journeys were provided, one morning journey starting from Poulton, one afternoon journey extending to and from Hambleton and the final journey being the only one to continue right through to Fleetwood via Poulton and Cleveleys. Those journeys that extended beyond Knott End now showed 86 which was the number Stagecoach used for its replacement Knott End to Poulton and Cleveleys service. Stagecoach took-over in full in July and still operate the 86 (Fleetwood to Knott End) and the 89 (Knott End to Lancaster) as the Wyre Villagers.

198 Moorfield to Kirkham
The 198 was a Thursday only market day service which started at the barely recongnisable 'Moorfield' (here roughly) near Treales to Kirkham via Wharles and Roseacre - where the bus reversed into a farm track before heading back to Wharles and Moorside then off to Kirkham. The route dated back to the early 1980s when Granville Coaches provided school contracts from Treales to Kirkham (195 morning) Kirkham-Roseacre-Salwick-Kirkham (196 morning/afternoon) and 197 Kirkham - Salwick - Elswick (afternoon) plus this market day service. The operation survived deregulation and passed through various operators landing with Fylde in December 1995. Normally it was operated by a coach with Leopard 36 being the regular but Tiger 27 took-over for a month or so prior to withdrawal in 1997 with Tiger 21 then taking over - the only one of five ex Shearings coaches to be equipped with a ticket machine. The service passed to Phoenix North West in April 1998 and has since been incorporated into the Fylde Villager.