Saturday, 31 December 2016

Catch 22 Farewell to Step Entrance Buses

Former Blackpool Routemaster 521 has now reverted to its London guise as RM1583 with its prime use now for wedding hires requesting London buses. It spent several months in Blackpool in this livery, albeit a much more faded version when it was used on trail in 1986. Sadly despite two examples being initially preserved in Blackpool schemes, the 12 survivors of Blackpool's 13 Routemasters all now carry London livery - 11 in red and one in Silver Jubilee silver. (Photo David Umpleby)

From 1 January 2017 Double Deck Buses used on local services will need to comply with Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 - colloquially known as DDA compliance. This has applied to all new buses since 2001, but existing vehicles at the time were given 15-19 years to comply. Single Deck Buses have had to be compliant since January 2016, Double Deckers now from January 2017 with Coaches from January 2020. 

The PSVAR defines a coach as designed to carry seated passengers only - while buses can carry seated and standing passengers. This has led to some operators to re-certify step entrance buses as coaches by removing authorisation for standees. These operators are continuing to use step entrance buses on school routes. Heritage vehicles (over 20 years old) can be used for no more than 20 days per year (per bus), but this tends to fall foul of concessionary fares regulations which suggest that heritage operated services do not qualify for reimbursement.

Having run heritage buses on service 21 in its various forms - initially a Tower to Zoo service in 2015, then Cleveleys to Zoo or Pleasure Beach from Easter to July and since then a Cleveleys to St. Annes service, Catch 22 Bus decided to provide the entire New Years Eve service 21 with heritage buses. No less than five appeared in service with ex London Routemaster RML887, ex Blackpool Routemaster 521 (now back in London guise as RM1583), ex Blackpool PD3 516 and ex Ribble VR 1997 starting the service, with 516 swapped for sister 529 midway through to allow 516 to work a private hire. Lancastrian Transport Trust also joined the fray, providing ex Ribble Atlantean 1805 as a free bus over the service route for much of the day.

The Catch 22 heritage fleet will now focus on private hires and perhaps the odd enthusiast event, leaving accessible buses for the remainder of their network.

40 years separate these vehicles with 2011 Optare Versa YJ61JHH watching RML887 of 1961 and Bristol VR OCK997K depart for service 21 (David Umpleby)
RML887 heads for the seafront for its last duty

PD3 516 returned to service use in 2015, having been withdrawn in 1984 for use as a driver trainer until 1999, a configuration it retained in preservation until sale to Catch 22 in 2015 - it carries the pre 1933 livery style adopted by Routemasters and sister PD3s 507 and 512 in the 1980s (David Umpleby)

RM1583 leaves depot - this would later operate the final journey - Cabin to Pleasure Beach (David Umpleby)