Saturday, 27 May 2017

Happy 15th Birthday - Blackpool's Dennis Tridents

332, the last new Trident purchased, heads through the pedestrianised St John's Square (Brian Turner)
May 31 2017 is the 15th anniversary of the Blackpool Dennis Trident. Late 2001 saw an order placed with Dennis for nine Trident chassis to receive East Lancs Lolyne bodywork. UK operators purchased "Trident 2s" which were not the second version of the type, but the 2 referred to the axle count. The chassis was unveiled in 1997, but the first did not enter service until the start of 1999. Over 2,000 had been produced before Blackpool's arrived. 
301 - the first Trident on a short working Line 14 in July 2006 (Brian Turner)
Dennis went through several owners since the 1982 Lancets - Blackpool's only other buses from this maker. At the time it was part of Hestair (who also owned Blackpool coach builder Duple) but passed to a management buyout (t/a Trinity) in 1989. It was sold to Mayflower in 1998 who also bought Alexander. In 2001 a merger with Henleys (owner of Plaxton) saw Dennis become part of Transbus International. The Dennis brand was later dropped but parent Mayflower entered administration and Transbus was rescued in May 2004 as Alexander Dennis (less Plaxton which was sold to other owners).

Blackpool's first Tridents were badged as "Dennis" vehicles and on 10 May 2002 301 arrived from East Lancs - the first new double decker since 1994 and the first East Lancs body since the 1989 Olympians. Like the Atlanteans before, the number series restarted at 301. Its two predecessors were Burlingham bodied Leyland Titan PD2 301 (LFV301) which ran from 1957 to 1970 and Atlantean / East Lancs 301 (BFR301R) which ran from 1977 to 1989. It seems highly likely that 301 will have a much longer service life in the town.

The other eight vehicles followed with 304 arriving on the 14th, 303 16th, 305 17th, 302 20th, 306 on 22nd with 307/9 on 28th and finally 308 on 29th. The launch date was 31 May when the buses were lined up at North Pier. They were all dedicated to Line 14 and received its dark green and yellow livery - the first buses to be delivered in a Metro livery. 

After the launch all nine entered service, symbolically replacing Atlanteans at Corporation Street on Line 14 journeys. The 14 required 16 buses on weekdays, 10 working Fleetwood to St. Annes and 6 working Fleetwood to Blackpool. The nine Tridents typically worked St. Annes trips supported by Atlanteans of two generations earlier. These, Blackpool Transport's first low floor double deckers, were 10.5m long and seated 77 (nine less than the Atlanteans) with 47 upstairs and 30 down. Cummins engines were fitted.
Brand new Tridents 317 (l) and 315 (r) in base livery prior to branding on 9 May 2003 just after arrival from East Lancs (Brian Turner)
301-309 clearly impressed as nine more were ordered for 2003 delivery they arrived as 310-318 between 1 May and 15th May, ahead of a launch on 23rd May. 310, 312-317 entered service the following day on Line 14, with 311 noted by the 29th after minor damage repairs and 318 on the 26th. Like their sisters 310-316 were in Line 14 green and yellow, but 317/8 introduced a new black and yellow pool livery. Tridents had so far been restricted to Line 14 with the odd appearance on schools work and tram replacement duties but 317/8 were now 'go anywhere' buses - though blinds covered only 11 and 14 destinations. On 5 June 317 was noted on Line 11 for the first time. Both black Tridents had tachographs allowing private hire duties.

Side by side in service - Line 11 was often beset by late running and bunching as 323 overtakes 322 at Starr Gate (Brian Turner)
2004 saw a third batch of Tridents, this time seven strong. First to arrive was 319 in black/yellow on 30 April, while six painted in turquoise and yellow followed in early May for Line 11. These were numbered 322-327 as 320/1 were to be reserved for two more pool buses which never appeared. 319 entered service on 25 May, followed by the Line 11 six on 29 May. After a year gap, in 2006 the fourth and final order was delivered - 328-332 arriving in June and with four entering service after launch on 23 June, with 332 following on 26th June. 322-332 allowed half of the Line 11 PVR of 22 to be rostered for Tridents. 

1 November 2007 and 334 and 336 are on route learning/driver familiarisation duties prior to their deployment on Line 1 four days later - as well as the extra length these featured rubber mounted windows, not bonded glazing like their new sisters (Brian Turner)
With a fleet of 30 new Tridents Blackpool then turned its attention to the second hand market, taking 21 between 2007 and 2012. They came from Lancashire United (5), Go Ahead London (4), South Lancs Travel (1) and Bus Vannin (11). The first batch was new to Blackburn Transport. They purchased five near 12m Tridents in 2002, but having been privatised they passed to its successor Lancashire United who sold these to Blackpool in August 2007. These youthful leviathans - Blackpool's biggest double deckers, seat 90 with 53 upstairs and 37 downstairs. They were painted into orange and yellow between September and October and entered service on Line 1 - the new year round Promenade service on 5 November 2007. Flickr link: 337 with Blackburn

The length of the Blackburn buses is apparent from this interior view of 336 (Brian Turner)

2008 saw the first of two pairs of redundant London Tridents were acquired. Unusually they were new to Independent Blue Triangle of Rainham, but by the time of purchase the operator had been bought by Go-Ahead and had been used almost exclusively on route 248. TL911/3 (PO51UMG/UMJ) were purchased through Ensignbus dealership they arrived on 20 October 2008, however the former suffered the ignominy of being rescued from the hard shoulder of the M55 by Blackpool's tow wagon having suffered engine failure. They were new in September/October 2001 and featured an older style of bodywork. They were dual doored seating just 66 - 46 up and 20 down. TL913 entered the workshops immediately and was converted to single door and upseated to 75 (46/29) and received new Blackpool style roller blinds. It received Line 1 orange livery and fleet number 339 in February but did not enter service until 15 June - eight months after arrival.

338 ready for repaint in May 2009 (Paul Turner)
TL911 became 338 and conversion work similar to 339 commenced in February and was completed with a repaint into Line 1 colours in May. After this a replacement engine was sourced and fitted but it was not until December that work was completed allowing 338 to make its debut on 5 January 2010 after 442 preparation. 
339 in Line 1 colours but debranded on route 11 (Brian Turner)
Two sister buses were dispatched from Ensign on 15 February 2010 as the former TL919/20 (PO51UMT/V). TL920 duly arrived but had left a defective TL919 on the M6 in the Midlands. This was recovered to Ensign for repair and eventually arrived on 25 March as seen here. TL920 became 341 and was converted to single door as per 338/9 but received LED destination displays. It was repainted in the new fleet livery during May. TL919 became 340 and was completed in July. 341 entered service on 21 August with 340 following around 2nd September.

Ex South Lancs 342 heads through Lytham with a defective destination display
 A tenth second hand Trident arrived on 15 April 2010. Blackpool's new 342 was new as X80SLT to South Lancs Transport and was another 90 seater like the ex Blackburn's - indeed it was built alongside them being licensed in December 2002. SLT kept the cherished plate and 342 became PL52XAD. A repaint into the new fleet livery followed in June/July and it entered service on 28th August. Flickr link: 342 with SLT at Fleetwood Freeport and 342 at Leigh with SLT

In 2011 Blackpool turned to the Isle of Man to replace older Olympians with 11 Tridents and 19 DAFs purchased. The Tridents started with 343 first to arrive after refurbishment and repaint and it entered service in December 2011, with 344 to 353 following between March and May. The buses were brought in to Bus and Coach World at Blackburn for a refurbishment which included new front ends and a retrim.  

Ex Bus Vannin Isle of Man Tridents
NoRegIOM NoIOM RegChassis NoBody NoStatus
343H1FBT53EMN53Y2106734305To Service 30 Dec 2011
344E11BTS50EMN50Y2105534303To Service 24 Mar 2012
345  E12BTS  48EMN50Y2104534301To Service 9 Mar 2012
346E13BTS51EMN51Y2106634304To Service 8 Mar 2012
347E14BTS52EMN52Y2106834306To Service 21 Apr 2012
348E15BTS49EMN49Y2104634302To Service 21 Apr 2012
349E16BTS71MAN93F3130336802To Service 1 May 2012
350E17BTS75GMN324F 3130836805To Service 2 May 2012
351E18BTS74FMN540E3130736804To Service 2 May 2012 
352E19BTS73FMN412E3130436803To Service 5 May 2012
353E20BTS72FMN158E3129936801To Service 21 May 2012  

New as Isle of Man Transport 51 - Blackpool 346 is seen at the former Peel Park terminus of the 14 in 2013 (Brian Turner)
In the Metro era Tridents were used on the 1 (333-339), 11 (322-332) and 14 (301-316) with pool buses 317-9 standing in when required. These occasionally appeared on other Metro routes such as the 2, 6 and 7 and all would put in turns on school service when required. Under the current network, Tridents dominate routes 9, 11 and 14 and see regular use on the 1 at weekends and one works routes 2/2C on weekdays.

Routine repaints commenced with 304 in February 2009 and all of the first batch received a full repaint in Line 14 colours by December 2009. Only three of the second batch have yet been repainted with 314 treated in June 2009 after front end accident repairs, 310 in February 2010 and 311 in April. Accident damage to 310 saw a second repaint, this time into the new livery in September 2011.

341 was the first of the second pair of London examples to enter service - it had LED destinations (Brian Turner)
The new livery premiered on 340-342, but surprisingly it was the orange ex Blackburn buses which were next to be repainted after four years in service. 333/4/5/7 were treated between September and November 2010 with 336 following in January 2011. The 2006 Tridents were all treated between November 2010 and February 2011 with the 2004 Line 11 examples 322-327 treated from February to July 2011. 338/9 were then treated in August/September 2011.

301/2 and 312-5 were repainted in 2012 were painted during 2012, of which 312-315 received all-over adverts. 303-309, 311/6-9 all gained new livery in 2013. A number of Tridents have carried all-over adverts:

  • 313 Tower Dungeon  - March 2012 to May 2014
  • 312 Tower Eye  - April 2012 to December 2014
  • 315 Madam Tussauds - May 2012 to December 2014
  • 314 Sealife Centre - June 2012 to February 2014
  • 313 Sands Venue - May 2014 (current)
  • 311 Sainsburys - July 2014 to October 2015
  • 301 British Legion - October 2014 to June 2015
  • 328 Sealife Centre - April 2015 to 2016
  • 329 Madam Tussauds - May 2015 to February 2017
  • 330 Tower May 2015 to late 2016 or early 2017
  • 331 Tower Dungeon - May 2015 to June 2016
  • 332 Tower Circus - June 2015 to September 2016
  • 301 Heart FM - June 2015 to February 2017
  • 331 Blackpool & Fylde College - July 2016 to June 2017
  • 329 Heart FM - February 2017 (current)
  • 331 Blackpool & Fylde College - June 2017 (current)

Withdrawals and Modifications
Few modifications have taken place over the life of the Tridents, but there have been two notable ones. 318 was fitted with LED destinations in June 2012. All 30 new Tridents had roller blinds; 338/9 were also fitted with roller blinds when overhauled, but all other second had ones came with LED blinds, except 340/1 which were fitted by BTS. After 318, a programme of further retrofits commenced with 319, 323/4, 326-332, 338 and 339 treated. 301-317, 322, 325 and 330 retain roller blinds.

In 2016 - 306 to 319, 322-332 had exhaust treatment modifications and electric fans fitted to improve their emissions. 305 later received 318's kit after it was withdrawn.

The first Trident to be withdrawn, at 13 years old, was 303 in May 2015 which was converted to a driver trainer as 973. 304 soon followed and was repainted into a new grey based training livery returning to use as 974 in September 2015. 973 was then painted to match. 318 was the third withdrawal after an arson attach on 23 January 2016. After cannibalisation it was sold for scrap on 14 October 2016.

The arrival of the second batch of Enviro 400 Cities has accounted for most of the second hand Tridents. 344-6 were withdrawn at the end of February, 333-343, 347-349 following in March, though 342/9 have since returned to use. 333, 334 and 337 have since found new owners, 333 at Tyrers, Adlington 334/7 not yet reported.

So today, 27 out of 30 new to Blackpool Tridents remain in use as do six of the 21 second hand ones.