Sunday, 16 July 2017

From the Archives: The Delta - Blackpool's Best Buy?

Blackpool's Deltas arrived in this attractive green roof, green skirt livery with black window surrounds with the rest cream. This winter view shows 114 operating service 15 on 2 February 1991 - this being one of two of the second batch to arrive early, in November 1991 (Brian Turner)
Blackpool's bus fleet was predominately double deck from the 1930s to the 1990s, and its only since 2000 that the more than half of the fleet has been single deck (including minibuses). Recent history has been littered with short lived single deck designs:
  • 55 AEC Swifts of 1969-1975 - w/d between 1980 and 1988 - the oldest being 14 yrs and 7 months old
  • 4 Dennis Lancets of 1982 sold in 1988 before their 6th birthday
  • 4 Leyland National 2s of 1984, sold in 1991 before their 7th birthday
  • 15 second hand Leyland Nationals which lasted 3 to 4 years.
Prior to the Swifts, the last new single deck bus arrived in 1940 - two of which survived to the ripe old age of 24, most of the rest having typical lives of 17-18 years. The second hand Nationals were effectively stop gaps to replace the Swifts while BT focused on its minibus fleet. During 1989 BTS tried a pair of Leyland Lynxes, two Deltas and a Dennis Dart, placing an order for 8 Deltas.


Like most Optare vehicles the Delta was sold as a complete bus, though it was of conventional body on chassis construction on the DAF SB200LC550 chassis. You couldn't have a Delta on any other chassis, though the body shell did spawn other variants.

So it was then that on 22 February 1990 106/7 G106/7NBV rolled into the depot yard from Leeds to start a new era. Optare's eye for style produced a stunning vehicle, slightly less harsh than its ground breaking City Pacer but with a family feel. Its low floor (for a step entrance bus) in the front half was coupled with deep windows to afford a view. Internally high backed seats for 46 were specified, rather than the 51 bus seats that could be squeezed in. A contemporary grey soft trim finish was all that let the image down.

The full batch was 101-108 (G101-8NBV) and it saw off Nationals 145-148 and some early Atlanteans. 106/7 made their debut on 5 March with the rest following over the next month. 7 were required on weekdays with five on the 23-25 (Hospital-Mereside/Midgeland Road) and two on the 53 (Airport-Poulton). On a Sunday five were used on the interworked 22/22A (Cleveleys-Halfway House) and 25 (Hospital to Halfway House) and spares often appeared on the 12 (Blackpool to St. Annes).
106, one of the first pair to enter service, seen in the later livery with the cream roof (Brian Turner)
A second batch was ordered - 109, 110, 112-117 (H109YHGetc). 112/4 arrived in late November 1990 well ahead of the rest which came in January/February 1991. These replaced the Strathclyde Nationals and allowed the interworked 2 (Poulton-Bispham), 15 (Bispham-Staining) and 180/2 (Poulton-Preston) to be largely Delta worked using five buses. Eight more followed during 1991 with 118-120/2 (H118-20/2CHG) arriving in April, 123/4 (J123/4GRN) in July and 125/6 (J125/6GRN) in November.

Services
The new batches seemed to take the operations department by surprise as they now had 24 single deckers for just 13 all day workings:
  • 2/2A (Blackpool to Poulton) = 3
  • 15 (Staining to Cleveleys) = 2
  • 23-25 (Hospital-Mereside/Midgeland Rd) = 5
  • 180/2 (Poulton to Preston) = 2
  • 192 (Blackpool to Kirkham) = 1
A network recast saw route 12 extended to Cleveleys and converted to Delta operation in March 1992 taking 8 buses, but at the expense of the 2A and 15 which lost four workings. Three were put to use on a short lived service 4 between Blackpool and Mereside to compete with Fylde from September 1992 to January 1993 with these three moving onto route 11C (Blackpool to St. Annes). January 1993 saw the arrival of four more Deltas (127-130 K127-30UFV) making 28 buses yet without the work to justify them.


The take-over of Fylde in 1994 brought its three Deltas 1-3 (H1-3FBT) into the fold and 101/2 moved there as 8/9 in early 1995 as the 192 was transferred in. When Fylde was absorbed 1-3 became 131-3 and 8/9 regained their original numbers.
The Fylde takeover brought three more Deltas into the fleet - 1 and 3 retained two tone blue, 2 had received blue and cream. They became 131 to 133 and received green and cream fleet livery.  In April/May 2001 all three received the grey, mustard and yellow 'pool' livery for the Metro network. It is seen here on a Park and Ride for the 2001 Open Golf Championship  (Brian Turner)
The consolidated network of November 1994 saw Deltas on the 12 (4), 22/22A (10) 23-25 (5), 192 (1) and Fylde's 44A (3) making 23 duties for 31 buses which was a bit more respectable. The Deltas couldn't cope with the 22/22A so four double deckers were soon drafted in and in March the Deltas moved onto route 6. Next change in August 1996 saw the Deltas move from the 12 and 23-25 to the 12A and 26 increasing the utilisation to 25. The ex Fylde buses were now normally on the 193. Minibuses returned to the 12A/26 in December 1998 and several Deltas were consigned to store! 105-110, 112, 114, 115, 116 and 130 the affected buses. They returned to use in February with the conversion of the 11/11A and 12 to single deck operation.

The Metro network of 2001 saw the following official allocations:
Line 6: 108-110, 112-117 (9 out of 10 all progressively branded)
Line 7: 118-120, 126-129 (7 out of 8 all in livery from launch)
Line 11: 101-103 (3 out of 3 all retained green and cream)
Pool: 104-107, 122-125, 130-133 (122-133 receiving the original Metro pool livery).
Various transfers have since taken place:
Sept 2002: 125 to Line 7 (ex pool to replace 120)
Oct/Nov 2002: 122, 130-133 to Line 11 (ex pool)
March 2004: 118 to Line 6 (ex 7)
Apr-June 2004: 119, 125-129 to Line 11 (ex 7)
May 2005: 115-117 to Line 11 (ex 6)
Aug/Sept 2005 - 101-103 into Pool livery, 104-107 to Line 6
Apr 2007: 115/6 to Pool (used on tram replacement over winter 06/07)
Nov 2007: 115/6 back to Line 11
Feb 2009 - 103 to Line 6 (replacing 110)


Refurbishment
The aforementioned storage of 130 in winter 1998 was for a pilot refurbishment. An odd choice as the newest bus and the most recent repaint! The bus was duly stripped in February 1999 and treated to retrimmed seat, light laminate interior panelling, new floor, revised lighting and another repaint, finally returning to use in October 1999. Deemed a success, the programme was rolled out with 129 first and then in reverse order to 120 which returned to use in September 2000. Neatly the Fylde trio slotted in here (their body numbers follow on from 122) and they were treated in reverse order. They received two modifications to match their sisters - rear number blinds (instead of side ones) and a /from 48 to 46 seats. 131 was followed by 119 and 118 which emerged in April 2001 as one of the vehicles in Line 7 livery for the new Metro network.
The first branded route was Line 7 for which 7 Deltas were painted ahead of the launch in April 2001. This is 120 seen on Bank Hey Street (Brian Turner)

The programme ceased for a while as attention focused on repaints for the new identity but in August 2001 114 entered the works as a pilot for a phase 2 refurbishment. This reduced some of the changes - retaining the soft trim ceilings/coves for example, but saw the high backed seats replaced by modern moulded bus seats. It returned to use in January 2002 after a protracted refit. 113 followed whilst 108 jumped the queue following minor fire damage. This emerged as a phase 3 job with original seats retrimmed and less internal changes. Phase 2 programme continued with 112, 115, 116, 110, 109, 117 completing the pack by December.

The phase 3 work on 101-107 didn't particularly take off. 101 was retrimmed and fitted with a new floor in Spring 2003 with 102 following. 103-107 retained their original seat moquette with 105 receiving attention to its floor during the autumn.
Deltas also gained Line 6 livery - a claret and yellow scheme - this is 107 turning from Adelaide Street onto the 6 stop at Bank Hey Street (Brian Turner)

Withdrawals and Disposals
The first Delta withdrawal was 120 which suffered a suspected electrical fire in the depot on 5 July 2002 and was scrapped in February 2003. Ex Fylde 131 was burnt out in dramatic circumstances in St. Annes on 18 May 2004 and was scrapped in September. 
The sad remains of ex Fylde 131 after its fire at St. Annes Square on 18 May 2004 (James Millington)

The arrival of new Dennis Tridents for Line 11 saw 115-117 and 130 delicensed in at the end of August 2006. 130 had been selected for conversion to a driver trainer vehicle - the retrofitment of ABS braking allowing it to replace one of the two Atlanteans. Sister 129 was also withdrawn in October (with 115 reinstated) and became the second trainer conversion. This emerged as 969/70 (K129/30UFV) in February 2007 in a reverse Metro blue/yellow livery.
From 2002 several Deltas gained Line 11 turquoise livery including 115 seen at Cleveleys Bus Station (Brian Turner)
116 returned to use in November and with 115 had its Line 11 branding replaced by tram replacement lettering to cover for the trams during the winter track renewal process. They gained pool livery in the spring but went back into Line 11 before the end of the 2007. 117 was not so lucky, it was progressively stripped for spares and went for scrap in July 2007. 

The first Delta to be sold for further use was 128, purchased by Preston Bus as a driver trainer. BTS did the conversion over the winter 2007/8 and the bus moved to Preston in February 2008. 

110 was withdrawn in February 2009 and scrapped in June 2009. Its seats live on though - replacing the originals in 107. With 110 gone the remaining 26 were allocated as:
  • Line 6: 103-109, 112-114 (10)
  • Line 11: 115, 116, 118, 119, 122, 125-127, 132/3 (10)
  • Pool: 101, 102, 123, 124 (4)
  • Trainers: 129/30 (2)
So why the best buy? Well reliability. They have proven to be good workhorses and all retained their original engines until a catastrophic failure for 113 in February 2008. A rebuild could not be affected, but the engine from fire damaged 120 was rebuilt and fitted instead. Not a bad record.
Deltas 101-103, 123/124 gained the black version of the pool livery - this is 102 towards the end of its life on service 11 in Lytham (Brian Turner)

2010 saw a sudden end for the Delta, with service changes and some new Volvos wiping out the fleet during the year. 124 had minor fire damage in September 2009 which was not deemed worthy or repair and 103 was withdrawn in Feb 2010 with engine failure. The withdrawal of service 6 saw off Deltas 104-109,112-116 with 101/2/4/6-9/12/23 in use on Saturday 24th then 104, 106, 107, 109 and 112 ran on the final day with 107 last in working the 2300 Mereside to Grange Park then 2341 back to Market Street and depot. 105, 113, 114 and 116 had been laid up earlier in the month with defects.
123 was the sole Delta to carry an all-over advert - though to a somewhat uninspiring design (Brian Turner)

Nine new Volvo B7RLEs entered service in September and this saw off the remaining Line 11 Deltas with 119, 122/3, 125-7, 132 and 133 in use on the last day (4 September 2010) - 118 missing out. 101, 102 and 123 - in black and yellow - except for 123 which uniquely had a Blackpool Council advertising livery (applied Sept 2008). 101/2 were laid up on 28 October, 123 bowing out on service 17 on 27 November. Most Deltas went for scrap. 101 and 133 were preserved - sadly 101 falling out of preservation. 109/127 went to the Evesham area as staff buses so just 128 and 133 survive, the former in defective condition at Preston Bus and 133 splendidly restored. Trainers 969/70 (ex 129/130) were withdrawn in May and April 2015 respectively and scrapped later in the year
130 became driver trainer 970 in October 2006 it is seen here on 15 June 2011 testing the newly finished Promenade roadway (Brian Turner)

No
Reg
Delivered
Withdrawn
Disposal
Current
101
G101NBV
17/03/1990
28/10/2010
Preserved 3/2011
Believed Scrapped
102
G102NBV 
21/03/1990
28/10/2010
Partons, Scrap 3/10/2011
Scrapped
103
G103NBV
26/03/1990
Feb 2010
Partons, Scrap Aug 2010
Scrapped
104
G104NBV
07/03/1990
25/07/2010
Partons, Scrap 15/09/10
Scrapped
105
G105NBV
28/02/1990
07/2010
Partons, Scrap 03/08/10
scrapped
106
G106NBV
22/02/1990
25/07/2010
Partons, Scrap 16/09/10
Scrapped
107
G107NBV
22/02/1990
25/07/2010
Partons, Scrap 20/09/10
Scrapped
108
G108NBV
28/02/1990
24/07/2010
Partons, Scrap 15/09/10
Scrapped 
109
H109YHG
21/01/1991
25/07/2010
Kanes Foods 25/08/2010
Scrapped
110
H110YHG
04/02/1991
Feb 2009
Preston Recyclers 26/6/09
Scrapped
112
H112YHG
29/11/1990
25/07/2010
Partons, Scrap 20/09/10
Scrapped
113
H113YHG
28/01/1991
July 2010
Partons, Scrap 16/09/10
Scrapped
114
H114YHG
29/11/1990
July 2010
Partons, Scrap 05/08/10
Scrapped
115
H115YHG
16/01/1991
August 2010
Partons, Scrap 14/09/10
Scrapped
116
H116YHG
13/02/1991
July 2010
Partons, Scrap 14/09/10
Scrapped
117
H117YHG
04/02/1991
Sept 2006
Wigleys, Scrap 06/07/07
Scrapped
118
H118CHG
23/04/1991
04/09/2010
Partons, Scrap 22/11/10
Scrapped
119
H119CHG
23/04/1991
04/09/2010
Partons, Scrap 19/10/11
Scrapped
120
H120CHG
24/04/1991
05/07/2002
Scrapped 06/02/03
Scrapped
122
H122CHG
24/04/1991
04/09/2010
Partons, Scrap 13/10/11
Scrapped
123
J123GRN
23/07/1991
27/11/2010
Partons, Scrap Sept 11
Scrapped
124
J124GRN
23/07/1991
26/09/2009
Ingelmere Metals 12/05/10
Scrapped
125
J125GRN
Nov 1991
04/09/2010
Partons, Scrap 22/09/11
Scrapped
126
J126GRN
Nov 1991
04/09/2010
Partons, Scrap 27/07/11
Scrapped
127
K127UFV
20/01/1993
04/09/2010
Kanes Foods 04/11/2010
Scrapped
128
K128UFV
20/01/1993
Nov 2007
Preston Bus Nov 2007
Preston w/d
129
K129UFV
28/01/1993
Oct 2006
Driver Trainer Oct 2006
Then Scrap 10/11/2015
Scrapped
130
K130UFV
28/01/1993
Sept 2006
Driver Trainer Oct 2006
Then Scrap 30/10/2015
Scrapped
131
H1FBT
Fylde 5/91
18/05/2004
Preston Recyclers 02/09/04
Scrapped
132
H2FBT
Fylde 5/91
04/09/2010
Partons, Scrap 29/06/11
Scrapped 
133
H3FBT
Fylde 5/91
04/09/2010
Preserved Apr 2011
Preserved