Tuesday, 5 September 2017

On This Day in 1987 - 26 becomes Handy

A common sight for the late 1980s and early 1990s was one or a pair of City Pacers waiting time at Clifton Street on the high frequency 26 service (Brian Turner)
Blackpool introduced the Handybus brand on a batch of five minibuses in May 1987, occupying them from June on a new service in St. Annes. A second batch was ordered and these were to convert service 26. This seemed to be a response to Fylde introducing a half hourly service 26 overlaying Blackpool's 15 minute service in late August. A week later Blackpool's 26 rose to every 5 minutes needing 9 minibuses.

Handybus Route 26 from 5 September 1987 on which City Pacers ran until August 1996
13 new City Pacers were ordered, but perhaps at short notice as only two were in stock at the start of September! To make up the numbers, a batch of Ford Transits was borrowed from Midland Red North and mainly ran on the St. Annes route to release the City Pacers for the 26. 

Day one saw new City Pacer 549; existing ones 560, 562, 563, 564, Optare Demonstrators D854MUA and D898NUA which now joined the fleet as 565/566 and sister D81NWW, plus Transit 381 (C41WBF). The remaining new City Pacers, 550-559, 567 and 568 arrived and entered service over the next two months

The Ford Transit was a common choice for early minibuses, but were not the easiest to board - Midland Red North C40WBF is covering on service 26 (Brian Turner)

With the Transits dispatched back to the Midlands, the 26 settled down to regular City Pacer operation. 9 buses provided the daytime service with three in the evening and on Sundays. The route remain unchanged, save for an unusual evening diversion via Watson Road to serve the Ice Drome which ran from August 1988 to March 1992. The latter date also saw the frequency eased to every 6 minutes (8 minibuses). November 1994 saw the evening service terminus move to Cookson Street. 

After nine years, routine City Pacer operation ended on 5 August 1996 the route was converted to single deck operation. Minibuses - mainly Metroriders resumed on 7 December 1998 and lasted until the end of the 26 on 7 April 2002.

A 5 minute daytime and 15 minute evening/Sunday service was provided - note the promotional maximum fare for the first weekend

The evening Ice Drome extension took service buses through the Watson Road underpass  for the first and only time

566 - one of two demonstrators purchased in August and after a brief period in use in plain white received Handybus colours. Here 566 is about to turn into Clifton Street from Talbot Road passing much earlier generation PD3 507 (Brian Turner)

Transit C40WBF once again - this time at South Pier (Brian Turner)