Thursday 30 April 2009


Blackpool Atlantean 360 has now gone for scrap.
Trident 303 is now in for repaint in Line 14 colours, joining 301/2/4 already treated. Sister 314 is away for accident repairs.
Ex Blue Triangle Trident 338 is now under repaint (Line 1) while 339 awaits entry into service.
Volvo Olympian 374 now has a rear end advert for Real Radio.

Tram Shelter Restored

The Lytham St. Annes tram shelter at Fairhaven Hotel has been restored to former glory by Fylde Borough Council and Lytham Civic Society. Built in 1923 by Heap and Son's it served the tramway until the section from St. Annes to Lytham closed in 1936. It was then served by the replacement buses (route 11A and others) until the mid 1990s when it was finally closed. Situated in the middle of a road junction it was latterly not in the most convenient location. Since its closure road layout changes have improved its setting, but sadly it seems active use is unlikely. The restoration work is to a high standard and includes the traditional green and cream paintwork - strangely favoured by Lytham St. Annes which had blue trams and buses!

On 29 April the Civic Society had a launch event featuring LTT's Blackpool PD3 529 which ran on the joint tram replacement routes.

Monday 27 April 2009

Fylde legacy

preserved Fylde 71 at Little Marton Mill

15 years ago in May 1994 Blackpool Transport acquired Fylde Transport Ltd, t/a Blue Buses. Their long established neighbour had grown after deregulation carving out a niche with services to Cleveleys and Mereside alongside its traditional Lytham to Blackpool market. Many school services were operated, most originating with either Ribble or Blackpool prior to deregulation.

The fleet was elderly, with just three Optare Deltas of 1991 representing the new full size bus investment since deregulation. Other than a DAF coach, the only other new purchases were 22 Renault-Dodge minibuses. In its latter years Fylde had undertaken major refurbishments of several Leyland Atlanteans, culminating in the rebodying of four as single deckers.

BT inherited a fleet of 89 buses with an average age of 13years- most were Leyland Atlanteans 29 with Northern Counties bodies (most new to Fylde, 9 new to Greater Manchester and 1 new to AA Motors) 18 were new to Kingston-upon-Hull with Roe bodywork and four were single deckers, rebodied in 1993 having been new as trolleybus replacements. 21 Renault minibuses and 12 coaches made up the fleet.

November 1994 saw a revision to the network to co-ordinate the two operator's services - ending the joint 11C (Blackpool-St. Annes in favour of an extended 14/14A) and also witnessing the end of Routemaster operation on BT's Promenade service - Fylde's 11 remained. A 'corporate' livery of green or blue and cream in Fylde's style was adopted - Squires Gate Depot based buses using "Blackpool & Fylde Blue Buses" fleetnames.

BT absorbed the Fylde operation in July 1996 including eight newly delivered but very troublesome Optare Excels. Squires Gate depot remained until April 1999 when services once again centred solely on Rigby Road.

Prior to 1994 Blackpool was renewing its fleet regularly - with 35 Optare City Pacers, 28 Optare Deltas and 6 Olympians purchases since deregulation. 21 Atlanteans had left the fleet and - Routemaster aside - the oldest bus was 322 - a 1979 Atlantean. This and several others cascaded to Fylde to replace their oldest Atlanteans. The average age was 10 years - though this dropped to 7.5 if the Routemasters were excluded.

With the combined minibus fleet to replace, new purchases focused on Optare Metroriders from 1994 to 1998 - with just six Volvo Olympians and ten secondhand Leyland Olympians to show for the DD fleet and the 8 Excels of 1996 as the only single deckers. 2000 saw the debut of the Optare Solo, replacing the last City Pacers however it was not until 2002 that East Lancs bodied Atlantean withdrawals recommended (except for 322/3 which became driver trainers back in 1999). By 2002 only a handful of ex Fylde Atlanteans remained - the oldest dating from 1975 and withdrawn during the spring. However how the fleet had changed the average age was now 12 yrs and 4 months - almost as bad as Fylde's when it was taken over. Atlanteans of both origins were gradually withdrawn by by May 2004 all that was left of the Fylde fleet was the three Deltas - though the first of these was burnt out that month.

132/3 (H2/3FBT) continue today fittingly branded for Line 11 - the successor to their initial operation for Fylde and retaining the cherished plates fitted from new standing for Fylde Borough Transport. The company's performance has improved in recent years, but its fleet investment has never caught up to the pre purhcase rates. Having grown from 130 to 208 with the take-over the fleet dropped to 159 by 2004 but is now up to 188 again at an average age of over 11.5 years - well above the government target of eight years.

former Fylde Delta 133 (H3FBT) runs empty to Lytham on Easter Monday

Route-wise - Lines 3, 4 and 11 bear strong links to Fylde routes 33, 44 and 11/11A though to a much simplified matter. Line 11 fittingly retains the traditional number of the first Lytham to Blackpool bus route of 1935 and retains a hint of blue in its turquoise.

Sunday 26 April 2009

Atlanteans Reach the End of the Road

Blackpool's love affair with the Atlantean is nearing the end. The sole active survivor 364 remains in use on school services - the bus in green and cream eight years after the last was so painted. At the start of 2009 four sisters remained in store and three have now left the fleet.
352 was cannibalised and sent for scrap in early April. This was withdrawn back in July 2006.

360 is nearly ready to go for scrap with its engine, gearbox, windows and seat cushions salvaged. This has been in store since February 2007. Finally 358 - withdrawn last July - has passed to the Lancastrian Transport Trust for spares. 363 remains in store at Marton.

Very few ex Blackpool Atlanteans remain in use with 327/9 recently withdrawn by Howell's of Deri and 324 also withdrawn by KJB South Hykeham. 354/7/61 remain in use with Scotbus, Inverness, however.

334 and 362 are preserved with LTT and 353 with the Chesterfield 123 Group.

Solos beat Swifts

244 in the paint shop on 2 May having arrived a few days before
Blackpool Transport has taken delivery of the first of its new batch of Solos - 240-242 arrived on Thursday with 243-246 due soon. All are in Line 2 livery and should replace 501-507, leaving just 11 Metroriders (508-15, 517, 518 and 593). This will take the Solo fleet to 57 (240-269, 271-297) which makes it the third most common vehicle type in the fleet, overtaking the AEC Swift with 55. Solos are unlikely to catch up with Leyland Titans (351 new, 1 second hand) or Atlanteans (64 new 46 second hand = 110) just yet.
240 YJ09OTE arr 23 April, to service 7 May
241 YJ09OTF arr 23 April, to service 7 May (late afternoon)
242 YJ09OTG arr 23 April, to service 7 May
243 YJ09OTH arr 28 April, to service 7 May
244 YJ09OTK arr by 1 May, to service 7 May
245 YJ09OTL arr 7 May, to service 11 May
246 YJ09OTM arr 8 May, to service 11 May

Blackpool PD3 'in service'

Preserved Blackpool PD3 529 carried over 1,000 passenger journeys at Lytham Hall on Saturday 25 April. As part of the town's St George's Day Festival it - and London RML2290 provided a shuttle service from the Hall Gates to the Hall itself. 529 is owned by the Lancastrian Transport Trust and restoration was completed in October 2008. It ran with Blackpool from 1968 to 1980.