Saturday 30 May 2009

Pool Fleet

Of the current 186 strong fleet, 151 are route branded, 34 carry the black/yellow pool livery and Atlantean 364 retains the pre2001 green and cream livery. Pool liveried buses are the spare vehicles used to cover for branded buses under maintenance or repair. Their duties are naturally more diverse than their branded sisters.

Deltas (101, 102, 123, 124)
With 103's recent transfer to Line 6 there are just four pool Deltas left. One can normally be found operating on Line 2C to provide the busy 0742 Knott End to South Pier journey and normally stays on that board into the evening. Lines 6, 7 and 11 are common places to find the others. 103, 115 and 116 have also carried the black pool livery, while 122-125, 130-133 all carried the original olive/grey/yellow scheme.

Excels (218-223)
The six Excels (five currently as 218 is awaiting refurbishment) are frequently found on Line 7 or Line 14 - the latter substituting for Tridents to maintain the guaranteed low floor operation. The occasionally appear on the 6 and 11 too.

Solos (261-264, 273-278, 280) and Metrorider 593
The 11 Solos perform most of the pool minibus workings, generally operating on Lines 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 and 15. 593 is most commonly used on the 10. One Solo operates the dedicated employees shuttle service from St. Annes to Peel Park Government Offices, Monday to Saturday. They have also occasionally appeared on the 7, 11 and 14 when short of buses. Several other Metroriders appeared in black (584, 588-594, 596, with 501/2, 589-595 carried the original scheme)

Tridents 317-319
These normally run on the 11 and 14 covering for branded sisters - especially on the latter which has a guaranteed low floor operation. The make occasional appearances on school services, Lines 1, 6 and 7.

Atlantean 364
Used only for school services

Olympians 370-378
These are commonly found on Line 11, but also regularly appear on the 1 (at weekends), 6 and 7 as well as school services. (368/9/79 have also carried pool livery)

Looking back at the City Pacer

The 1980s saw a proliferation of van based minibuses following an experiment using 16 seat Ford Transits in Exeter. Minibuses could penetrate housing estates, were faster and more maneuverable and were cheaper to operate. The 'minibus boom' breathed new life into the industry which needed to refocus and develop a commercial awareness.

Ribble brought its Mercedes Benz Minilink network to the Fylde Coast just before deregulation with 12 buses on its Fleetwood-Thorton-Cleveleys network. Of the other two operators, Blackpool was the first to follow the trend using the Optare City Pacer from May 1987 with Fylde following with its Dodge S56s in June.

The Optare City Pacer was quite radical and set Optare out both as a retailer of 'complete' vehicles and an innovative designer. Although based on the Volkswagen LT55 van, the body was entirely coachbuilt with a stylish raked back front. It had a much higher driving position than most van conversions - the main drawback being the expanse of glass at the front which helped cook the drivers in the summer.

Blackpool's first five (560-564) were put to use in May initially on tendered service 33 (Cleveleys-Marton Hypermarket) and evening/Sunday work on the Ribble minibus network. However in June they were reallocated onto a brand new high frequency town service in St. Annes from Spring Gardens to Whalley Place via many roads not otherwise served, but competing with lower frequency Fylde routes. An unusual black livery with yellow skirt and 'Handybus' lettering was adopted. The evening duties in Wyre continued with the buses running in service on the 11C to return to Depot and the 14 to reach Fleetwood.

Batch two was intended to convert service 26 from a 15 minute big bus service to a 5 minute minibus route, however few had arrived in time for the 5 September 1987 start. As a temporary measure a batch of Ford Transits was borrowed from Midland Red North and these normally ran the St. Annes route. The first day of the 26 thus saw 560, 562-564, brand new 549, three Optare Demonstrators and a Transit! Two of the demonstrators were acquired (becoming 565/6). The rest of the new buses (549-559, 567/8) arrived between mid September and the end of October. The fleet now stood at 20, 9 needed for the 26 and 4 for the 1 in St. Annes. From December 4 more were allocated to new routes 17A/B (Bispham Circulars), but in February both the 1 and 17 were withdrawn.

The released buses were used to augment the Routemasters on route 12 providing a high frequency service to Highfield Road via Lytham Road and the evening service to St. Annes. This later became the 12A to Lindale Gardens. A third batch of City Pacers (569-578) arrived for the August 1988 conversion of service 9 (Blackpool-Cleveleys) and four more came in December as 579-582 for reinstated routes 7/7A (Blackpool-Bispham). Finally a third ex demonstrator was purchased as 583 in December 1989.

Three fundamental reallocations took place in the City Pacer's life. Firstly in March 1992 the 9 was replaced by big bus route 12 and the minibuses cascaded onto the 2A (Blackpool-Poulton) and 15 (Cleveleys-Staining). Secondly in November 1994 the 2/2A and 7/7A were merged to run Poulton-Bispham (2/2A/2B) and then in 1996 the 12A and 26 were converted to big buses and the surviving City Pacers were normally found on the newly converted 23-25 (Hospital-Mereside) with a few on the normally Metrorider run 2/2A/2B.

The first Optare Metrorider arrived in March 1995 and further batches followed in 1995, 1996 and 1998. The first City Pacer withdrawals saw 549-552, 560-564 go in Autumn 1995 followed by 553-558, 565-6 in August 1996. This left 559, 567-583 in service. 559/67 had a spell at Squires Gate depot where they replaced the last Dodges but soon returned to Rigby Road. The end finally came on January 2000 when a batch of new Solos replaced the last few - several having been withdrawn at the end of 1999.

Most were sold for further service but have since ended up on the scrap heap. LTt owns one - 575 back in Handybus livery, while 560 is preserved in Reading (it ran for Reading Buses after disposal competing with Reading Mainlines ex BT Routemasters!) 550, 562 and 574 are all recorded with valid SORN declarations on DVLA site and are believed to be caravan conversions. 562 was recently reported out of use in the North East. 583 may still survive - it was sold for scrap by Mac Tours in 2002 but reappeared on Ebay in 2007! There may be others...

Monday 25 May 2009

Bank Holiday Weekend Odd Workings

411 on the sports shuttle for YMCA 24 May

Bank Holidays sometimes spring surprises. Perhaps the biggest this year was the appearance of most - if not all - of 411-417 in use. These are normally restricted to Schools services but they were used on a special shuttle from Pontins to the YMCA on Mythop Road, Lytham for a football competition on Saturday and Sunday. 411, 413, 414 and 416 were all seen on Sunday and it is believed others may also have appeared.

Today (Monday) saw 317 make a rare appearance on Line 1. Pool Tridents normally cover for branded ones on the 11 and 14, however with a reduced PVR on Bank Holidays 317 could be spared for Line 1.

Wednesday 20 May 2009


Latest into the paint shop is Solo 265 - the first Line 4 bus to get a full repaint. This was repainted into Metro livery (for Line 3) in 2001 and had a part repaint into Line 4 livery back in February 2004.

Ex London Trident 339 was noted on Rigby Road on Monday, presumably on a test run.

Seafront 12 Resumes

Classic Bus North West resumes operation of summer service 'Seafront 12' on Sunday 24 May. It will operate every Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday until the end of September. Buses depart from St. Annes and Lytham Squares at 1200 and every 20 minutes until 1620. The route takes in St. Annes Promenade, The Island, Fairhaven Lake, Lowther Gardens and Lytham front.
Buses rostered for the first weekend are Blackpool PD3 529 (1200 from St. Annes) and Ribble Bristol VR open topper 1995 (1200 from Lytham). Lytham PD1 19 is expected to put in appearances from July onwards on completion of its winter overhaul.

Timetable at

Saturday 16 May 2009

Blackpool's Olympians

Generic liveried 371 on Line 1 at Fleetwood May 09
Blackpool had a conservative approach to bus purchases prior to deregulation. It continued to order 27ft long buses for several years after the 30ft bus was legalised. It bought PD3s right up to 1968 - 10 years after production of rear engined double deckers started. It finally bought its first Atlantean in 1977 and kept purchasing them until 1984 - when it could do so no longer. The Atlantean's successor was the Olympian - built together since 1980.

Blackpool first tried Olympians in May 1984 when Leyland supplied it with A33MRN - a long wheelbase coach seated ECW bodied Olympian which was owned by Preston Borough but used as a demonstrator. In September, GMPTE B36PJA followed as it promoted the Bus & Coach Council who were in town for a conference.

Ex West Yorkshire 365-367
The first permanent fleet entries were in unusual circumstances. On the evening of 1 October 1986 a fire started on Atlantean 310 destroying it and the neighbouring buses 335 and 342. Meanwhile West Yorkshire PTE had several modern buses for disposal after deregulation as its operating subsidiary declined to continue their lease. These included several four year old Roe bodied Olympians and at the end of October UWW5/11/15X arrived. They entered service soon after still in West Yorkshire green and white livery as 365-367. During March and April all three were repainted in the new version of green and cream livery introduced that spring.

Life in Blackpool has been quite unadventurous for the trio. For their first decade the worked virtually interchangeably with Atlanteans on opo and crew work. All three carried rear end adverts - not particularly common in Blackpool - 365 for Dixon's Fiat (1988-90), 366 for Country Style Windows (1989/90) and 367 for Henthorne's Building Supplies (1992/3) and 366 later gained an all-over advert for BTS Zone Card in 1997. 367 had a brief holiday in South Yorkshire in 1988 in exchange for an SYT Dennis Dominator which showed off the split step arrangement in Blackpool.

In May 1996 the trio moved to Squires Gate Depot where they became regulars on routes 11/11A and the extensive school bus network. The depot closed in April 1999 and all three moved to Rigby Road. In August 2000 they were placed in store due to a downturn in schools work but returned to use in February 2001 (365/7) or April (366). Between May and August 2003 all three received "Schools + Line 1" orange/yellow livery and were repainted in the same scheme in late 2006. They are likely to be the next double deck withdrawals and at least two may be withdrawn at the end of the school term.

East Lancs Bodied 368-373
The first new Olympians arrived between late March and early May 1989. 368-373 (F368-73AFR) were East Lancs bodied buses with Cummins engines, unlike the Gardners of the West Yorkshire buses. These were the first new double deckers since 1984 and the last until 1994 - the only new double deckers delivered in the post deregulation green/cream livery. Initially they were commonly used on route 11C (Blackpool- St.Annes) but saw use across the full spectrum of the double deck services. The April 2001 Metro network saw 370-373 dedicated to Line 11 and 368/9 as spare buses. Repaints finally started in October 2002 when 368 emerged from a lengthy spell in the body shop as a pilot mid-life refurbishment including a full retrim. The remainder followed concluding with 369 in August 2003 with all six outshopped in Line 11 colours.
This was only an interim arrangement as new Dennis Tridents were planned for the 11 and the first arrived in 2004 so 368-373 were partly repainted during spring 2004 with the turquoise replaced by pool fleet black. Summer 2006 saw 368/9 repainted into Line 1 livery, but the rest remain in pool fleet colours.

The Volvos 374-379
The next new double deckers arrived in 1994 - the last until 2002. By this time Volvo had absorbed Leyland and 374-9 (M374-9SCK) were duly badged as 'Volvo Olympians' though with the same Cummins engine as before. Northern Counties Palatine 2 bodywork was fitted. They ran from Rigby Road, initially on route 6 but they were soon moved to the 22/22A with evening/Sunday use on the 14/14A. From 2001 all six were dedicated to Line 14 but the arrival of new Tridents prevented their branding and they were cascaded onto Line 11 with repaints starting in December 2001 (374) and finishing in August 2002 (378/9). June 2004 saw 375 partly painted into pool livery followed by 374/6/7/9 in 2005 and 378 in 2006. Surprisingly 379 regained Line 11 livery in November 2007. Today 374 carried a rear advert for Real Radio. 378 had previously carried a rear scheme for Nightsafe.

Ex Trent 401-410

The take-over of Fylde bought with it many elderly vehicles that were replaced by cascading Atlanteans from the parent fleet. 365-367 were also transferred in May 1996 and ran from Squires Gate depot until its closure in April 1999. To release the Atlanteans, 10 mid life ECW bodied Leyland Olympians were purchased from Trent Buses as 401-410 (XAU701-5Y, XCH706Y, A707-10DAU). They arrived between November 1996 and January 1997 entering service between February and April. Like 374-9 these carried the revised green/cream livery with a cream roof and roof level band adopted from 1994.

The Metro network saw 401-410 dedicated to Line 11 and 401 was the first to be painted in February 2002, but surprisingly received the original pool livery, though this was quickly overpainted into Line 11 colours - 406 joining it soon after. The remainder retained green and cream as Tridents and cascaded Deltas replaced the older Olympians on the 11. A new home on school and seasonal work beckoned with 410 the first bus to receive orange and yellow "Schools + Line 1" livery in January 2003. 407-9 followed during 2003, 404-406 in 2004. Also in 2004 401-403 received a lilac scheme for service 20, 404 following suit as an extra bus in 2006, but all four gained Line 1 livery for 2007 - making the batch identical again.

City Sightseeing

Open Topper 813 on City Sightseeing Line 20 in May.

2005 saw the first Olympians arrived for City Sightseeing work. 813/49 (D213/149FYM) arrived from Ensign for the 2005 season, replacing Metrobuses. 818 (D218FYM) followed for 2006, 844/57/8 (D244/57/8FYM) for 2007 and 873 (D173FYM) for 2008. 813/8/44/9/58 are part open toppers, 857 and 873 full open toppers. 813/8/44 are dedicated to the Blackpool service, 844/73 to Manchester and 857/8 have generic CS colours. All were new to London Buses and feature dual doors.

Ex Blackburn 411-417

Ex Blackburn 414 returning to depot from school duties

What presently is the final batch of Olympians to be acquired is 411-417 (D367JJD, OFS684Y, A703/4/19-21YFS) purchased with the small Fylde school bus operation of Blackburn Transport in August 2007. 411 was new to London Buses and has the last ever ECW body. 412-417 were new to Lothian Buses and retain dual doors. Uniquely for Blackpool 412-7 are long wheelbase examples and have Leyland TL11 engines. 411 - like the open toppers, 365-7 and 401-410 have Gardner 6LXB engines. These entered service in Blackburn colours but have progressively received Line 1 livery. They are almost always restricted to school services as most retain Blackburn blinds, though 412 (which has a full blind) has made occasional appearances on Line 1 and others have also appeared as emergency tram replacements.

Round Up

Repainted Trident 303 has returned to use on Line 14.

Solos 245/6 have seen use this week for the 'ALBUM' Conference at DeVere Hotel and to ferry guests to/from the official launch of the Western Train. They are believed now to be in regular service on Line 2. Metroriders 504-506 remain in use but are likely to be withdrawn soon. Line 5 branded Solo 255 is currently stored without an engine in the main bus depot.

Excel 217 remains under body overhaul pending engine replacement, while 218 is likely to follow. Olympian 416 has yet to return to use after its repaint.

Open top Olympians 844 and 873 have been prepared for the resumption of the Manchester tour at the end of the month, and have lost their rear end adverts for Trafford Centre. Olympian 374 (Real Radio) and Trident 313 (Cycle Blackpool) are now the only buses with rear adverts.

Line 2 is currently diverted due to the installation of a new roundabout at Royal Oak. Southbound journeys run from Waterloo Hotel via St. Annes Road, Watson Road, Lytham Road with the 'South Pier' journeys terminating at Royal Oak and the Lytham journeys turning into Station Road to resume the normal route. Northbound buses from Royal Oak to Waterloo Hotel use Lytham Road, Bloomfield Road and St. Annes Road. Line 5 is diverted via Bloomfield Road instead of Waterloo Road in both directions.

Current liveries:
Line 1: 333-337, 339, 365-369, 401-417
Line 2: 240-247, 249, 279, 281-285, 504-506, 508-512
Line 3: 258-260, 294-297
Line 4: 265-269, 271, 272
Line 5: 248, 250-257
Line 6: 103-109, 112-114
Line 7: 210-217, 224-226
Line 10: 518
Line 11: 115, 116, 118, 119, 122, 125-127, 132, 133, 322-332, 379
Line 14: 301-316 (301-4 repainted)
Line 15: 513-515, 517
Line 16: 286-293
Pool: 101, 102, 123, 124, 218-223, 261-264, 273-278, 280, 317-319, 370-378, 593 (123 with side/rear advert)
Green and Cream: 364
Training: 969/70

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Solo EV

Optare's Solo EV demonstrator - a battery powered version of the standard bus - has been in use this week on a shuttle service to a bus industry event at the DeVere Hotel, Heron's reach. Conventional Solo 246 has also been on site.
Update: the EV returned to Optare on Friday 15 May.

Monday 11 May 2009

Going to the Zoo

362 at the Zoo on the 'last' Atlantean day in 2006

Blackpool Zoo opened in 1972 on the site of a former Airport - and also the base for the Royal Lancashire Show for many years. A new bus service was started, route 21, operating from the Tower via Hornby Road, Stanley Park, West Park Drive, East Park Drive and Woodside Drive to the Zoo entrance. This ran every 40 minutes using one bus, though extras ran according to demand. For the first year the service ran year round, but the winter operation was soon dropped.

From 1977 a second Zoo service was introduced by projecting service 15A (Bispham-Hospital) the short distance to the Zoo. This gave access from much of North Shore plus the town centre and operated every 30 minutes all year round. In 1982 the 15A was diverted to Staining and Grange Park with the Hospital - Zoo section tagged on to routes 23/23A (Midgeland Rd/South Pier-Hospital) during the summer. A 15 minute weekday and 30 minute Sunday service was provided.

At deregulation the 21 continued but the 23/24/25 replaced routes 23/23A. They did not serve the Zoo in 1987 but did from 1988 to circa 1993. Fylde briefly served the Zoo with route 4 (Cleveleys-Lytham St. Annes) passing the pedestrian entrance on East Park Drive from 1989 to 1991 when Carriages took over. Next came service 3 (Poulton-St. Annes) which used route branded Atlanteans and served the main entrance but only ran March to September 1992. Finally another route 3 Blackpool-Village Hotel (now the Devere) was introduced in 1993 and in August was re-routed to serve the Zoo entrance. It ceased at the end of November.

Other bus routes have run past the pedestrian entrance including route 53 started by Easyway in March 1986, taken over by Blackpool in 1989 (and run to 1991), similar route 53A started by Town Bus from 1990 to 1995, Fylde 1995, Phoenix North West 1996-2001, BTS in 2001 when it was replaced and short lived service 9 (Poulton to Mereside). Lifestyle Line 16 currently serves this route.

Throughout this mayhem, route 21 continued largely unchanged. A basic 40 minute service with extras as required and often providing a 20 minute service, sometimes a 10 minute one. Usually operated by Atlanteans, the odd crew bus appeared using staff on stand-by. Open Top PD2 532 - ex Eastbourne - put in occasional appearances from 1989 and Routemasters ran quite regularly in 1996. The take-over of Fylde saw the 21 transferred there when for part of 1996, and they ran the whole service for 1997 on an extended Pleasure Beach-Tower-Zoo basis every 20 minutes using 3 buses. 1998 saw a 20 minute Tower-Zoo service operated sometimes from Squires Gate and sometimes from Rigby Road, the closure of Squires Gate in April 1999 putting paid to this swapping.

2001 saw the start of the City Sightseeing Blackpool tour which ran Pontins-Tower-Zoo-Waterloo Road -Pontins. Its first year was quite poor, so for 2002 the Tour and the 21 were merged running Pontins-Tower-Zoo in both directions. A half hourly service ran using the City Sightseeing open top Metrobuses as a joint venture with Ensign (the brand owners). This continued until 2005 when the 21 ceased.

The 2006 season saw service 20 take over. This had run for several seasons from Marton Mere to Town Centre and was now extended to the Zoo via the 21 route. It used 3 buses on a half hourly basis. The open toppers had moved onto Line 1, though they were not a success. For 2007 a totally revised City Sightseeing route 20 was started -by now the tour was a 100% Blackpool Transport operation under license rather than the joint venture. Buses now ran from Pontins via the Promenade to Tower, up Hornby Road, to Stanley Park, round the Cricket Club access road, up North Park Drive and Woodside Drive to the Zoo then back past the Model Village, East Park Drive, South Park Drive and Preston New Road to Marton Mere. 3 buses are required (every 30 minutes) and the Metrobuses have been replaced by City Sightseeing ex London Olympians.

In Profile - Line 15

Metro Line 15 is a relatively new service yet one with a long pedigree - if such a contradiction is possible.

Staining is a small village in Fylde Borough, outside the Blackpool boundary. It was initially served by William Smith's buses until Blackpool took-over in 1926 with a Blackpool-Poulton via Staining route. In September 1927 this was split and service 15 formed to run Blackpool-Staininig only with the Poulton route continuing up Normoss Road - the routes splitting at Staining Road End. The route taken by the 15 was simple - Cookson St, Church St, Newton Drive and Staining Road to the Plough.

This was to be its basic route for decades -with only a short extension to Whalley Estate (Bibby Drive) in 1954 and a diversion in the Town Centre via Abingdon St undertaken. Short serices started as trade grew. One - the 15A - morphed into a distinct service (Bispham-Warbreck Hill-Gynn-Town-Victoria Hospital. Another - the 15B - ran as short workings to Staining Road End while a third was the seasonal 15C which ran to Newton Hall Camp part way along Staining Road. This was not a generally advertised service unlike the 15, 15A and 15B.

The route was converted to OMO operation with Swifts in May 1974 - Fylde Borough Council having built a turning circle just beyond Bibby Drive. A route rationalisation in 1980 saw the 15/15A merged with both now running from Bispham, the 15 to Staining and the 15A to the Hospital and Zoo. The 15 now also served the Hospital southbound, most 15A were later diverted to Grange Park as 15B.

Deregulation saw the 15 continue with a minor route change in North Shore but the 15A/B withdrawn. Some 15s (Blackpool-Staining) were taken over by Fylde under contract to Lancahsire County Council providing extra peak workings and the evening/Sunday service - these passed to Blackpool in 1989 (but the peak trips were withdrawn) and back to Fylde in 1992. In June 1991 the daytime service was extended to Cleveleys (Safeway Store) and in March 1992 was converted to minibuses. April 1993 saw it truncated to run Gynn-Staining but with single deckers once more and November 1994 saw it further cut to run Bus Station to Staining.

In April 1995 the daytime service was withdrawn completely but Fylde (now a BT subsidiary) won a short term replacement contract and thus now ran the entire route. Surprisingly in October 1995 it lost this to local independent Town Bus who generally used Fleetlines - including Iveco engined ex London DMSs! April 1996 saw Fylde register the daytime service commercially and finally in August 1996 the 15 ended, replaced by a half hourly extension of service 23 (Mereside-Hospital) through to Staining. This, remarkably, included a half hourly commercial evening & Sunday service after a decade of a subsidised hourly service!

The 23 continued as such until January 2000 when new Optare Solos were introduced to the 23-25 group and the Staining service was now provided by route 25 during the day and the 23/23A evenings/Sundays. The Metro network of April 2001 saw the 23-25 go and new Line 5 serve Staining on a similar route, again every half hour.

November 2004 saw the 15 re-appear. It was something of a curious route tying together some elements of Lancashire County subsidy (a link from Poulton-Norcross and the College), plus some developer funding from Tesco and meeting aspirations to reinstate the Bispham-Gynn-Hosptial link. The new route formed a half hourly Poulton-Castle Gardens-Norcross-Bispham College-Bispham-Gynn-Town Centre-Hospital-Staining-Mereside Tesco using four buses. Early evening and Sunday daytime journeys ran Bispham-Tesco and late evening (post 2100) journeys ran Gynn to Staining. 584-587 were reinstated from store in a pink and yellow livery. Their duties included a single morning trip from Mereside to Norcross on service L1 (otherwise run by branded Solos) for which a round trip on the 15 was dropped. This survives today but numbered 116.

Investment in new Solos for other routes cascaded S-reg Metroriders 514-517 to Line 15 in August/September 2007 allowing 584-7 to be withdrawn. 516 did not have a long association with Line 15, as it fell defective sometime between May and August 2008 and after a long wait for possible repair was withdrawn at the end of the year with 513 gaining the pink livery in its stead.

Today 513, 515-517 remain allocated to Line 15. Spare buses are provided by Pool Metrorider 593 or Solos 261-4, 273-278 or 280. Somewhat out of the ordinary was the use of Line 1 liveried Olympian 365 for most of the day on 15 April as a changeover!

Since February due to roadworks in the town centre, the 15 has been curtailed at Marton Mere though later this month it should revert to its normal route.

The four bus workings do:
0715 Staining-Dickson Rd and empty to Tesco
116 0753 Tesco-Norcross then empty to Tesco
0907, 1107, 1307, 1507, 1707 Tesco-Poulton
1007, 1207, 1407, 1607, 1807 Poulton-Tesco
1907, Tesco to Bispham, 1951 Bispham-Tesco and empty to Staining
2045, 2145, 2245 Staining-Gynn, 2115, 2215, 2315 Gynn-Staining, 2345 Staining-Town and depot

0735 Staning to Poulton
0837, 1037, 1237, 1437, 1637, 1837 Poulton-Tesco
0937, 1137, 1337, 1537, 1737 Tesco to Poulton
1937, Tesco to Bispham, 2021 Bispham-Tesco and empty to Staining
2115, 2215 Staining-Gynn, 2145, 2245 Gynn-Staining, 2315 Staining-Town and depot

0721 Bispham-Tesco
0807, 1007, 1207, 1407, 1607, 1807 Tesco-Poulton
0907, 1107, 1307, 1507, 1707, 1907 Poulton-Tesco
2007 Tesco to Bispham 2051 Bispham-Tesco and empty to Depot

0737, 0937, 1137, 1337, 1537, 1737, Poulton-Tesco
0837, 1037, 1237, 1437, 1637, Tesco -Poulton
1837 Tesco-Bispham and empty to depot

PD3 Survivors

Recently restored 501 recreates an evening 11A journey at Fairhaven

Blackpool's PD3s attained near legendary status for their longevity. 90 were bought between 1962 and 1968 and routine withdrawals began in 1976. Prior to that 355 and 378 had been withdrawn in 1973 and 397 in 1975. 378 became a driver trainer, the other two being accident victims - 397 losing its roof under the former low bridge on Rigby Road.

By 1980 the fleet total had dropped to 51 with 30 Atlanteans now in stock. By January 1983 21 PD3s remained and just 13 a year later. At deregulation in October 9 remained in service - 503, 507, 511-513, 515, 518, 538 and 540 with 516, 520 and 532 as driver trainers. Of the latter 520 was soon withdrawn and 532 was later reinstated.

The PD3's future was threatened, not by new buses, but by ex London Routemasters. A second batch of six bought for a summer Promenade service saw the PD3s laid up for the winter of 1988/9 and the arrival of six new Olympians killed them off for sure without further use in summer 1989. Regular service operation of PD3s finished in October/November 1988 but 507 survived in sporadic use until 1995 when it became a permanent driver trainer.

The first batch of PD3s (351-70) were full fronted versions bought to replace the Lytham Road and Marton tram routes in 1962. They ran until 1976-1978. 351 is the only survivor, owned by Lancastrian Transport Trust and presently stored awaiting future restoration. Batch two comprised 10 more full fronted buses but this time with St. Helen's fronts (371-80). Nicknamed 'half-moons' these curious buses lasted until 1980. 379 survived until quite recently in Japan.

The first half cab buses for over 30 years came in 1965 as 381-400. The last of these ran in 1983, including 390 - painted in an experimental green and off-white livery which it retains today in preservation. It only occasionally appears at events and is stored in Cheshire. Sister 394 became a 'burger van' at Alton Towers but is believed to have now gone. More remarkable was the sighting of 386 in France in 2007 - having been 'lost' since export in 1979. More well known in Europe is 398 which is owned by a politician (Govaert) in Wetteren, Belgium

351 at its current storage site

The 1967 batch has most survivors. 501 has recently been restored by its four joint owners and is based at the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust depot in Bridgeton. Preserved in 1985 it saw little active use and deteriorated prior to passing to its current owners who tell the story here:

501 carries the 1982 green/off-white livery. This was the subject of trails, 390 was first, its livery including extra green lower deck window surrounds, 540 followed in the adopted version while 512 just had a green roof and waistband, though this did not operate as such. 503, one of the last survivors was last seen in Holland in 2001 with a flat roof line to meet height limits. There have been no recent reports.

506 and 507 today reside at the back of Rigby Road depot, pending the possible restoration of the latter. 506 was withdrawn in 1985 but in 1986 was converted to a mess bus for the tramway Permanent Way gang, staying in council ownership after deregulation. Retired in 2000 it has been owned by the M3 group since. 507 - the 1985 Centenary bus - was kept as a keepsake after the disposal of its last sisters and did occasionally see service. In 1995 it became a permanent driver trainer lasting until 1999. It was bought by Mac Tours, Edinburgh the following year but did not see use. After a spell with Ensign (dlr), stored in Stratford it returned north in 2005, privately owned but suffering from vandalism. It was later bought by Blackpool Transport and remains stored.

512 at Midgeland Road
511 - like several others - became a driver trainer in Liverpool, retaining BT livery and passed into preservation with the owner of Maghull Coaches in 2004. LTT purchased 512 in 1998 after a spell with London Country and a number of private owners. It was quickly restored but is currently out of use awaiting engine repairs. Sister 515 was bought by Graham Oliver but was replaced in 2000 by Driver Trainer 516 (withdrawn the previous September). 515 passed to LTT but only as a spares donor. It remains largely intact though.

516 is preserved as a driver trainer (its 1984-1999 status)

513 was exported to Sweden and used to carry cyclists and their bikes (the latter in a trailer) across a bridge to an Island. Its current status is unknown. In the UK 518 is owned by Chepstow Classic Buses.

526-540 formed the last batch in 1968 and 529 is the best known survivor, restored to original livery in 2006-2008 by LTT. 530 also survives as a mobile home and did visit Blackpool in 2004. 532 occasionally appears on EBAY in Cananda, exported there after a brief period of use by Stevensons of Uttoxeter. This retains Eastbourne colours having been swapped by Blackpool for Eastbourne's PD2 open topper DHC784E (incidentally now preserved on the South Coast after use with Mac Tours). 532 was an unusual example of a driver trainer returning to use - albeit only for one year and with 503 was one of just two to carry post deregulation livery. Finally -literally - comes 540 - another of the 1988 withdrawals, preserved after a period as a trainer but in poor condition and now a source of spaces for LTT's collection,

529 poses at the Thornton Social Club turning area

351 - Preserved (LTT), stored, unrestored
386 - derelict France
390 -Privately preserved, stored, restored,
398 - Wetteren, Belgium
501 - Preserved, Glasgow, restored and active
503 - possibly in Holland
506 - Preserved, unrestored, Blackpool
507 - Preserved, unrestored, Blackpool
511 - Preserved, unrestored, Liverpool
512 - Preserved (LTT), restored but stored
515 - LTT for spares
516 - Preserved (Graham Oliver c/o LTT) restored as driver trainer
518 - Chepstow Classic Bus
529 - Preserved (LTT), restored and active
530 - mobile home
532 - probably still in Canada
540 - LTT for spares

Thursday 7 May 2009

Solos hit the road [updated]

New Line 2 Solos 240, 242-244 entered service on Thursday 7 May with 241 following late afternoon as a changeover. Metroriders 501-503 and 507 have been withdrawn as a result.
The outstanding pair 245 (YJ09OTL) and 246 (YJ09OTM) arrived on 7th and 8th May respectively and entered service on 11 May.
240 also appeared at 'Brief Encounter' a running day and rally at Carnforth Station on May Day Bank Holiday Monday.

Monday 4 May 2009

Where are they now? - the Routemasters

521 is now owned by LTT and is seen here operating on Seafront 12 in St. Annes
In January 1986, against most people's expectations, London Transport RM1583 arrived at Blackpool Transport for evaluation. Duly put into service in faded London red it was mainly used on services 5/5A (Halfway House-Grange Park). At the end of the three month trial it was purchased becoming bus 521. Five more arrived as 522-526 (RM848, 1627, 1640, 1650, 1735 resp) soon after and all but 526 were used in London Red. Repaints into 1930s style red/white soon took place though. The 5/5A was withdrawn at deregulation so the Routemasters were usually used on route 12 (Bus Station to Airport and later St. Annes) but also appeared alongside PD3s and Atlanteans on the 14 and 22/22A.

Six more arrived in 1988 for new Promenade service 55 (later 40) as 527-531 and 533 (RM879, 1357, 1966, 1989, 2071, 2089) and a thirteenth arrived in 1989 as 534 (RM1123) acquired from Burton's Biscuits! 527-33 initially had a simpler red/white livery but soon gained the same livery as the first six. 534 always ran in an all-over advert for Burton's Royal Edinburgh shortbread. The Promenade route was seasonal so half the Routemasters were stored in the winter, though from December 1991 the entire batch was laid up as the 12 was converted to Atlantean operation. For the 1992, 1993 and 1994 seasons only half the fleet was used. 534 was the odd one out and did not operate at all in these seasons, passing back to Burtons in 1994. This was the only one of the 13 to feature an AEC engine - the rest had Leylands.

There was no RM use at all in 1995 but the 12 survivors were resuscitated for use on the Open Golf Park and Ride during July 1996 and 521-524 also saw sporadic use on service 21 (Tower to Zoo). They were renumbered 421-31/3 in August 1996 to accommodate ex Fylde minibuses in the 5xx series but were all sold to Reading Mainline in February 1997. BTS painted all 12, including 522 and 529 which saw no use in Reading!

Reading Mainline sold out to Reading Buses in 1998 and Routemaster use started to decline. The end occurred in July 2000 with Blackpool 526, 531 and 533 in use. Disposals had already started. 521 went to Walkabout Inns, 525 to a fruit farm, 527 was exported, 528 sold to the Royal Navy as a recruitment vehicles- fitted out as a submarine, 529 to McKindless Wishaw and 530 for preservation. However at the time London Buses was seeking more Routemasters and snapped up the last of Readings. This included ex Blackpool 522, 523, 524, 526, 531, 533 while 525 was also bought from its fruit farm in Kent. All seven were overhauled by Marshall's of Cambridge and fitted with Cummins engines for use on service 13 (London Sovereign 523/6/31/3), 23 (First 525), 36 (London Central 524 ) or 94 (London United 522). As Routemaster operation wound down 522/4 ended up with Arriva while 525 was kept by First and painted in Silver Jubilee livery reflecting its former role in that guise in 1977. The 13 and 38 ended in late 2004 but 20 Routemasters were selected for new 'heritage routes' 9 and 15. First was duly allocated 10 including ex Blackpool 523, 524 and 526 on route 9 while Stagecoach East London also received 10 for route 15 and received Blackpool 531/3. 522 has since gone for preservation.

526 in service in London after refurbishment.

The current status of each Blackpool bus is:

521 583CLT bought by LTT for preservation in 2003 and restored to 1930s livery
522 WLT848 preserved as Marshall refurbished bus
523 627DYE in service First London -route 9 RM1627
524 640DYE in service First London -route 9 RM1640
525 650DYE in service First London - route 9 SRM3 (Silver Jubilee)
526 735DYE in service First London - route 9 RM1735
527 WLT879 believed to be in Poland
528 357CLT Royal Navy Recruitment
529 ALD966B preserved (retains Leyland engine)
530 ALD989B preserved - LT red
531 ALM71B in service East London Buses - route 15 RM2071
533 ALM89B in service East London Buses - route 15 RM2089
534 123CLT preserved - LT red

Saturday 2 May 2009

In the works today

As part of the annual Fylde Tramway Society works tour, the following were seen today:

Excel 217 in body shop for refurbishment. This includes new panel fixings to reduce body rattles, new lights, extra ventilation grills, new heating/cooling system prior to its forthcoming engine refurbishment. 218 is likely to go to Cummins first though.

Trident 303 in the paint shop completed in Line 14 colours

Trident 338 masked ready for Line 1 livery this is now single door.

Trident 339 already in Line 1 livery but not yet in use - this now is a 75 seater (H46/29F) having been converted from dual door (H46/20D).

Friday 1 May 2009

The Blackpool Solo Story

New Solo 240 seen in the depot on the FTS works visit

Optare has been Blackpool's Standard bus supplier since deregulation having supplied 80% of the new buses - the other 20% comprising 12 Olympian and 30 Trident double deckers. Optare supplied 32 City Pacers (plus three ex demonstrators), 28 Deltas, 17 Excels, 31 Metroriders and now 57 Solos.

The first Solo was S794XUG - a demonstrator used for a week in March 1999 on service 26 - the second complete vehicle built. This obviously impressed as an order for 15 was place later in the year and these emerged as 261-269, 271-276 (V261HEC etc) during November 1999 (or early December for 276). Type training took place using 261-263 and the first few entered service on route 33 (Cleveleys to Mereside) on 4 January - 261/3/7/8 having the honours - 261-8 were all used in the first week. 269, 271-6 entered service on 31 January to convert the 23-25 (Mereside to Hospital and Staining) to Solo operation - replacing the last City Pacers. This needed 9 buses with 4 on the 33 and two spare.

The Metro network removed these services, though Line 3 (Mereside-Cleveleys)replaced much of the 33 and Line 5 (Staining-Lindale Gardens) much of the 23-25. Both used Solos and between March and May 2002, 261-266 were painted into Line 3 blue and yellow. 267-9/71-4 were dedicated to Line 5 and had stickers attached but retained Handybus yellow and black. In Janauary 2003 they moved onto Line 4 (Cleveleys Park-Mereside) - with the Excels moving onto the 5 - and 271 was an immediate repaint into the route's Cadbury Blue and Yellow livery. 267-269 followed in December 2003/January 2004 and 272 in November 2004. 273-276 received pool livery between October 2004 and January 2005.

In 2002 Blackpool Transport won the contract for the new Lifestyle Line L1 service (Halfway House-Norcross) funded by an Urban Bus Challenge bid by Blackpool Council. The council acquired six Solos and as four were required for service, Blackpool Transport put 278-282 (YG02FVP/R/S/T/U) into service whilst 277 (YG02FWH) was stored pending an extension of the service. This duly occured in June 2003 and the revised route from Manchester Square to Fleetwood used two more Solos 283/4 (PN03UGG/H) owned by Lancashire County Council and 277 which ran for just one day with its 02 plate before - legitimately - receiving a newer plate - PL03BPZ.

A further Lancashire owned Solo - 285 (YN04XYZ) arrived in May 2004 for Kirkham Roamer service 70.

Line 5 returned to Solo operation in March 2004 when the Excels were cascaded onto Line 7. 12 new Solos were purchased - this time featuring Cummins engines instead of the Mercedes ones used before. All were 9.5m long with seating for 33, compared to the 8.5m long 27-29 seaters previously purchased. 249-57 were allocated to Line 5 in red/yellow and 258-260 increased capacity on Line 3, cascading 265/6 to Line 4. From November 2004 to May 2006 there was a spare bus for Line 5 as its PVR had dropped from 9 to 8 - this ended with a part repaint of 249 into Line 2 green . The Kirkham Roamer Solo, 285, followed suit in August 2006.

April 2007 saw changes to the Lifestyle Line which was adopted commercially after its dedicated funding ended. 8 new buses - similar to 249-260 were acquired and a new ice blue livery adopted as 'Line 16'. The original buses were then taken through the paint shop, 277/8/80 for pool livery and 279/81-4 for Line 2.
Further Solos arrived in May 2008 - 294-297 completing the conversion of Line 3 to longer vehicles, cascading 261-4 to pool livery. 248 provided an extra bus on Line 5 whiles 247 - the 50th Solo replaced a Metrorider in Line 2 livery. The 2009 delivery has been seven Solos - 240-246 all for Line 2.

Current allocations are:
240-246 of 2009 - Line 2 (from May)
247 of 2008 - Line 2
248 of 2008 - Line 5
249 of 2004 - Line 2
250-257 of 2004 - Line 5
258-260 of 2004 - Line 3
261-264 of 1999 - Pool
265-269, 271/2 of 1999 - Line 4
273-276 of 1999 - Pool
277/8/80 of 2002 - Pool
279/81/2 of 2002 - Line 2
283/4 of 2003 - Line 2
285 of 2004 - Line 2
286-293 of 2007 - Line 16
294-297 of 2008 - Line 3.

Profile: Line 10

518 leaves Midgeland Road turning circle on its first day in use in Line 10 colours, 31 Mar 07

By contrast with Line 2, Line 10 is Blackpool's shortest route and the only local route entirely funded by Blackpool Borough Council. It operates with one bus and links Blackpool with Midgeland Road. This area has suffered from many service changes over the years - its sparse population making it hard to serve effectively and efficiently, while maintaining links to local destinations as well as the Town Centre. Traditionally Midgeland Road was linked to the Town Centre via either Spen Corner, or later by Park Road and also to South Shore. After deregulation an earlier route 10 reinstated the Spen Corner routing but also served the newly extended Highfield Road as used by the present bus.

Since then various alternatives have been tried - including a period when Line 2 served the area but in December 2005 Line 10 adopted its current route and has lasted unchanged for over four years - unheard of in the Marton Moss since deregulation. It has a direct link to an off-peak service introduced in 2003 with funding from Blackpool Council to serve Watson Road. This ran from the Town Hall via the Promenade and Lytham Road, then Watson Rd, Hawes Side Lane, Common Edge Road, Highfield Rd, Midgeland Rd, Cherry Tree Rd, Clifton Rd to Tesco. It ran from 0900 to 1400, sometimes with a spare minibus but often an 86 seat Atlantean provided an excess of capacity.

The current service is similar, but from Highfield Road turns right on to Midgeland Road, down School Road and back along Common Edge Road to Highfield Hotel and back to Blackpool. It runs from 0619 to 1919 (from Midgeland Rd) and 0650 to 1850 (from Town Hall). 593 was originally the dedicated bus in light blue and yellow, but this livery was adopted for new Line 16 in 2007 and at the end of March 2007, the youngest Metrorider - 518- was transferred to the route in a silver-grey/yellow scheme. 593 was painted into pool livery and survives as the only such Metrorider. It regularly appears as back up to 518 though Solos are not unknown too.

Profile: Line 2

Line 2 today is one of Blackpool's most complex routes incorporating several others. Traditionally route 2 linked Poulton and Blackpool and has its origins with independent William Smith, taken over by Blackpool Corporation in 1926. It ran from Poulton via Hardhorn Road, Longhouse Lane, Normoss Road, Newton Drive and Church Street into Blackpool. In 1971 certain journeys were diverted via the new Highcross Road (route 2A) and in 1974 it was converted to OPO operation with AEC Swifts replacing Leyland Titans.

At deregulation in 1986 it was extended to Bispham, but this was reversed in 1991. 1992 saw conversion to minibuses on a 10 minute frequency with most journeys now running as route 2A. 1994-2001 saw a second extension to Bispham tried. The 2001 Metro network saw the route standardised as Line 2 via Highcross Road with Hardhorn Road served by a tendered route. Black and yellow was adopted as a route colour and 505-510 were the dedicated Metroriders - though all retained the old Handybus colours.

In April 2002 the 2 was merged with the 26 (North Station-Church St-Whitegate Drive-Waterloo Road-South Pier) and the 26's green livery was adopted. This was the former Marton tram route opened in 1901 and replaced by buses in 1962. A 10 minute service was now provided. Just three weeks later a further change saw Hardhorn Road served once an hour again with route 2A (ironically) operated for this diversion. The 2A journeys were also extended north to Cleveleys via Carleton, Thornton and Pheasants Wood replacing former service 10. From South Pier journeys were extended to Mereside every 2 hours as 2B via Highfield Rd, Lostock Gardens, Squires Gate Lane and Midgeland Road and 2C via Watson Rd, Lennox Gate, Highfield Road and Welcome Inn replacing routes 8 and 9.

The route then evolved with frequent changes summarised as:

July 2002 - 2B/2C withdrawn, 2A extended to Marton Asda via Clifton Drive, Highfield Road, Lennox Gate, Lostock Gardens, Halfway House, School Road, Midgeland Road and Asda. 14 buses required

January 2003 - half hourly extension from South Pier to Lytham via St. Annes and Heyhouses, replacing 77. (2 extra buses allocated - 16 required)

October 2003 - evening service 88 (Cleveleys-Poulton) now interworked with Line 2 with through fares available.

November 2003 - Lytham to Poulton journeys extended to Hillylaid Crossing, Thornton via Little Thornton replacing Stagecoach 167/8. 1 extra bus (17 required).

November 2004 - 2A withdrawn between Poulton and Cleveleys with the journeys to Hillylaid Crossing extended to Cleveleys via Pheasants Wood every half hour (no extra vehicles)

October 2005 - two journeys per hour extended Poulton to Knott End as Line 2C, replacing Stagecoach service 85. Hourly evening service introduced over same route. (two extra buses - total = 19)

December 2005 - 2A withdrawn with new Line 10 covering South Shore-Midgeland Road section. 2C now serves Hardhorn Corner (daytimes). 18 buses now needed (8 Lytham-Cleveleys, 6 South Pier-Knott End, 4 South Pier to Poulton - 501-518 allocated)

September 2006 - Lytham journeys extended to Wesham every 30 minutes replacing Kirkham Roamer (2 extra buses allocated - 20 needed). Double deck working introduced to the 0742 from Knott End to South Pier - often changed over in the Town Centre but sometimes remained on full duty.

June 2007 - evening service 88 incorporated as Line 2 (but via Stanah and not via Pheasants Wood)

Metroriders have been allocated to Line 2 for most of their life, initially 505-10 were allocated but not branded though they began to receive green livery adopted when the 26 was absorbed. 511-516 already carried this. 504 was painted during 2002 with 517/8 following green in Dec 02 and March 03 respectively, 503 in November 2003, 501 and 502 in December 2004 and 595 in October 2005.

In June 2006 Optare Solo 249 was outshopped in Line 2 livery to provide extra capacity on the Knott End workings, while sister 285 joined the fleet in September. This had previously been dedicated to the Kirkham Roamer now absorbed into Line 2. Summer 2007 saw further Solos repainted with 279, 281-284 cascaded from the Lifestyle Line, releasing Metroriders 514-517 to Line 15 and 518 to Line 10. May 2008 saw the first new bus for Line 2 in the Metro era with the arrival of 247. This allowed 595 to be withdrawn, while 513 moved onto Line 15 in 2009.

May 2009 will see the introduction of seven more Solos: 240-246 which makes 15 (240-7/9, 279, 281-284) with Metoriders 508-512 making up the numbers.

So Line 2 today is:

A 10 minute daytime service from South Pier (Bond St or Station Road) to Poulton with 2 buses per hour via Hardhorn Road (2C) comprising:

2 - every 30 mins Wesham-Warton-Lytham-Heyhouses-St. Annes-South Pier-Marton-Town Centre-Hospital-Highcross Ave-Poulton-Little Thornton-Thornton-Pheasants Wood-Cleveleys (10 buses)

2 - every 30 mins South Pier (Bond St)-Marton-Town Centre-Hospital-Highcross Ave-Poulton (4 buses)

2C - every 30 mins South Pier (Bond St)-Marton-Town Centre-Hospital-Hardorn Corner-Poulton - Hambleton-Preesall-Knott End (6 buses)

Total = 20 buses

And a 20 minute evening service from South Pier (Bond St) to Poulton all buses via Highcross Road.
2 - every 60 mins South Pier (Bond St)-Marton-Town Centre-Hospital-Highcross Ave-Poulton-Little Thornton--Stanah-Thornton-Cleveleys
2 - every 60 mins South Pier (Bond St)-Marton-Town Centre-Hospital-Highcross Ave-Poulton
2C - every 60 mins South Pier (Bond St)-Marton-Town Centre-Hospital-Highcross Avenue-Poulton - Hambleton-Preesall-Knott End

Total - 7 buses. Sunday service runs as evenings but without the Poulton-Cleveleys section and uses six buses

One working usually uses a pool fleet Delta and often runs into the evening. This is to cope with peak loads from Knott End. This operates:

Bond St-Knott End: 0617, 0922, 1222, 1522, 1822
Knott End-Bond St: 0742, 1049, 1349, 1649, 1936
Bond St- Cleveleys: 2058
Cleveleys-Bond St: 2215