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 The 5/5A was withdrawn at deregulation so the Routemasters were usually used on route 12 (Bus Station to Airport and later St. Annes) but also appeared alongside PD3s and Atlanteans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