Sunday 24 January 2010

Blackpool and the Routemaster

May 1986 and Grange Park becomes London as Routemasters 523 and 522 pass on service 5

Blackpool retained crew operation much later than most provincial bus operations, due in no small part to the tramway. It also kept traditional rear entrance half cab buses in its fleet well after others had forsaken them. At deregulation it still had nine PD3s in service and a tenth later rejoined the active fleet. It was, however, something of a surprise in January 1986 that London Buses RM1583 arrived in the resort on a three month trail. With deregulation approaching Blackpool wanted to increase its rear entrance fleet to take advantage of the speedily loading such buses delivered. The trial bus regularly operated on routes 5/5A (Grange Park to Halfway House). Suitably impress Blackpool bought it and five others - the batch becoming 521-526 (583CLT, WLT848, 627/40/50, 735DYE) ex RM 1583, RM848, RM1627/40/50, RM1735.

The first three arrived in April and entered service almost immediately while 521 went into the paint shop to receive 1930s style red and white livery - adopted as a dedicated livery for the Routemasters having been used on PD3 507 for the tramway centenary in 1985. 526 was the last to arrive in May and was painted before use but 522-5 ran in faded LT red for their first few months - 523 lasting until September. Route 5 was their main service supplemented by duties on other crew routes 14 (Blackpool - Fleetwood) and 22/22A (Cleveleys to Lytham).

At deregulation the 5 was withdrawn and the Routemasters went into service on route 12 operating every 10 minutes from the Airport to the Bus Station taking 17 minutes each way - 3 less than the OPO buses Fylde competed with on their 11/11A. Spare buses ran on the 5 and 14 - and later the 9. The 12 would later be extended to St. Annes.

1988 saw six more Routemasters arrive 527-531 and 533 (WLT879, 357CLT, ALD966/89B, ALM71/89B) ex RM879, 1357, 1966/89, 2071/89. These went into a simplified version of the red/white livery and entered service in May on route 55 - a new summer only Promenade service from Starr Gate to Gynn Square. At the end of the summer these were transferred onto year round routes and hammered the final nail into the PD3s coffin as these were retired initially for winter storage but new buses made this permanent. Over the winter 527-31/3 had their livery modified to match the others. A 13th Routemaster arrived in November 1989, this time from Burton's Busicuits of Blackpool. 534 (123CLT) entered service in January 1990 retaining Burton's all-over advert as part of the deal. Uniquely it had an AEC engine - all other Blackpool ones having Leyland O.600s.
529 shows the simplified livery originally carried by the second batch

The Promenade service resumed in 1989 renumbered 40 but at the end of the season 521-526 went into store returning again in 1990. For that season 522 was painted in an all-over advert for Pontins as Blackpool Transport had gained permission to serve the Holiday Camp site. Again the first six were stored for the 1990/1 winter and again for 1991/2. In December 1991 service 12 was converted to Atlantean operation and the entire Routemaster fleet was placed into store. 534 never ran again but it was not until 1994 that it left, returning to Burton's ownership.

The two batches then settled into an alternate year pattern almost entirely on service 40.
1992 saw 522, 527-531 and 533 in use - with a brief spell for 525 following an accident involving 522
1993 saw 521-526 operate
1994 saw 527-531/3 back in use with 527 replacing 522 as the Pontins bus.

The take-over of Fylde saw rationalisation of the Promenade services and route 40 did not appear in 1995 and nor did the Routemasters. All 12 remained in store until June 1996 when they were prepared for a return to use to cover a Park and Ride service for the Open Golf Championship at Royal Lytham golf club. Early July saw a few workings on route 21 to the Zoo with 521 and 525 noted. All 12 operated for the golf towards the end of the month - for some this was their first use since October 1993! All 12 were stored again at the end of the month and were renumbered 421-431/3 to accommodate ex Fylde minibuses in the Blackpool series. 421-4 returned to use again in September operating on the 21 to the Zoo, lasting until 25 October 1996. 422 was used in early February on a fund raising trip for Granada TV but was soon replaced by Centenary liveried PD3 507 as all 12 Routemasters had been bought by Reading Mainline and were painted by Blackpool before heading south over the next few months.

Reading operated 10 of the 12 - 522/9 never seeing service there and a few survived until the last day of operations on 22 July 2000. The end coincided with Transport for London's expansion programme for the Routemasters and seven were snapped up to return to service in London! All were refurbished with Cummins engines and Allison transmission - nicknamed "Dartmasters"! After the Routemaster run down several were kept for use on the Heritage tourist routes.
Ex 533 back in service in London on heritage route 15

The following is the current picture:

521 583CLT - LTT for preservation - from Reading to Walkabout Inns and to LTT in 2003
522 WLT848 - D Paskell for preservation  - from Reading to TFL ran with London United then Arriva after refurbishment by Marshall. In red livery
523 627DYE - TFL - First London Heritage Route 9. Marshall refurbishment.
524 640DYE - TFL - First London Heritage Route 9. Marshall refurbishment.
525 650DYE - TFL - First London Heritage Route 9. Marshall refurbishment. Silver Jubilee livery
526 735DYE - TFL - First London Heritage Route 9. Marshall refurbishment.
527 WLT879 - exported to Poland
528 357CLT - Preserved. From Reading to Royal Navy decorated internally as Submarine. Preserved 2009
529 ALD966B - London Bus Co - from Reading to McKindless of Wishaw, then preservation -
530 ALD989B - London Heritage Travel  - from Reading into Preservation, briefly in Route 55 livery now LT livery
531 ALM71B - TFL - East London Heritage Route 15. Marshall refurbishment.
533 ALM89B - TFL - East London Heritage Route 15. Marshall refurbishment.
534 123CLT - Autocar - London Red. Was in non psv use after leaving Burtons in 1996. Ran in service in Southend on New Year's Day 2010!
521 as restored by LTT

Friday 22 January 2010

Blackpool's Nationals - The afterlife

Part one of the Leyland National story covered their time in Blackpool. Four National 2s were bought new and 15 mark ones second hand to replace AEC Swifts. All 19 were sold between May 1990 and May 1991 and, coincidentally, through take-overs examples ended up in each of the 'big three' bus groups of First, Stagecoach and Arriva!
First to leave were the four examples from Crosville 145-148 (CFM345/7S, KMA399T, LMA413T), withdrawn in March 1990. 145/6/8, together with five Atlanteans, passed to Norfolk's of Nayland in a wholesale fleet renewal. Norfolk's was a long established family firm that operated into Colchester but in 1991 they were bought by Hedingham Omnibuses - a more recent independent that still operates today.

Nationals 146 (l) and 148 (r) frame Atlantean 309 shortly after the take-over of Norfolk's by Hedingham
Hedingham took the ex Blackpool buses into their fleet and painted them into their red and cream livery. The Nationals survived there for five more years, passing to Northern Bus of Sheffield in May 1996. Northern was a post deregulation era independent operator and was evolving from Bristol REs (including Fylde's five) to Leyland Nationals for its single deck fleet. It was taken-over by Mainline - the former South Yorkshire PTE operation and by now part of First Group in 1998 - all three Nationals passing into group ownership but seeing little use. 145 and 148 are understood to have gone for scrap, 146 resurfaced with Appleby's in Lincolnshire in 1999 and Alpha of Hull in 2001 as LJI8027. By 2004 it was in Lowestoft and was still there in 2008. Today it is listed on the DVLA website as having a valid SORN declaration until March 2010. Is is still there and who owns it?

The odd one out was 147 (KMA399T) which went to Doherty of Irvine - part of the famous A1 Service consortium in Ayrshire. This unusual arrangement of small businesses under a co-operative arrangement sold out to Stagecoach in early 1995 and 147 became part of the Western Scottish operation, lasting until May 2000 when accident damage saw the vehicle written off and scrapped.

The next to go were the 11 ex Strathclyde PTE buses 156/8, 161/2/4-7, 170/2/4 (GGE156Tetc) which came off between December 1990 and Feburary 1991 and went on mass to Southend Transport in February. Southend was embroiled in a bus war with Thamesway and expanded greatly with Nationals at the time. The batch had mixed fates. 164 lasted just a year, withdrawn for spares in 1992 and then passed briefly to a Welsh owner in stripped condition before being scrapped in 1994. Southend became part of the British Bus Group and 165 moved within the group to London & Country in 1993 lasting until 1998 under Arriva ownership, it was briefly with a dealer before being scrapped. 166, 172 and 174 came off in 1995 for scrap, 158 was an accident victim in 1996, 156, 161/2/7 came off in 1997 with 161 running for Border of Burnley until 1999 and 162 for McKindless of Wishaw until 2000. 156 went to London & Country and its associated fleet as as driver trainer and later to a private training school before being preserved back in Glasgow for restoration as Strathclyde LN1. The exception was 170 which was refurbished by Southend in 1992 with a DAF engine and became PJI3745. It lasted into 1998 as the last survivor and passed to an independent operator in Hadleigh until 2002.

National 2 142 at Esh Winning operating for Arriva North East in 1999

The National 2s 141-4 (A541-4PCW) were bought by Caldaire North East - owners of United (Durham) and Tees & District (Teesside) in May 1991. Two met unfortunate ends, 141 suffering accident damage in spring 1994 which caused its withdrawal and it was scrapped later that summer, 144 suffering a similar end in October 1995.  142/3 ended up at Durham depot with Caldaire now part of the Arriva group - though neither bus received Arriva livery. When withdrawn in autumn 1999, 143 was exported to Ireland running for O's Coaches of Hospital, Limerick - more recently it has been purchased with the remains of their fleet by Kells Bus Museum. 142 passed to Cleveland Police and later Safe in Tees Valley as an exhibition vehicle until it was retired in autumn 2009. It has now been donated to the Lancastrian Transport Trust and returned to Blackpool on 21 January.

The interior of 542 in 1999 with Atlantean style moquette
542/142 A542PCW - Lancastrian Transport Trust, Blackpool Preserved 1/10
543/143 A543PCW - Kells Transport Museum, ROI, preserved 2009
546/146 CFM347S - possibly in Lowestoft
156 GGE156T - preserved Beith Transport Museum.

Friday 15 January 2010

February Service Changes

New timetables take effect on 1 February effecting all services except Lines 1 and 10. Some changes are quite minor, with most routes losing certain early morning journeys and generally running at half frequency with some later starts (6 from Mereside, 7 from Lytham). More significant changes are:

Line 2/2C:
Withdrawn from Longhouse Lane (end of LCC subsidy)
Two late evening journeys withdrawn (2223 and 2323 ex South Pier)

Line 6
Evening service reduced to every 30 minutes (3 buses) from 20 mins (5 buses). Sunday daytime service remains every 20 minutes

Line 7
Daytime service withdrawn between Lytham Square and Saltcotes Road reducing PVR from 11 to 10. Stagecoach 68 diverted via Saltcotes Road and Mythop Road as replacement. 2228, 2328 ex Cleveleys and 2113, 2213, 2313 withdrawn.

Line 11
Evening service revised to run every 30 mins Lytham to Cleveleys using five buses rather than 8 as presently and reducing the St. Annes to Bispham section from every 15 minutes.

Line 14
Subsidised evening service withdrawn between St. Annes and Blackpool leaving 30 minute Blackpool to Fleetwood service using 3 buses. Sunday daytime service unchanged.

Line 15
Early evening service between Bispham and Blackpool withdrawn. Now a standard one bus hourly Blackpool to Staining service from 1935 (weekdays), 1735 (Sundays)

Line 16
Withdrawn after 1756 departure from Cleveleys and 1725 departure from Town Centre. Saturdays reduced to hourly 0755-1655 ex Cleveleys. 0825-1625  ex Blackpool plus 1725 to Tesco. Sundays - early evening journeys withdrawn with same timetable as Saturday.

The changes release one daytime vehicle (Line 7) but also reduce the evening services on Line 6 from 5 to 3, on Line 11 from 8 to 5, on Line 14 from 6 to 3, on Line 15 from 3 to 1 and on Line 16 from 2 to 0- a total of 10 buses of which 3 finished around 2100.

Thursday 7 January 2010

338 Hits the Road

Ex Blue Triangle Trident 338 celebrated its 443rd day in Blackpool by making its service depot on 5 January on Line 1. New in Oct 2001 as Blue Triangle TL911 PO51UMG, it arrived in Blackpool on 20 October 2008 having been rescued from the M55 by ERF Tow Wagon 929. Sister bus TL913 PO51UMJ was prepared first and made its debut on 15 June last year. Both buses have been converted to single door and upseated from 66 to 75 seats and - with ex Blackburn 333-337 - provide a batch of seven Tridents for the seven main workings on Line 1.

338 was intended to replace Olympian 367 (UWW15X) which was laid up briefly over Christmas but returned to use at the start of the school term. The additional full size bus should come in useful as pool livery Optare Solos are making virtually daily appearances on 'big bus' routes with examples noted on the 7, 11 and 14 this week. Trident 309 returned to service just before Christmas after its first repaint into Line 14 colours. This completes the routine repaints of the first batch of Tridents.

The current status of disused vehicles is that Metroriders 503, 505 and 507 remain at Rigby Road with 506, 511-513 and 593 at Marton. Atlantean 364 is also stored at Rigby Road along with fire damaged Delta 124 which is under cannibalisation. Excels 215 and 219 remain under refurbishment, the latter having had body modifications at Rigby Road.

Saturday 2 January 2010

New Year's Day

377 heads along Lindale Gardens on New Year's Day - a rare working for an Olympian.

New years day bus services saw some unusual workings with double deckers paramount. This year for the first time Line 5 was in operation and featured two Volvo Olympians (376/377). The full route was observed, rather optimistically including the double run into the deserted Blackpool Business Park. This did, however, provide what must be the first New Year's Day bus service along Amy Johnson Way since 1 January 1940 when the 11 used what was then Blackpool Road prior to its closure to expand the Airport that February.

Olympians also provided Line 6, while Pool Trident 317 was one of the two buses on Line 7.

Olympian 376 waits time at Victoria Hospital

317 heads along Fleetwood Road towards Lytham on Line 7.