Monday, 26 July 2010

Blackpool's Multi Coloured Swap Shop

Today, Monday 26 July, has seen the start of the much vaunted new bus network in Blackpool. Out goes Metro Coastlines, some major links are broken and new ones made. Line 6 is retired as are the claret Deltas. The low floor guarantee is a thing of the past it seems with a virtually 100% record low floor turn out on the 14 from May 2003 ended abruptly this morning with no less than 7 Optare Deltas providing the surprise package.

So what did today bring. Well firstly little change on the 1, 3, 4 and 5 which - by and large- ran with their previously allotted branded buses mostly still lettered. An extra bus runs on Line 1 and today black Trident 317 put in an appearance alongside the venerable Olympian 403. No sightings have been received of the repainted buses.

Line 2/2C needs seven buses and was strongly rumoured to be receiving Deltas. Instead it was their newer sisters the Optare Excel which took over from the green Solos - though 249 refused to bow to tradition and worked the 0932 from Knott End - the final Line 2 bus from Depot (0750 at Poulton). The six Excels were 216, 224 and 226 in purple and 218, 223, 224 in black. The Excels should be unduly taxed on this service with 14 minutes layover at Corporation Street; 12 at Knott End and 16 at Poulton!
Line 7 is now Solo operated mainly with long wheel-base examples taken from Line 2. 244 loads for Cleveleys at Corporation Street.

Line 7 now extends to Wesham all day taking over the Lytham to Wesham section of Line 2. This requires Solos - even for the alternate shorts to Saltcotes Road which interwork with the Wesham trips. All buses seen were former Line 2 ones with  240-242, 244-247, 286, 294 and 296 noted. Scrolling blinds for "Lytham Saltcotes Road" are used on the newer Solos though 246 fails to display the service number - arguably not a problem when it was restricted to Line 2!
Volvo Olympian 377 - a familiar feature of Line 11 was today restricted to the northern section, now Line 9.

New route 9 takes the Blackpool to Cleveleys section of Line 11 and uses double deckers. 7 were Tridents, 2 were Olympians. 310, 314 and 315 stood out in their dark green 14 livery not previously regularly seen on this corridor. Turquoise 322, 328 and 329 were more familiar as was black livery 318 and the reliable old stand-ins Volvo Olympian 377 and Leyland Olympian 371. 371 stayed out onto the evening service.
310 and 307 provide a uniform feel with the former on new Line 9 and the latter heading for Fleetwood on its familiar Line 14 duty.

Line 10 saw Solo 273 in place of its regular Metrorider 518 which surprisingly saw use on the normally low floor contract service for the Department of Work and Pensions. Line 15 had three black solos (261/3/4) and probably another as Metrorider 515 was out on route learning duties.
Familiar bus, familiar route, strange destination - one time 6 branded bus 118 heads to Grange Park on diverted route 11. With a 2 now on the stop almost continuously, the 11 and 15 loading here congestion is already apparent.

The heavily truncated Line 11 which now provides four buses per hour rather than eight along Lytham Road and heads to Grange Park has been spared the rumoured Excel allocation which would certainly have led to capacity problems. Deltas 118, 132 and 133 added an air of normality with Trident 327, 332, Olympians 373 and 376 together with less common Line 14 liveried 303, 305 and 308 also seen.
Trident 305 put gave a green feel to Line 11 heading for Lytham

The biggest surprise was the appearance of 126 in Fleetwood on Line 14, followed by four more and one Olympian on consecutive workings on this previously low floor route. The 17 workings comprised 7 Deltas 115, 119, 122, 125, 126, 127 (L11 liv) and 123 in pool/advert livery; just six familiar green Tridents 301/6/7/9, 312/6, Turquoise Tridents 323/4/31 and Olympian 374.

Line 16 now needs seven Solos and although some of the four remaining light blue ones were out so were pool liveried 277 and 278.
With the five second hand Volvos still awaited 101 and 102 have had a stay of execution and both worked new line 17 at the somewhat inconspicuous new terminus outside Argos on Albert Road - a one time unloading point for former route 11C on this corridor

New Line 17 - the Blackpool to Lytham part of the 14 had a mixed bag. Its first departure at 0646 from St. Annes to Blackpool was Excel 210 with sister 212 and Solo 274 assisted by 20 year old Deltas 101 and 102 - the former looking somewhat out of place on the narrow estate roads of Heyhouses. An evening service is being provided under contract to Lancashire County Council from Lytham to Blackpool to serve South Park and North St. Annes - the first ever evening service for Heyhouses estate roads and the first evening service on Heyhouses Lane itself since the 1970s. Coastal Coaches will provide a Sunday Lytham to St. Annes service on this section. The evening service used two Solos - 277 off Line 16 and 284.

All in all an interesting day with some surprises and some buses looking decidedly out of place!

Thanks to James and Shaun for filling in a few gaps in the allocations and also to James for the photos