Wednesday 22 December 2010

Exit the 18, enter the 78

January 30 2011 will see the introduction of new service 78 between St. Annes and Wesham replacing route 18 and the contracted extension of the 7 from Lytham to Wesham. Coastal Coaches has won the tender for new service 78 which represents a considerable increase in its bus operations from 3 on the 76 to 7 on the 76 and 78. The 78 will be routed to serve the Sainsbury's store next to St. Annes Station, the Victoria Hotel (to serve St. Albans Road Shops) and also reinstate the service to South Hey. The linkage also reinstates the link to Lytham Health Centre/Hospital from the St. Annes housing estates. A half hourly Monday-Saturday daytime and hourly Sunday daytime service will be provided. An hourly evening service will run from Wesham to Lytham only. It is not yet clear if the evening service 17/18 contract held by Blackpool Transport will continue in its current form, though LCC imply that the entire 18 service is withdrawn.

As a result Blackpool Transport will terminate Line 7 at Saltcotes Road and this will hopefully allow it to increase capacity as the reduction to Solos appears to have coincided with an increase in passenger numbers. If so this would allow the removal of the two peak only double deck duplicates and in addition to the four vehicles release from the 18 withdrawal the Wesham withdrawal could enable a further fleet reduction. The changes will remove Blackpool Transport services from South Park where until the summer it provided a commercial 15 minute frequency service.

Monday 20 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Coastal Coaches Solo 'Miss Hannah' braves the cold on Monday 20 December on service 76 at Saltcotes Road

Compliments of the season from the Fylde Bus Blog. This is the 160th post since April 2009 including news and articles. Most of the photos - including these three - have been provided by my father Brian Turner, and others by James Millington. Thanks also go to the people who have supplied news and sightings over the last 20 months or so. Fortunately there is plenty more material for the new year!

Solo 246 awaits departure from Lytham Square on Line 7

Sister Solo 286 turns into Park Street on a diverted service 18 working, presumably avoiding South Park

Fleet Review 2010

A last look at the Optare Delta. The 23 in service at the start of 2010 had all been withdrawn by the end of November.
 2010 was a year of transformation in the Blackpool Transport fleet as major service changes saw the starting fleet reduce from 172 to 160 at the end of the year. The year started with 72 double deckers - (36 Tridents, 32 Olympians and 4 open top Olympians), 40 single deckers (23 Deltas and 17 Excels) and 60 minibuses (57 Solos and 3 Metroriders). A further Trident (338) was being prepared for service having been acquired way back in October 2008. 13 withdrawn buses were in store; Delta 124, Atlantean 364, Metroriders 503, 505-507, 511-513 and 593 and Open Toppers 813, 844 and 849.

Trident 338 finally entered service on 5 January - 443 days after its ill fated delivery run. It is seen here on Line 14 having lost its Line 1 branding
 The net reduction in the fleet of ten masks a transformation as 17 vehicles were acquired. Two more ex Blue Triangle Dennis Tridents arrived, 341 in February and 340 in March - the latter like 338 having failed on delivery! A further Trident - 342 from South Lancs Transport - arrived in April. All three entered service in August.

New Volvo 529 heads down Station Road on a diverted Line 1 working
 No less than 14 Volvo B7RLE single deckers arrived - 9 (525-33) purchased brand new in August featuring Plaxton Centro bodies which took-over from Tridents on Line 1 on 6 September. The other five had Wright bodies and were acquired from Anglian Buses which was a drawn out affair. First mooted in the spring, two arrived in July and three in September with entry into service in October (520/2/4) and November (521/3).

The demise of the Deltas saw the last Line 11 examples withdrawn in September - 118 puts in a rare appearance on Line 17 on Clitheroe Road - a section of route now served by Line 18
On the debit side the 17 new buses (and 338) released 30 others for withdrawal. First down was Delta 103 due to a major engine failure around February. The July changes saw off the rest of the Line 6 batch (104-109, 112-114) and also 116. 115 followed in August and the other Line 11 buses (118/9, 122, 125-7, 132/3) in September. The pool liveried buses outlived these with 101/2 retired in October and 123 at the end of November.

With just two weeks to go before retirement, 515 poses in front of a confusion of architectural shapes on Corporation Street
Metrorider 515 was withdrawn in the early Spring, but returned to use in May to replace sister 517 which had failed. 515 last operated on its dedicated Line 15 on Sunday 25 July, but did appear as a route learning bus the following day but was soon withdrawn. Sole survivor 518 last ran on Line 10 on Saturday 24 July and settled down to a new role on the Department of Work and Pensions works contract - though it did work a duty on Line 3 in August. Sister 512 has been in use as a mess room for the tramway overhead crew following a repaint in all-over yellow.

Olympian 366 leaves St Bedes School in Lytham. It was withdrawn in April having been purchased  in October 1986 to replace three fire damaged Atlanteans
The first Olympian withdrawals saw the end of the three ex West Yorkshire examples 365-367 in April after over 23 years service. 367 had been laid up for a while with engine problems but the other pair were still in regular service. 401 and 403 became the first ex Trents to be withdrawn in October.

Blackpool Transport has kept the scrap dealers busy starting with the disposal of fire damaged Delta 124 to Inglemere Metals of Marton in May. After this Parton's of Barnsley became the chosen destination with 103/5/14 collected in August, with 13 more in September: 104/7-9, 112/3, 115/6, 506/11/5/7/93 and 118 in November. Busworks purchased Metroriders 503, 505, 507 and 513 for spares - save 505 which has been converted to an unglazed tour bus for the Scilly Isles. Deltas 109 and 127 have gone to a food packaging firm for staff transport and open toppers 844 and 849 are now with Alpine in Llandudno.

Solo 290 was the first vehicle to operate in the new livery
2010 also marked the end of the Metro livery. Excel 219 was painted into Pool livery and Tridents 310/1 into Line 14 livery - the latter being the last so treated. 17 buses have so far received the new livery with Excels 211/4/24, Solos 288-290/3, Tridents 330-335, 337 and 340-2 treated. The 14 acquired Volvos are also in the new livery.

Refurbishment work on Optare Excels continues with 219 returning to service in February; 215 around June. 214 became the final new to Blackpool example to be treated with work starting in March. It was repainted in June. It was collected by Cummins in August and returned in November but has yet to return to use, though it has just been relicensed. Sister 224 has also been repainted and collected by Cummins and is currently under refurbishment.

Sole surviving Atlantean 364 was retaxed for the summer, appearing at totallyTransport in June and at several events since. It has not operated in service.

The fleet ended the year with 71 double deckers (one fewer = 40 Tridents, 27 Olympians and 4 open toppers). The single decker fleet has dropped by 9 with 31 buses (17 Excels, 14 Volvos) and the minibus fleet now totals 57 Solos and 1 Metrorider. 16 withdrawn buses remain in store (Deltas 101/2, 119, 122/3, 125/6, 132/3, Atlantean 364, Olympians 365-7, 401/3, Open Toppers 813) while 512 is still in use with the overhead crew.

Trident 340 arrived in March, was converted to single door and entered service in August in the new fleet livery

December 2010 fleet summary.
New Fleet livery: Excels 211/4/24, Solos 288-290/3, Tridents 330-335, 337, 340-342, Volvos 520-533 (31)
Old Pool Livery: Excels 218-223, Solos 261-264, 273-283, Tridents 317-9, Olympians 370-378 (33)
Line 1 Orange/Yellow: Tridents 336, 338/9, 368/9, 402, 404-17 (20)
Line 2 Green/Yellow: Solos 240-247, 249, 284-287, 294 (14)
Line 3 Blue/Yellow: Solos 258-260, 295-7 (6)
Line 4 Cadbury Blue/Yellow: Solos 265-269, 271/2 (7)
Line 5 Red/Yellow: Solos 248, 250-257 (9)
Line 7 Purple/Yellow: Excels 210/2/3/5-7, 225/6 (8)
Line 10 Grey/Yellow: Metrorider 518 (1)
Line 11 Turquoise/Yellow: Tridents 322-329, Olympian 379 (9)
Line 14 Dark Green/Yellow: Tridents 301-316 (16)
Line 16 Lt Blue/Yellow: Solos 291/2 (2)
City Sightseeing: Olympians 818, 857/8, 873 (4)

Thursday 16 December 2010

Christmas Services

The long established Boxing Day and New Years Day operation continues in 2010 with a number of changes from last year reflecting the current service pattern. 18 buses are required for this year's services compared to 16 in 2009 and 14 in previous years. The Promenade service is reduced from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes having run every 15 minutes in previous years. Line 9 maintains the half hourly service to Cleveleys introduced last year on the 11. Line 14 also runs every half hour this year. The full pattern is:

1 Corporation St - Cleveleys every 30 minutes with 2 buses
1A Corporation St - Burlington Road West every 30 minutes with 2 buses
5 Halfway House - Victoria Hospital every 60 minutes with 2 buses
7 Cleveleys - Lytham Square every 60 minutes with 2 buses
9 Clifton Street - Cleveleys every 30 minutes with 3 buses
11 St. Annes - Grange Park every hour with 2 buses
14 Fleetwood-Mereside every 30 minutes with 5 buses

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Termini - Town Centre

The bleakness of Talbot Road Bus Station is shown well in this December 1986 view. Venerable Blackpool Transport PD3 loads for Fleetwood with a conveniently placed hose to top up the radiators on the adjacent pillar. Alongside Ribble Leyland National 2 829 is waiting to depart to Knott End. The lack of pedestrian segregation is apparent. (photos Brian Turner)
Blackpool's buses traditionally had two main bus termini. Talbot Mews was first used in 1923 and was later to form the site of Talbot Road Bus Station. In the 1930s this was the terminus for services to Poulton (1 and 2), Staining (15), Devonshire Road (7), Bispham Road (9) and Fleetwood 14. Service 3 to Claremont started nearby at the Public Library on Queen Street.

The other terminus was Adelaide Place, near the Tower. Buses to Daggers Hall Lane (6), Stanley Park (8), Lytham (11/11A), Lindale Gardens (13), Great Marton (16) and sundry other short lived services to the South of the Town. Service 5 was the only cross town service passing Adelaide Place on its way from Halfway House before turning up Church Street to Caunce Street, Layton and Hoo Hill.

Further cross town services developed with the extension of the 3 along Park Road in 1936 - avoiding both the Bus Station and Adelaide Place in the process! Also in the same year the 22/23 started from Layton to Marton Depot or South Pier to replace the Marton trams and link the two main termini for the first time.
Adelaide Street was a popular pre-war terminus which lingered for many years as the terminus of Zoo service 21 until services were extended along the Promenade in 2002- it remains in use as a loading point for City Sightseeing buses
Adelaide Place was becoming crowded so 1940 saw the introduction of a new terminus on Corporation Street by the market - the current Line 2 terminus - and services 6 (Cherry Tree Gardens and later Mereside) and 13 (Lindale Gardens) moved there. New service 4 (Mereside) started from there in 1951, while the Marton tram replacement service 26 used the stop outside the Town Hall on Corporation Street. The 11/11A (Lytham) and 11C (St. Annes) moved to Albert Road though the 11/11A relocated to the Bus Station in 1946 and the 11C in 1954.

Fylde Atlantean 98 awaits custom for Lytham on a quiet February evening in 1986.
This left the 16 to Great Marton terminating in front of the Tower - arriving via Coronation Street and the now long pedestrianised Victoria Street before returning via Adelaide St including the section now underneath Hounds Hill shopping centre! The 18 ran from Adelaide St to Midgeland Road until 1964 while the seasonal 8 to Park Gates started alongside the tram track opposite the Tower. In 1963 new service 25A from Cleveleys, replacement for the North Station trams used Central Station as a terminus arriving along the Promenade and turning via Adelaide St, Bank Hey St and Hounds Hill - in front of the old Station, now Coral Island. The 16 moved to the Town Hall in 1967, the 25A to either Talbot Square or Manchester Square in 1977. The historic terminus continued for seasonal services, mainly now the 21 to the Zoo.
Clifton Street then: Lancet 597 at the 26 terminus adjacent to Yates in 1984
Corporation Street was also progressively downgraded with the 26 moving round the corner to Clifton Street in 1975; the 4 and 13 ceasing in 1976, the 16 moving to Cookson St outside the Bus Station by 1977 and the 6 to Market Street in the early 1980s.

Deregulation Day and Fylde Atlantean 88 leaves Talbot Road Bus Station on the lengthy Sunday service 193 to St. Annes via Poulton, Kirkham and Freckleton(!) while Blackpool Atlantean 305 awaits departure on the 9 to Cleveleys
At the time of deregulation the 4 (Great Marton), 9 (Cleveleys), 10 (Midgeland Rd), 11C (St. Annes), 12 (Airport) and 14 (Fleetwood) terminated at the Bus Station. Most other services operated cross town with some serving the Bus Station in at least one direction (eg the 2, 2A and 15 to Poulton and 22 to Lytham) with others using nearby stops such as Topping St (22 to Cleveleys, 23-25 to Hospital) or the Odeon on Dickson Road (3 to Bispham). Service 26 still terminated at Clifton Street and service 6 was the only other not to run near the Bus Station, serving Winter Gardens and Market Street instead. Fylde's 11, 11A and 11C plus many of their tendered services terminated in the Bus Station as did the out of town Ribble services to Knott End, Fleetwood, Preston and Morecambe.

Market Street then: 1982 sees Atlantean 324 loading at its terminus stop while 331 overtakes on cross town service 22
Fylde's commercial expansion changed the shape of the Town Centre termini in the late 1980s. They had an increased focused on the Town Hall area, by now used for southbound Blackpool Transport buses on the 22-25 along Central Drive and the 6 to Mereside. All northbound buses and the southbound 11, 11A, 11C and 12 used Talbot Square. Fylde introduced several competition minibuses routes in 1987/8. These included route 66 to Sevenoakes and later Cleveleys from November 1987, followed by the 5 to Cleveleys Park in January 1988 - both starting from Market Street - getting shoppers closer to the shops. The Fastlink routes to Mereside from June/August 1988 also ran from Market Street and the Cleveleys routes moved to the old terminus on Corporation Street. The Fastlink routes joined them in November 1990.  Fylde's version of big bus services 2 and 15 also used Market Street for a few months in 1988.

Market Street 2004: The improved status of Market Street has seen the two stops increased to four. Delta 6 heads for Mereside while Atlantean 357 is loading for Marton Mere Leisure Park on service 20
Blackpool's response to Fylde's innovations were minibus routes 7/7A (Bispham circulars) and 9 (CleveleysFylde's 11/11A northbound journeys were also diverted to serve Corporation Street instead of Talbot Square and southbound journeys via Market Street.

Corporation Street (Town Hall) - the 26 terminus from 1962-1975 and 1996-1999, then served by Line 6 until 2010, the Town Hall is embellished with a transport frieze just visible above the first floor windows.
With the takeover of Fylde by Blackpool in 1994, their respective networks were integrated and the changes saw an expansion of cross town operation. Fylde had preceded this by the linking their minibus services into two cross town routes from Mereside to Cleveleys (33 and 44A/B) which served Corporation St in both directions. The new network included the merger of the 2/2A (Poulton-Blackpool) with the 7/7A (Blackpool-Bispham) and the 14 (Fleetwood-Blackpool) with the 11C (Blackpool to St. Annes). Most services were re-routed via Corporation Street northbound and Market Street south except for the 2/2A which ran via Winter Gardens.

The old Market terminus on Corporation Street was used by the 6 and 13 for many years then fell disused in the early 1980s until Fylde adopted it for minibus services. Several northbound Metro services, including the 14, passed through until August 2010 when Town Centre changes saw them move to Clifton Street with just the 2/2C and - for the winter - the 1/1A using these stops.
The 33 and 44A/B were removed from Corporation Street in 1996 as Abingdon Street was deemed close enough and the 26 replaced them instead of terminating at Clifton Street, but in 1999 was relocated to North Station. With the Metro changes Market Street and Corporation Street remained the focus of the bus network, with this becoming the favoured Town Centre termini as the Bus Station became marginalised and effectively closed in 2002 - saved for coach services. Short workings on routes such as the 14 now terminated at Market St/Corporation Street as did the 10, 16 and 20 arriving from the South. The transformation was complete with the closure of the Bus Station enquiry office and staff rest room in favour of Market Street around 2004.
Clifton Street Now: Re-opened to buses in 2010 and Solo 245 loads for Cleveleys on the first day  - 30th August
Despite further pedestrianisation of the town centre, this focus largely continues - though recently extended to encompass Clifton Street due to the closure of St. John's Square. Today just about every Blackpool Transport service serves this area - including the Promenade service this winter. Lines 2/2C, 9, 10 and 17 terminate in the vicinity and the 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 14, 15 and 16 pass through - all except the 11 passing nearby the now out of favour Talbot Road Bus Station.

Line 18: Any Colour as long as its not black

 The new 18 route between St. Annes and Lytham is almost invariably worked by two Solos in the unphotogenic black pool – so to speak – livery. The only variation seen till now has been the occasional Line 4 purple (strictly “Cadbury blue”).

Yesterday, however, there was an unexpected burst of colour. Light blue (Line 16) Solo 291 is turning from Pleasant Street into Clifton Street, Lytham, and red (Line 5) 252 is descending Ballam Road railway bridge.

Recent unusual workings have seen Olympians 402 and new to Lothian 417 on Line 1 on Saturday; and 405 on Line 14 on Monday.

Friday 10 December 2010

Line 4: From Baby Blues to Cadbury Blue.

Until July 2010 Line 4 served Stanley Park - like its predecessor service 16. 266 waits at the Park Gates stop
The 4 has its direct origins in two minibus services introduced by Fylde Borough in 1987/8 and linked in 1994. Since then it has become the Fylde Coast's first low floor bus and been simplified as part of the Metro network. Its more distant origins will be the subject of a further blog post in due course.

At deregulation Blackpool Transport revised its bus network on a commercial basis. Some of its more lightly used services were withdrawn or heavily revised. Route 16 to Great Marton via Stanley Park was replaced by new service 4 which ran from the Bus Station via Park Road, South Park Drive and then picking up the 16 route via Preston Old Road, St Leonard's Road, Worcester Road, Lancaster Road and Preston Old Road to terminate at Wordsworth Avenue by Stanley School. A half hourly daytime service was provided with one per hour evenings and Sundays - a reduction from the 15-20 minute daytime service of the 16.

Route 3 to Cleveleys via Claremont, Queens Promenade and Norbreck was cut back to terminate at Bispham and diverted along Warbreck Drive to partially replace the 7/7A. Blackpool won a Lancashire County Council contract for service 33 which started at Cleveleys and ran every 30 minutes over the former 3 route via Little Bispham, Norbreck Road to Bispham then served Devonshire Road, Warbreck Hill, Dickson Road and the Town Centre with one bus per hour carrying on via Stanley Park, Great Marton, Paddock Drive and Mereside to the Hypermarket, replacing parts of the 16.

Fylde's Baby Blue minibuses were used on the 5A and 5B to Cleveleys Park in this attractive two tone blue and yellow scheme. This is 111 with an experimental dot matrix destination display
Fylde, meanwhile, was busy expanding and started some competing services in 1987. One was a Promenade minibus service from Pontns to Gynn Square which at the end of the season was revised to run from Starr Gate to Little Bispham, serving Holmfield Road and Norbreck Road and in January 1988 was further revised to run from Blackpool Town Hall to Cleveleys Park, competing with Ribble's minibus services from Cleveleys to Cleveleys Park. Numbered 5 the service ran just inland from the tramway and provided alternatives to the many local who then used to walk to the trams.

April 1988 saw the 5 doubled from half hourly to every 15 minutes and split as the 5A/5B with a two direction terminal loop at Cleveleys Park. 4 minibuses were now required. Both routes saw various revisions with the 5B using Warbreck Drive instead of Holmfield Road from June 1988. In August 1988 Blackpool's 33 was withdrawn, Fylde winning a partial off peak replacement (the 44) which ran to Lytham via Victoria Hospital.

143 was one of the last batch of Renault's purchased by Fylde. All had bodies form their normal supplier - Northern Counties. 143 is heading for Cleveleys Park - an area traditionally served by Ribble but without a direct bus to Blackpool until the 5 started.
February 1989 saw the 5A/5B become 55A/55B. Evidence of their success had been the deployment of an extra bus for timekeeping purposes towards the end of 1988. An evening service was tried for a few months in 1990 and the 55B also served Claremont. Having seen off the 33, Blackpool's long established service 3 was also withdrawn in 1990, replaced by an enhancement of minibus service 7/7A which had been reinstated to compete with Fylde in 1988.

The 1991 route map for the 55A and 55B show some of their route variations. Others included use of Warbreck Drive by the 55A and Claremont by the 55B
May 1992 saw the 55A/55B joined by the 55C to make a ten minute service, the 55C served Sevenoakes and terminated in Cleveleys Centre. The previous pattern was reinstated the following May however.
Fastlink 4 ran into the Marton Mere Caravan Park serving the Entertainments Centre, though it was later cut back to terminate at the main entrance as the 20 does today
Meanwhile Fylde had turned its attention to Great Marton. The failing of both the 16 and its 1986 replacement is that they didn't serve the local shopping centres on Whitegate Drive. Fylde address this from 13 April with "Fastlink F4" a half hourly service from the Town Hall - closer to the shops than the 4 - via Devonshire Square, Whitegate Drive, Preston Old Road, Halifax Street, Goldsboro Avenue, Worcester Road, Lancaster Road, Preston Old Road, Wordsworth Avenue, Kipling Drive, Paddock Drive, Preston New Road and Mythop Road to Marton Mere Caravan Park - reinstating buses to Halifax Street for the first time since the 16B in the 1970s. Blackpool - having replaced the 4 with an hourly 3A diverted from Penrose Avenue in 1988 was now being outperformed by the new cheap to run minibus and this also allowed the 33 to be withdrawn.

The F4 was frequently tweaked, serving Mereside Shops once the Caravan Park closed for the winter and in February 1989 it became route 44 and was extended to Marton Hypermarket (the current Asda). For winter 1989 the 44 became a circular, linked to route 33 (which was killing off the 3/3A between Mereside and Blackpool along Park Road) and the frequency was increased to every 20 minutes. This lasted until March 1990 when the two routes were split with the 44 now running to Mereside turning circle. Summer services to Marton Mere were now separate with the X33 providing the daytime link and the X44 the evening link, both running direct from Marton Mere via Preston New Road to the Oxford and then picking up their namesake routes to Town.

Bristol REs replaced minibuses on the 44 from September 1992 to March 1993 - which was their swansong as they were retired that summer. 15 - originally 38 - heads off to Mereside from the Corporation Street terminus (photo Keith West)
Victory was achieved in April 1990 when the 3/3A were withdrawn and Fylde now had the monopoly of the Great Marton corridor and also Park Road. Competition returned in September 1992 when Blackpool introduced a new service 4 along Park Road to Mereside via Penrose Avenue whcih prompted Fylde to increase the 44 to every 15 minutes using single deckers - normally the 1975 vintage Bristol REs - to increase their share of the lucrative Whitegate Drive market. Blackpool's efforts ceased in spring 1993; the 44 once again became a minibus service but with two termini - route 44A running to Tesco and the 44B to Marton Mere.

This summer 1990 map shows the main "Fastlink" routes - the 33 via Park Road and Newhouse Road and 44 via Whitegate Drive and Great Marton. Both terminated at Tesco with the extra X33 (daytime) and X44 (evenings) to Marton Mere
February 1994 saw a major revision to the Fylde network with minibus services linked across town. The 44A/B and 55A/B were linked running from Clevelsy Park via Cleveleys Square, North Drive (A) or Lyddesdale Avenue (B), Norbreck Road, Bispham, Warbreck Drive (A) or Holmfield Road (B), Dickson Road, Town Centre, Whitegate Drive, Preston Old Road, Worcester Road, Kipling Drive and either to Tesco (A) or Marton Mere (B). Buses ran every 15 minutes and 8 minibuses were needed.

Evening and Sunday services on the corridor were provided by Fylde on behalf of Lancashire County Council. Initially they ran Blackpool's service 3 (Gynn to Mereside) but in 1989 this became the 333 and 444 running via Claremont, Town Centre and Park Road to the Oxford then in a loop via Penrose Avenue, Mereside Shops and Great Marton with the 333 one way and the 444 the other. In 1993 the routes were extended to Cleveleys commercially and later the 333 ran through to Fleetwood thanks to another LCC contract.

1994 saw the extended 44A converted to single deckers and this high floor Tiger 13 (B43UCK) was occasionally used alongside more familiar Deltas and the Paladin single decker Atlanteans (photo Keith West)
The harmonisation of the Blackpool and Fylde networks in November 1994 after the takeover of the latter by the former barely affected the 44s - the 44B was diverted via Stanley Park between Mere Road and Knowsley Avenue leaving Whitegate Drive to the 44A (and Blackpool's 26). The 44A was upgraded to single deckers - usually Deltas and the rebodied single deck Atlanteans but sometimes Tiger 13. May 30th 1995 saw Deltas 2/3 (H2/3FBT), 8 (G101NBV) and Paldin 6 (TKU466K) on the 44A with minibuses 121/3/4/5 (F141/3/4/5UFR) on the 44B.
The 44A and 44B originally ran round Cleveleys Park in opposite directions and 203 is seen here on the now discontinued anti-clockwise circuit.
June 1996 saw the conversion of the 44A/44B and associated 333/444 to low floor operation - the first such route in the area. Eight of the first production Optare Excels were purchased, which did not allow for any spares so only 3 of the 4 workings per hour were advertised as low floor allowing Deltas to substitute on two workings - and they often did as Excel reliability was poor. 4 Excels stayed out into the evening to work the 333/444 route. The 44B was the first to be converted in June with Excels 201-4 entered service, 205-8 made their debut in July to allow the 44A to be converted.  One of the poorer days for the Excels was 5 August 1998 when Deltas 127, 129, 131 and 132 were out alongside 203, 207, 208 and demonstrator P447SWX. December 28th 1998 was a red letter day with all eight Excels out for the first time that month -a feat repeated on New Years Eve.

Excel 202 poses opposite the former Marton Tram Depot on Whitegate Drive - note the route branding 'sash' applied to the Excels when new
Blackpool absorbed Fylde shortly after - Excel 208 only working for 9 days with Fylde and the 44A/B remained at Squires Gate depot until its closure in April 1999. The original Excels were replaced by nine new ones during summer 1999 (210-218) and these took-over the 44A/B duties. In September the route was cut back to terminate at Cleveleys Town Centre with route 33 covering Cleveleys Park instead - this allowed an increase in running time to address unreliability.
Several Excel demonstrators were provided by Optare to allow them to rectify the legion of defects on the original batch. P447SWX leaves Marton Mere in September 1998. Excels 201-204 and the three new to Fylde Deltas 131-133 made up the allocation on this day.
The Excels received support from the new Solos from January 2000, useful as the route once once again extended to Cleveleys Park so all nine Excels were required Monday to Saturday. Marton Mere was no longer served with both the 44A and 44B now running to Tesco.

The replacement Excels featured the full Handybus livery with a black skirt. 210 approaches Red Bank Road in Bispham
The Metro network saw the 44A/44B combined into a single Line 4 which took the 44A route from Cleveleys Park to Blackpool - via Warbreck Drive - leaving the parallel Holmfield Road unserved. From Blackpool to Mereside it followed the 44B route via Stanley Park. Frequency was reduced to every 20 minutes using seven Excels. An hourly evening service was introduced, replacing the 444 and this used Solos interworked with Line 3. This interworking soon ceased and the Excels ran into the evening once again.

In January 2003 the 4 was diverted via Claremont using the previously unserved Carshalton Road and was converted to Solos. 265-269, 271/2 gradually received Line 4 livery - Cadbury Blue and yellow between January 2003 and November 2004. Minor changes to the service followed - from May 2007 the route in Claremont was standardised with that of Line 3 to offer a combined ten minute service. Finally in July 2010 the route was diverted via Whitegate Drive instead of Stanley Park and lost its route branding with long wheelbase Solos now more common as the 4 is the prime service along this corridor.

Route branded Solo 266 heads for Cleveleys as a sister bus swings from Red Bank Road into Warbreck Drive
The 4 has also had more than its fair share of diversions - frequently affected by Town Centre disruptions but on two occasions shuttle services have been called for. In 2006 a shuttle bus ran from The Saddle to Wordsworth Avenue as the service bus was diverted via Preston New Road; and for much of 2009 a shuttle service ran from Wordsworth Avenue to Tesco via Marton Mere Park as the 4 was diverted to terminate at Mereside Shops. In both cases service 4A was displayed.

Today the 4 survives as a testimony to the innovation of Fylde in the early deregulation period. Rationalisation since then has seen it replace many of the services it once competed with - with Line 3 it is the main provider of services between Blackpool and Bispham via Gynn Square; it has now usurped the former 26 along Whitegate Drive and seen off Ribble in Cleveleys Park.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Delta Demise (again)

123 - the last Delta and only all-over advert bus in the Blackpool Transport Fleet
Saturday 27 November saw the final service duty of a Blackpool Transport Delta with the withdrawal of 123 after a turn on Line 17 - just short of 20 years and 9 months after the type made its debut. And nobody said goodbye.

Sole Metrorider 518 clings onto active life on the DWP contract several months after its last sister was withdrawn

Blackpool has, so far, escaped the worst effects of the snow and ice that has gripped the country but 529 got its first taste of snow seen here as it turns into Burlington Road West on service 1A.

Fylde's Ribble connection

The trio of traditional BET style Leyland Leopards suited Fylde's blue and white - a welcome break from the traditional red. 31 was exhibited, appropriately, at the Ribble Enthusiast Club rally at Southport in 1980. (Brian Turner)
During the mid 1970s Fylde expanded its fleet with a number of second hand purchases to help complete OPO conversions and expand its private hire fleet. Amongst these was a trio of 13 year old new to Ribble Weymann bodied Leyland Leopards. New in 1965, these were the standard 'BET' bodies on Leopard chassis which Ribble ran in bus and coach form - high backed seats, split ratio axles and a bit more brightwork set the coaches out from the buses.

Overhauling the Leopards was very slow, a repanelled 31 sat alongside 32 in the rear yard for some months in 1979 (Brian Turner)
Withdrawn at 13 years in need of an overhaul, 808, 810 and 816 (ARN808/10/16C) were purchased by Fylde from the Paul Sykes dealership in February 1979. As a small operator Fylde didn't have much capacity for undertaking the major overhauls required in those days usually at 7 years, 13 years and generally decreasing periods thereafter. In 1977 it had completed the overhauls of 68-70 of 1964 and 75-77 of 1970, it then certified a batch of ex Merseyside Atlanteans which were the contemporaries of the Ribble buses and then got round to the Leopards - alongside the first of the 1972 built Seddons. 808 was the first to be overhauled followed by 810 and  both entered service in May 1980 with fleet numbers 30 and 31 respectively. 32 (ex 816) finally entered service on 1 October.

The sylvan terminus of Green Drive shows 30 on one if its stints on local service work. It also highlights Fylde's short lived folly of yellow wheels. (Brian Turner)
Their coach configuration made them useful for private hire work - though they were in the shadow of the more modern Dominant coaches and they saw regular service and contract work. Their manual gearboxes were no doubt a source of complaint to drivers now used to the mainly semi automatic fleet.
31 loads holiday makers at Pontins while on trunk service 11A to Blackpool (Brian Turner)

32 featured a double step to its waistband, thanks to the additional grill on the front. Here it is being rescued from the M55 roundabout having failed on a works service (Brian Turner)
Their life with Fylde was short as 1982 saw substantial cuts to keep the operation afloat and all three were withdrawn between April and August 1982. 32 was snapped up by Lonsdale Coaches of Heysham for use on staff services for Taylor Woodrow's construction  staff at Heysham Power Station and soon gained a vivid fluorescent yellow livery but was scrapped in 1984. 30 stayed in Blackpool with the Evening Gazette, modified with a Parisienne style open rear balcony - it was later used for spares by preservationists. 31 went to Scotland running for Waddel's coaches Lochwinnoch and Nobel of Glasgow until 1986.

A fourth member of this batch of 10 Ribble buses operated on the Fylde after sale by Ribble. ARN811C was purchased by C&H of Fleetwood and the associated Birch's of Knott End and was later purchased for preservation. It has since been marvellously restored by the Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust.

ARN811C as restored to original condition by the Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust (Paul Turner)
A postscript to the story was Fylde's operation of former Ribble XTF809L which was in the ownership of Bispham Parish Church. Looked after by Fylde, they took it on loan for a few months in spring 1988 and operated in full Ribble NBC red/white livery!

A later Ribble visitor, Leopard XTF809L was briefly Fylde 129 during 1988 (Brian Turner)

Friday 3 December 2010

Trident Repaint and Delta Disposal

Delta 118 left for scrap during November. This shot shows it on Abingdon Street avoiding the closure of Talbot Square due to the Yates fire in February 2009
Trident 331 is now in service in the new fleet livery, operating on Line 14 today. 330 is the current repaint project. Meanwhile Delta 118 left for scrap at Parton's of Carlton on 22 November.

Long lost Optare Excel 205 has turned up in Wales. 202 and 205 were sold by Cumfybus of Southport in autumn 2007 and have not been reported since. However 205 arrived with Richards of Cardigan for spares in September 2010. A picture is here on flickr. Further investigation reveals a picture of 202 in a dealers yard in Northfleet understood to have been taken earlier this year. Neither bus has been licensed since disposal by Cumfybus.

Other the other ex Fylde Excels, 201 and 206 remain with GHA - the former currently out of use. 203 is with Centrebus in Grantham. 204 is believed scrapped having been used as a spares donor. Stagecoach still has 208 in use in Chesterfield having escaped its intended cull in April, but 207 was less lucky and has been sold for scrap following a failure on a transfer run to Stagecoach Bluebird.

Former Blackpool 208 loads for Staveley in Chesterfield in September 2010 (M Crisp)