Monday 31 January 2011

The Original Number 5

Route 5 originally used Church Street from Promenade to Winter Gardens. Northbound buses were diverted though Talbot Square in 1936 but it was not until 1976 that southbound journeys followed. Here 515 demonstrates the new route in 1985.
July 1926 saw the introduction of service 4 from Adelaide Street to Halfway House via Lytham Road, Watson Road and St. Annes Road with a 20 minute frequency provided. In 1927 this was joined by service 5 from Gynn Square via Warbreck Hill Road, Devonshire Road, Talbot Road, Queen Street, Promenade and then as route 4 to Halfway House. Both ran every 20 minutes combining to a 10 minute headway.

In 1929 the 5 was diverted to start at Hoo Hill (Windmill Hotel) and run via Layton, Caunce Street, Church Street and then onto the existing route to Halfway House. This replaced the stand-alone 7 to Hoo Hill and also route 4 - though this continued to be used for short workings until 1939. The 5 typically ran every 10 minutes with six or seven buses required and was one of the earlier routes to use Leyland Titans from 1934.  Economies in 1939 as World War II developed saw the 5 curtailed to run Hoo Hill (Plymouth Road) to Blackpool only. By the end of the year a through service had been reinstated at 20 minute intervals with shorts from Hoo Hill to Tower as service 5A to make a ten minute frequency.
PD3 518 has turned off the Promenade onto Lytham Road heading to Halfway House on route 5
The full ten minute service was finally restored in late 1946 and new centre entrance PD2s saw service from 1949. 1950 saw the service extended into the developing Grange Park council estate turning off Poulton Road onto Chepstow Road terminating at Dingle Avenue just beyond Fulwood Square. In 1955 the route was diverted at Chepstow Road onto Gateside Drive then Dinmore Avenue to Normoss Avenue close to the current Dinmore Hotel. In 1958 it was further extended along Dinmore Avenue to Easington Crescent and finally in 1960 to Pilling Crescent. The basic ten minute service continued, though this rose to 8 minutes in the summer season on weekdays after 1000 remaining every 10 minutes at other times. Winter evening services ran every 20 minutes and winter Sunday services ran every 15 minutes. 1962 saw a minor route change with the 5 now serving Manchester Square, previously it had left the Promenade at the Foxhall and served Tyldesley Road rejoining Lytham Road at the Coliseum Coach Station. The end of the Lytham Road trams may have facilitate this move.

The service frequency progressively reduced during the late 1960s with a winter daytime 12 minute frequency and a summer service every 10 minutes. Sundays saw a 30 minute frequency, supported in the summer by short workings from Grange Park to Manchester Square as service 5A. February 1973 saw the Sunday service converted to OMO with AEC Swifts and these journeys terminated at Easington Crescent instead of Pilling Crescent where a reversal was required.
From 1973 Sunday services used OMO single deckers, mainly Swifts but by 1986 Nationals such as 543 had joined in.
1976 saw alternate weekday services diverted to reach Halfway House via Lindale Gardens as service 5A (so the Sunday short workings became route 5B instead). Later that year changes in the Town Centre saw the direct route from Winter Gardens to the Promenade via Church Street closed to traffic. The 5 now ran via Clifton Street and Talbot Square, 40 years after journeys to Grange Parks had been diverted away from Church St via Talbot Square. The final frequency cut saw the service standardised at every 15 minutes daytimes and every 30 minutes evenings/Sundays in 1977 - though the summer Sunday short 5Bs continued until 1979. Thereafter the 5B designated depot workings.
Atlantean 327 is chased by Preston Corporation Olympian A33MRN, on its final day on demonstration with Blackpool before moving down the road to Fylde.
Atlanteans now supplemented the PD3s on the resolutely crew operated weekday services which needed six buses. Swifts and, later, Lancets and Nationals provided the three Sunday workings. 7 January 1986 saw the unexpected debut of the AEC Routemaster in Blackpool with RM1583 on hire from London Bus Sales and pressed straight into service on route 5/5A in faded London red with Harrods adverts. Later purchased it was joined by five sisters which saw regular use on the 5/5A, most initially in London red before later gaining retro red and white based loosely on the 1930s livery.

Deregulation saw major changes to the bus network and the end of route 5. The Grange Park section was replaced by an extension of service 6 with the Halfway House section partially replaced by routes 24 and 25.
Amazingly the London Routemasters were pressed into service without even losing their adverts let alone a repaint. 523 arrives at St Johns Church with the slip board on the dashboard reassuring doubtful passengers that this was a 5 to Grange Park
Fortunately 523's appearance did not put off the passengers who scramble aboard in a location since transformed by pedestrianisation.

Three days later, 16 May 1986 saw 522-525 all in service. At least 522 had received blinds to the traditional London Transport layout and font - though the intermediates had not been set. The two RMs contrast their faded domes, while 522 displays an array of numbers in the cab. "55" being its route (timecard), "522" its fleet number and "5" its service number, contradicting the blind.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Farewell to Wesham

Fylde's vividly painted Leyland Leopard 29 demonstrates the regular practise of using coaches on route 193
With the withdrawal of the Wesham to Lytham section of Line 7, Blackpool Transport has withdrawn from a market first served by Fylde Borough in 1978. Historically Ribble Motor Services had provided a link from Wesham via Kirkham, Freckleton and Warton to Lytham with service 171 as well as its Preston to Lytham 167 which joined the 171 at Freckleton. 1974 saw the 171 route come within Fylde Borough as part of the local government reorganisation which saw Lytham St. Annes Corporation Transport become Fylde Borough Council Transport. Initially Fylde kept to its former routes but January 1978 saw its first southern extension from its traditional terminus at Meadow Lane in Lytham's East End.
Fylde also used its Leyland Atlantean fleet on the 193. Ribble often, but not exclusively, used Leyland Nationals as seen in the background
This was achieved by combining service 3 (Spring Gardens - St. Annes - Clifton Drive - Lytham - Saltcotes Road) with the 171 into new service 193. A half hourly service was provided with Fylde operating three buses and Ribble one. Each operator provided one bus for the hourly evening service. Ribble later extended many of its journeys from Wesham to Blackpool via Elswick and Poulton. 1983 saw the evening and Sunday service diverted via Ansdell instead of Clifton Drive as part of wider changes.

Deregulation saw the joint operation continued on weekdays, though without Ribble's Blackpool extension (which Fylde won as separate route 192). Sundays saw Fylde take-over all workings on behalf of Lancashire County Council, inconsistently including the though workings to Blackpool!

1987 saw an hourly extension of the 193 into Blackpool. Here ex Grimsby Fleetline 49, barely disguised as a Blue Bus leaves Tower for the Bus Station
January 1987 saw Fylde extend one weekday daytime journey per hour from Spring Gardens via Queensway, Highfield Road (later via Lindale Gardens), St. Annes Road and Central Drive to Blackpool. Fylde's allocation grew to four with 3 double deckers working the Blackpool to Wesham journeys and one coach (usually) working the Spring Gardens to Wesham journeys alternating with Ribble's buses. November 1987 saw the Blackpool to Spring Garden section withdrawn and October 1988 saw the Wesham to Blackpool Sunday workings withdrawn.

Competition came to the route in Winter 1987/8 when Blackpool Transport introduced a handful of extra journeys. It provided trips from St. Annes to Kirkham at 1000, 1200 and 1400 and from Kirkham at 1050, 1250 and 1450. On arrival at St. Annes the bus ran to Woodlands Road, Ansdell at 1130 and 1330, headed over Woodlands Road bridge to Commonside to return to St. Annes via Church Road at 1152 and 1352. One Atlantean was used, interworked at St. Annes with the 11C. There was an additional journey at 1435 from Manchester Square to Kirkham, returning at 1650 to position vehicles for school or works contracts. In response Fylde advanced its nearest journeys by five minutes.

This curious pattern lasted until August 1988 when Blackpool registered journeys to duplicate most daytime Fylde journeys from Spring Gardens to Wesham leaving Wesham at 0743 to 1713 and Spring Gardens at 0745 to 1645. There was a gap in the timetable every two hours coinciding with Ribble's journeys as Blackpool's target was Fylde only in response to their competitive ventures against Blackpool's network. Blackpool withdrew its Saturday service in April 1989 and the weekday service in October 1989 as harmony began to break out between the two operators.

Fylde made minor timing changes in response. Its daytime service was now usually double deck operated on weekdays, single deckers on Saturdays and minibuses on Sundays. April 1989 saw the evening and Sunday service via Ansdell renumbered 293 to remove the confusion with the daytime route.

October 1989 saw the withdrawal of the Spring Gardens to St. Annes section during the day in favour of route 11C covered much of the same ground but now twice as often as before deregulation. It made sense for Fylde to divert its journeys via St. Davids Road (instead of Headroomgate Road which Blackpool still served) and both Blackpool and Fylde served Spring Gardens.

The evening and Sunday 293 still served Spring Gardens (except for Ribble's evening workings) but this was withdrawn completely in November 1990. As a replacement the 11A (Blackpool to Lytham) was extended to Wesham. Around this time Ribble withdrew its last Wesham to St. Annes journey and Carriages of Fleetwood won a tender for a single replacement journey which passed to Fylde in 1992. The daytime service continued largely unchanged with two Fylde buses to one Ribble. Single deckers became more common - the route switching between the two in accordance with the requirements of other services. For a while Ribble outstationed its bus for the 193 at Fylde's Squires Gate Depot, otherwise it ran from Blackpool depot until 1988 and Fleetwood thereafter. Metroriders 589 and 590 moved to Squires Gate joining 584-588 which were based there for the 33. Various others later joined these on a short or long term basis.

Closure of Squires Gate in April 1999 saw the 193 move to Rigby Road. From late September 1999 to the end of January 2000 it was normally operated by Leyland Atlanteans to release the Metroriders to cover other duties. 5 August 2000 saw Blackpool withdraw from the 193 with Stagecoach Ribble taking over in full. Blackpool continued to provide the contracted evening and Sunday workings on the 11A. These became part of Line 7 as a result of the Metro network changes in April.

Stagecoach replaced the 193 with route 169 in 2002 which continued from St. Annes to Blackpool via Lytham Road on a co-ordinated basis with its 168 from Preston. Low floor Solos were used. It was later diverted via Ansdell instead of Clifton Drive to match the 168. October 2003 saw the Blackpool to St. Annes section of the 169 withdrawn, the remainder was renumbered 69 in 2004 and the entire route ceased in October 2005 replaced by an extension of Kirkham Roamer service 70 from Wesham to Saltcotes Road on behalf of Lancashire County Council.

Solo 287 runs round Lower Lane Estate on Line 7 in January 2011
Blackpool Transport then extended Metro Line 2 to Wesham in September 2006 mainly using Metroriders with the odd Solo. These progressively replaced the Metroriders until 2009 when the entire route became Solo operated. The July 2010 network changes saw the daytime Line 2 replaced by an extension of Line 7 to match the daytime service. This now served Lower Lane estate (as they daytime route had since 2005).

Solo 250 heads towards Freckleton on its long journey to Cleveleys
After just over five years the contract for the Wesham to Lytham service passed to Coastal Coaches with its new service 78 from 31 January 2011.

Last Day of Line 7 to Wesham
Last Day: Solo 254 departs Lower Lane for Wesham

Last Day: Wesham Terminus - Solo 248
Last day: The rural approach to Lower Lane

Last Day: 248 on Station Road, Wesham

First Day of the 78: Coastal "Master Liam" in Lower Lane Estate

Farewell to the 18

Solo 266 heads along Folkestone Road in St. Annes on the final day of service 18
After 122 days service 18 came to an end with the 2234 departure from Lytham Square on Saturday 30 January. The 18 replaced the St. Annes to Lytham section of route 17 on 27 September after just 63 days. The same bus worked the 2255 service 17 from St. Annes to Blackpool and the 2335 return journey ending Blackpool Transport interest in the evening service with Coastal Coaches taking over. This represents the fourth service change for this six month old service.
266 again on Forest Drive

The 18 thus becomes one of Blackpool's shortest lived bus services and represents the end of over 30 years of the St. Annes Roamer in the Fylde/Blackpool family - apart from a brief period with Phoenix North West. More significant is the removal of Blackpool Transport services from Forest Drive and South Park which until July 2010 had a 15 minute daytime and 30 minute evening service. Now it is served only by Coastal's new 78 and nothing at all in the evening.

266 on Heyhouses  Lane
Line 7 also ceased operating between Wesham and Lytham on Saturday 30th and the following day reverted to single deck operation with Volvo B7 520 and Optare Excel 210 noted. 
The other Solo on the daytime 18 on its last day was 267 seen here on Crosland Road North

267 heads along Headroomgate Road towards St. Annes

Friday 28 January 2011

Farewell to the Metrorider

From 2007-2010 518 was dedicated to Line 10 and is seen here on Midgeland Road
518, the final Metrorider has now been withdrawn. Since the end of the Metro branding in July the bus has been dedicated to the Peel Park to St. Annes Department of Work and Pensions contract service. This has ended on 20 January so this week 518 has seen wider use. Monday and Tuesday saw it return to its old stomping ground of Line 10 - it was dedicated to this line from March 2007 making its debut on 31 March 2007 and finishing on Saturday 24 July 2010.
With the Tower in the distance 518 heads away from Manchester Square on Line 10
Wednesday saw what is probably its first appearance on Line 15 deputising for a Solo - though it was changed-over during the day. It emerged again on Thursday on Line 15 - observed working the 1506 from Staining and staying out until the last bus at 2306 from Staining to Blackpool Town Centre. The bus worked the 0906, 1106, 1306, 1506 and 1706 from Staining to Poulton returning at 1007, 1207, 1407, 1607 and 1807 and then every hour from 1906 to 2306 from Staining and 1935 to 2235 from Abingdon Street.
26 May 2007 saw 518 'off route' on Line 2 from Wesham to Cleveleys - a rare example of a branded bus escaping from its normal haunts.
518 arrived in Blackpool on 18 December 1998 and entered service five days later - the last new step entrance bus to enter service for Blackpool Transport. New in the reversed Handybus livery of yellow with black skirt and roof band, it retained this until March 2003 when it received Line 2 green/yellow livery prior to a repaint four years later into silvery grey and yellow for Line 10. At 12 years and 2 months it isn't quite the longest serving Metrorider (593 holds the honours at 13 years 4 months) but it certainly marks the end of an era.

Pictures of 518 on its last day can be seen here and here.

Monday 24 January 2011

Kirkham Roamer

Fylde RE waits at Wrea Green terminus ready for another journey to Lower Lane
Just over 30 years ago on 8th December 1980 the Kirkham Community Roamer was born. Fylde Borough had developed the concept - an off peak local estate service in St. Annes in 1978 and applied it to Kirkham in 1980. It was an in house operation by Fylde's own bus company which had first served Kirkham in 1978 with route 193 on a joint basis with Ribble. The route comprised four cross Kirkham journeys each hour.
Lower Lane estate was very narrow though buses have successfully negotiated it for 30 years now.
The service started at Wrea Green and followed the Ribble 154 route into Kirkham and then the 193 route to Kirkham prison before entering the married quarters housing area at Lower Lane. From here it returned to Kirkham and followed the 193 to Wesham and back to Kirkham with a short double run to Wesham Hospital. It then followed the 154/8 out of Kirkham turning through Newton Village and back to Kirkham and Wrea Green. Only Lower Lane, Newton Village and Wesham Hospital were unserved.
This was Wesham Park Hospital, 40 has reversed into Derby Road before heading off to Newton as a 7C
An hourly service ran from 0903 to 1503 with an extra journey on school holidays - there was no Saturday or Sunday service. The first and last journeys started or finished at Lytham and ran via Ballam. The service was numbered 7 but used suffices to denote the individual leg (7A to Lower Lane, 7B to Wesham, 7C to Newton, 7D to Wrea Green). Bristol RE 40 was suitably route branded.
Branded Ribble National 2 830 crosses the railway line at Weeton on a positioning run
May 1982 saw the service pass to Ribble operating to the same basic pattern but with a revised timetable with extra journeys from Lower Lane to Willows Primary School. The Lytham section was dropped and Leyland National 2 830 replaced 40 as the branded bus. The route suffices were dropped.
AEC Swift 572 represents Blackpool's first offerings - no branding and no destination display let the side down somewhat
Deregulation saw Blackpool Transport take over on behalf of Lancashire County Council and AEC Swifts Nationals and Lancets shared the operation. The operation passed to Granville Coaches of Freckleton in early 1988 but quickly moved onto McLaughlin's who operated the service until 1997. Minibuses were now used and this allowed the service to be diverted via Market Street, Morland Avenue and Mowbreck Drive in Wesham. A Saturday service was later added and McLaughlin's registered the service commercially.

572 leaves Kirkham Market Square for Lower Lane
McLaughlin's ceased operating the service in January 1997 with Blackpool Transport taking over from the former Fylde depot at Squires Gate using a Metrorider transferred from Rigby Road. This was only a temporary arrangement as it was taken over by Harry's coaches - a small operator based at Treales near Kirkham. They revised the route to run from Lower Lane - Kirkham- Wrea Green - Kirkham - Clifton-Newton-Kirkham-Wesham-Kirkham and back to Lower Lane. The Saturday service was more complex with five journeys which omitted Wrea Green, but three were extended to Preston. Wrea Green was later dropped from the route.

Harry's lost their vehicles in a depot fire and ceased operating the Roamer as a result with Phoenix North West taking over. From February 2000 it was operating to a further route variation now Lower Lane- Kirkham - Station - Wrea Green- Kirkham - Clifton - Newton - Kirkham- Wesham - Kirkham - Lower Lane. Initially it ran Monday to Friday only but Saturday services resumed in April.
In 2005 the Roamer was treated to a brand new bus - Solo 285 owned by Lancashire County Council but operated by Blackpool Transport in a dedicated livery
April 2001 saw Blackpool Transport take-over on Phoenix's demise. Again a Metrorider was used. Hampsons Travel of Fleetwood took over in April 2002 during a short period where they took over various services including local routes in Fleetwood and the evening Blackpool to Knott End route. Within a few weeks Blackpool had resumed at short notice - their fourth spell of operation. In May 2004 a new Optare Solo was purchased by Lancashire County Council as part of their strategy to support low floor operation on tendered services using capital funds. The bus was painted blue with route branding and was numbered 285 in the Blackpool fleet. Changes to other commercial and tendered routes meant that Wrea Green was over served so the route was diverted to Weeton in 2005 and was also withdrawn from Clifton, though still served Newton. At some stage during this process the route was renumbered 70 to differentiate from Blackpool Transport's Line 7.
Weeton Community Centre was the terminus in 2005, here 285 demonstrates the excellent turning circle on the Solo
October 2005 saw the Roamer evolve into a conventional service to replace the Stagecoach 69 service. It ran every 30 minutes from Lytham Saltcotes Road via Warton, Freckleton, Lower Lane and Kirkham to Wesham. Newton and Weeton were now served by Fylde Villager service 75. 2 buses were used, Solo 285 being joined by a pool example. Saltcotes Road was an unusual terminus - there was insufficient running time to reach Lytham centre. This was resolved in September 2006 when the 70 was replaced by an extended Line 2. This did not serve the estates in Wesham and tendered 77 was revised to replace this. Solo 285 was integrated into the Fylde fleet and the 2 was later replaced by Line 7 and is shortly to become Coastal Coaches service 78.
Metro liveried Solo 276 heads down Mowbreck Drive in Wesham

Sunday 23 January 2011

Tendered Services

Deregulation of local bus services in 1986 segregated services into commercial or contracted - the latter procured by local authorities, normally by competitive tendering so were commonly known as 'tendered services'. Lancashire County Council's approach in 1986 was to buy back the service levels prior to deregulation and most gaps in the commercial network were filled by tendered services. This led to some curiosities. Blackpool Transport had operated a half hourly service 2 to Poulton and an hourly 15 to Staining but registered only an hourly Poulton service, so Lancashire awarded Fylde contracts to run to Poulton and Staining every hour. This led to the unusual scenario of a 20 minute evening service along Newton Drive made up of one commercial and two tendered journeys.

Several of Blackpool's evening/Sunday services were put out to tender and Fylde won the 2 (Poulton eves only), 3 (Gynn-Mereside eves/Suns), 7/7A (Bispham circulars eves), 15 (Staining peak hours, eves/Suns), 23A (South Pier - Mereside eves/Suns) and the daytime services on the 8 to Whiteholme and the occasional 13 to Bispham.

Many of Ribble's services were put out to tender and Blackpool was quite successful in securing these - Fylde did win the Blackpool to Great Eccleston and Kirkham routes (190-192) but its other successes from Ribble were mainly school services.

Service 180/182 Fleetwood - Poulton - Preston
January 1987 sees Leyland National 2 543 departing from Preston on route 180 back to Poulton. This is Friargate/Ringway junction - a road that has since been pedestrianised.
Blackpool Transport took-over these services from Ribble on 26 October. The daytime service was basically hourly from Poulton to Preston via Great Eccleston, Elswick, Inskip, Catforth then either via Lea (180) or Woodplumpton (182) then though Ingol into Preston. Evening and Sunday services broadly ran every 2 hours but started in Fleetwood ran via Thornton to Poulton and on to Preston. Additional evening journeys ran from Fleetwood to Poulton. 2 buses were required for the daytime service and by 1987 these were provided by inter-working at Poulton with route 2A. 5 buses did a complex cycle of 2A Bispham-Poulton, 180/2 Poulton-Preston-Poulton, 2A Poulton-Bispham and 15 Bispham-Staining-Bispham. Leyland Nationals were normally used supported by Lancets at times. 2 buses were used in the evenings and on Sundays but with no inter-working.
Ex Strathclyde National 165 operates the Sunday service 182 in Fleetwood. Prior to deregulaton the 180/2 ran though to Fleetwood, but Ribble registered the weekday Fleetwood-Poulton section as the 81/82 (which continued to Blackpool)
Optare Deltas replaced the Nationals around 1991, Blackpool having renewed its contract in 1989 but was unsuccessful in 1992 with Stagecoach Ribble taking over with the service later passing to Phoenix North West. Unfortunately Phoenix ceased trading suddenly in 2001 and after a day of no service, Blackpool stepped in with Optare MetroRiders. This lasted until April 2002 when Stagecoach took-over once more. After a period with ACE Travel from 2003, Stagecoach resumed the service and in 2004 it was converted to low floor operation as part of the Fylde Villager network as service 80/82.

Today the service is run by Cumfybus of Southport from their Poulton outstation and is still recognisably the service Blackpool won in 1986, other than an extension to Fleetwood to replace local Stagecoach services.

Service 165 Preston to Lytham
Nationals were also regulars on the short-lived 165 to Lytham. Here ex Crosville 548 manoevers around Preston Bus Station
Prior to deregulation Ribble had provided a half hourly service from Preston to Lytham on the 167 - and had extended it to St. Annes via Ansdell in 1983. It registered an hourly service and extended it to Blackpool leaving Lancashire to procure a stand alone hourly service to maintain service levels. This took the 165 number as it diverted via Mythop Road in Lytham to replace Fylde's service 4. Blackpool won the contract and used two buses - again normally Nationals with a third at school times for journeys to Queen Mary and King Edward Schools. This lasted until around March 1987 when Ribble registered a half hourly service, replacing the 165 with route 168 which was extended to Heyhouses and later to Blackpool - the 1986 service was a far cry from Stagecoach's double deck operated 15 minute service of 2011.
Atlantean 311 puts in a stint on the 165 - quite rare for the main Preston-Lytham workings. Atlanteans blinds had not been modified to show Preston so white blank had to suffice. This is the layover point for the 165 and 22/22A at Lytham Station.
Blackpool returned to the corridor in February 1988 with the solitary 0610 Blackpool to Preston journey on service 761 - the Ribble/North Western limited stop Blackpool to Liverpool service. A commercial return journey was later introduced and this journey outlasted the withdrawal of the remainder of the 761 in August 1990. Carriages took over 0610 in January 1991 (the return journey was dropped) with Archways succeeding it. Fylde replaced Archways in 1994 and Stagecoach replaced Fylde in 1997 before eventually absorbing this into the main 167/8 service.

In April 2001 Blackpool won the contract for the hourly Sunday St. Annes to Preston 167 service and initially used Deltas with through working on service 12 to Cleveleys. The Metro changes at the end of the month saw the service operate with MetroRiders on a stand alone basis - buses running back to depot for driver change-overs - the replacement driver bringing a fresh bus. In April 2004 the service was diverted via Ansdell to match the commercial service (previously it ran via Clifton Drive) and in November it became the 68 following changes to Stagecoach's service numbers. The contract was reduced to Sunday evenings only in March 2005 and ended in October with Stagecoach taking over.

185 Blackpool to Preston
Blackpool's final service into Preston was an unusual one as it had two distinct versions. Monday, Wednesday and Friday saw it operate from Weeton Camp via Great Plumpton, Kirkham, Treales, Salwick, Lea Town to Preston. The bus departed at 0930 from Weeton Camp to Preston then ran empty to Kirkham for the 1100 to Weeton. In the afternoon it worked a single 1400 Preston to Weeton Camp journey.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays the service ran from Blackpool via Poulton, Singleton, Weeton Camp and Great Plumpton to Kirkham with trips from Kirkham at 0916 and 1316 and from Blackpool at 1230 and 1430. Single deckers were used including AEC Swifts.
The infrequent 185 was not often photographed so we must make do with this withdrawn Swift 594 - and the hand written slip board for "WEETON CAMP 185"
Fylde took-over the contract in January 1988 and two years later it passed to Ribble who only operated the Blackpool-Kirkham section. Around 1992 it was increased in frequency to provide around six journeys per day, Monday to Saturday following the withdrawal of service 158 - the main service through Weeton. By 1995 it was operated by R&M Travel who used a Dodge minibus, or at times a Bristol LHS but by the end of the year it was being operated by Phoenix North West. The route was later extended to Preston, again serving Treales and Salwick but replacing the more frequent 184 (Preston-Salwick service). The extended service ran roughly every 90 minutes. Stagecoach took-over on the collapse of Phoenix and the 185 has evolved into the hourly service 75 provided today by Cumfybus as part of the Fylde Villager network.

7 Kirkham Roamer
Blackpool Transport operated the Kirkham Roamer from 1986 to 1988 and again from 2001-2006. Further details will follow in an imminent post.

Fleetwood Minibus Services
Ribble introduced a commercial minibus service in Fleetwood, Cleveleys and Thornton in mid October 1986 - just before deregulation. When the initial three month 'honeymoon' period was over and operators were able to make their first service changes, Ribble chose to withdraw the evening services. Blackpool picked these up providing a half hourly Fleetwood to Cleveleys service (F3) and separate hourly services to Thornton (F4 and F5) - all interworked at Cleveleys using three single deckers until the City Pacers entered service in May. The Sunday services passed back to Ribble in early 1988 and the evening services passed to Fylde later in the year.

On the plus side August 1988 saw Blackpool take-over the Sunday 'Fleetwood Leisurelink' circular - effectively a combination of daytime services routed via Marine Hall. This served the Hatfield Avenue and Larkholme areas. It ceased in late 1989 but Blackpool's involvement was not over as a contract for three Sunday evening journeys on route F11 - a re-routed F3 from Cleveleys to Fleetwood started in November 1989 and lasted until May 1990.

The weekday evening and Sunday F11 later came back into the Blackpool fold indirectly as Fylde combined the service with its service 333 in 1994 to run from Fleetwood to Mereside and this was absorbed into the Blackpool network. In April 1996 the Sunday service withdrawn between Cleveleys and Fleetwood and the evening service followed in October 2000.

Fylde also brought with it the evening service on the F9 (Cleveleys-Poulton) and added the Sunday service in July 1996 just as Blackpool absorbed the company. The evening F9 passed to ACE Travel in October 1996 and the Sunday service to Stagecoach in October 1997. Later service changes saw the route evolve into the 88 which Blackpool operated from October 2003 until they absorbed it within Line 2 in 2007. A Sunday service was added in 2009 but the whole service ended in September 2009 partially replaced by Stagecoach service 74.

173 Blackpool to Kirkham
The loss of the 165 was partly offset by the gain of the 173 from April 1987. This Ribble service had been formed in the early 1980s by combining the Kirkham-Lytham 173 with part of the Freckleton to Blackpool 172. The resulting service ran from Kirkham to Blackpool via Wrea Green, Moss Side, Lytham Square, Park View Road, Ballam, Peel Corner, Mereside Estate, Marton Hypermarket, Oxford Square, Victoria Hospital and Layton. Ribble kept the service at deregulation but it passed to Blackpool in April.

The bus operated a Clifton - Queen Mary King Edward School variant in the morning and a return in the afternoon as well as two round trips from Kirkham at 0933 and 1218 returning at 1110 and 1450 from Blackpool. There was no weekend service. In August 1988 the service was withdrawn but partially replaced by a Tuesday and Friday only minibus from Peel Corner to Lytham Square departing at 0945 and returning at 1200. In November the service was extended to start at Wrea Green reaching Peel Corner via Westby and it was renumbered 172. In 1989 it passed to Nuttalls Coaches of Penwortham and had spells with McLaughlin's Coaches and ended up with Phoenix North West. It was withdrawn in 2001 on the closure of Phoenix North West. The original 173 route from Kirkham to Lytham via Wrea Green it today served by the 76 every hour - a far cry from the 1980s and 1990s.

190-192 Blackpool to Great Eccleston (190/1) or Kirkham (192)
Fylde Tiger 43 awaits departure for Kirkham on service 192 in 1987 (Keith West)
Ribble's pre-deregulation 87/88 to Great Eccleston and the Blackpool to Kirkham section of the 193 were replaced by contracted services 190 (Great Eccleston peak hours), 191 (Great Eccleston off peak) and 192 (Kirkham). A basic hourly service over the common section via Poulton and Singleton to Elswick was provided by alternate 191 and 192s with the 190 providing two morning journeys in from Great Eccleston. Fylde usually used Leopard coaches on the service and also provided a two hourly Sunday service between Blackpool and Kirkham which continued onto St. Annes as service 193 - exactly as the pre-deregulation service did.

Blackpool Transport took-over in October 1988, however as Fylde chose to operate the Spring Gardens to Wesham section of the 193 commercially, the Sunday service was dropped as were the early morning short journeys to Poulton. Nationals replaced Fylde's coaches. In November 1990 all 191 journeys were withdrawn except for an afternoon school duty. This left the 192 requiring one bus and the two buses used on the early 190s which ran onto other duties on arrival in Blackpool. Deltas replaced the Nationals in due course and in January 1995 the service was transferred to Fylde - by now a Blackpool subsidiary.

Fylde used a variety of vehicles on the service. It continued to use Deltas (its 1-3 and two (101/2 transferred from Blackpool). The sole Duple bodied Leyland Tiger; the four single deck Atlanteans and examples of the large fleet of Atlantean double deckers appeared. In October 1997 the service passed to Wingates - a Merseyside area firm who won a handful of contracts on the Fylde coast but gave them up almost as quickly. The 192 returned to Blackpool Transport at Squires Gate, moving to Rigby Road on its closure. A Friday and Saturday evening journey was added (1753 from Kirkham and 2230 from Blackpool) but the entire service passed to Stagecoach in 2000. In 2004 it was absorbed into the Fylde Villager network as today's service 76 operated hourly by Coastal Coaches.

754/8 Blackpool to Liverpool

Blackpool Transport's longest service was this unusual Sunday operation. It stemmed from Ribble's long established Blackpool to Preston service 154/8. The evening and Sunday service had been operated by Fylde from 1987 to 1989 and again from 1990. In 1991 the Sunday daytime service was revised to that every 2 hours it was replaced by the 754/8 operated by ABC Travel which operated through to Liverpool via Ormskirk. This replaced the Preston-Liverpool service 101 - an evening service which Blackpool once successfully bid for but pulled out prior to its introduction. The full route was Blackpool via Whitegate Drive, Preston New Road, Weeton (daytime 758) or Wrea Green (evening 754), Kirkham, Clifton, Lea, Ashton, Fylde Road (758) or Garstang Road (754), Preston Bus Station, Penwortham, Longton, Tarleton, Burscough, Ormskirk, Aintree and Liverpool.

Blackpool surprisingly won the contract from ABC in October 1994 - the first departures were at 1000 from Blackpool and 0923 from Liverpool. This meant that Blackpool introduced an X54 at 0730 and 0930 from Blackpool and a 2230 from Liverpool missing out Clifton Village and Ashton. Three Deltas were required and the six hour round trip was accommodated in the driver's schedules thanks to a 49 minute layover at Liverpool which was considered their break. From May 1997 to April 1999 the service ran from Squires Gate, and in October 1999 the contract passed to Ribble.

Fylde continued to provide the 154/158 providing a half hourly Monday to Saturday evening service, a 2 hourly Sunday daytime and evening service on the 154 and a hourly Sunday evening service on the 158. In April 2000 the evening service was reduced to hourly and the Sunday service to two hourly still co-ordinated with the 758. All journeys ran via Wrea Green and were now numbered 158 - following the pattern of the daytime service which had been revised in 1992!

In October 2003 the daily evening service was extended to Knott End to replace Stagecoach service 85. The Sunday service was increased to hourly with the end of the 758 though the daytime journeys terminated in Blackpool. MetroRiders replaced Deltas and in October 2004 the service was renumbered 58 to match Stagecoach's revised numbering. The service was withdrawn in October 2005 with limited Stagecoach replacement from Blackpool to Preston and Blackpool's 2C covering the Knott End section.

Blackpool had briefly operated on route 85 with a single weekday morning journey at 0808 from Hambleton to Blackpool from 1987 to 1992 and a 0655 from Knott End to Blackpool from around 2000 to 2005 - latterly under the 58 number.

88 Fleetwood to Lancaster
If Preston and Liverpool were not far enough, route 88 to Blackpool Transport into Lancaster. This was effectively two linked services. The Fleetwood to Knott End section began life as a temporaryKnott End Ferry during the winter and its periodic service interruptions. It must have proven useful as it became a fully fledged service running from the Marine Hall and Ferry via Amounderness Way, Hambleton, Preesall to Knott End. The bus took 14 miles and 46 minutes to cover the equivalent of a 5 minute ferry journey. After a spin round the Links Road housing estate in Knott End the bus returned to Preesall and then via Pilling and Cockerham - a double run to Glasson Dock passing the Royal Albert Hospital to terminate at Lancaster Bus Station adding 19 miles and 55 minutes to the journey time.

Journeys from Lancaster ran at 0845 1045, 1245, 1445 with an extra at 1735 as far as Hambleton and then onto Poulton. There was also a 1721 Knott End to Fleetwood bus. Fleetwood to Lancaster journeys were 0810 ST, 0840SSH, 1038, 1233 and 1533 with a 1633 to Knott End only. An 0730 Poulton to Lancaster working avoiding Knott End completed the roster. Two minibuses were used. Flickr link to photo of 594 in Lancaster

April 2002 saw the 88 replaced by the 89 from Lancaster to Knott End. Five journeys were provided, one morning journey starting from Poulton, one afternoon journey extending to and from Hambleton and the final journey being the only one to continue right through to Fleetwood via Poulton and Cleveleys. Those journeys that extended beyond Knott End now showed 86 which was the number Stagecoach used for its replacement Knott End to Poulton and Cleveleys service. Stagecoach took-over in full in July and still operate the 86 (Fleetwood to Knott End) and the 89 (Knott End to Lancaster) as the Wyre Villagers.
198 Moorfield to Kirkham
The 198 was a Thursday only market day service which started at the barely recongnisable 'Moorfield' (here roughly) near Treales to Kirkham via Wharles and Roseacre - where the bus reversed into a farm track before heading back to Wharles and Moorside then off to Kirkham. The route dated back to the early 1980s when Granville Coaches provided school contracts from Treales to Kirkham (195 morning) Kirkham-Roseacre-Salwick-Kirkham (196 morning/afternoon) and 197 Kirkham - Salwick - Elswick (afternoon) plus this market day service. The operation survived deregulation and passed through various operators landing with Fylde in December 1995. Normally it was operated by a coach with Leopard 36 being the regular but Tiger 27 took-over for a month or so prior to withdrawal in 1997 with Tiger 21 then taking over - the only one of five ex Shearings coaches to be equipped with a ticket machine. The service passed to Phoenix North West in April 1998 and has since been incorporated into the Fylde Villager.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Excel 224 returns home

Optare Excel 224 (T934EAN) has returned from Cummins, Middlesbrough , noted on the A66 during the late afternoon on Thursday and arriving back at the depot on Friday morning. It is understood 221 (T884RBR) was the outward load. Unlike other recent refurbishments, 221 has gone without the bodywork overhaul taking place - indeed it was in service Wednesday! 

Trident 328 has now entered the paint shop with 329 completed. 336's repaint is still in progress.

Lancashire County Council has confirmed that Coastal Coaches will be replacing Blackpool Transport as operator of the evening 17 journeys - as per there previous operation of the 14A this will use two buses with lengthy layover in St. Annes. Blackpool Transport will continue to operate the daytime service seven days a week.

Service 7 is expected to partially revert to single deck operation from 31 January with Solos moving to service 2. A small number of Solos is expected to be withdrawn at the end of the month, along with Metrorider 518 as the changes to the 7 and 18 will reduce the vehicle requirement to four buses.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Lost Routes - The 23 and 23A

South Pier terminus was used by the 23/23A from its inception in 1936 to its demise in 2001, albeit with periodic exceptions. Swift 579 lays over prior to a summer trip to the Zoo on the 23A in 1984 
Blackpool's town tramways were closed in two stages - 1936 for the Layton and Central Drive routes replaced by buses 22 and 23; and 1961-3 for Lytham Road (bus 12), Marton (bus 26) and Dickson Road (bus 25A). All of the tram replacement routes except for the 25A survived in a recognisable form until the Metro network changes in 2001.

The Layton tram route was extremely short, running from Talbot Square to Layton Cemetery and was an obvious bus conversion given the overlap with other bus routes and the development of housing areas beyond the Layton terminus. The Central Drive route was part of the Marton service with trams running from Central Station to Waterloo Hotel then either via Royal Oak to South Pier or to Marton Depot and onto Talbot Square.

The bus replacements followed the tram routes but differed in being linked across the Town Centre. Both the 22 and 23 ran from Layton via Talbot Road, Talbot Square, Central Station and Central Drive to Waterloo Hotel before the 22 turned left to Marton Depot and the 23 right to South Pier. Brand new centre entrance Leyland Titans contrasted with the traditional trams retained on these two routes. Route 22 was soon diverted to Halfway House but the 23 continued on the Layton to South Pier corridor for most of its life. Frequency was high with an eight minute frequency in 1939 and 1946 with six buses required.

The first extension took place in 1949 with buses carrying on from Layton to Bispham, initially terminating at Bristol Avenue and later Bispham Clinic with a short lived extension to Bispham Hotel. The eight minute headway was maintained but now needing eight buses.

In 1956 a significant change took place with the 22 and 23 swapping their northern sections - the 22 now running to Bispham and the 23 via Grange Road to Victoria Hospital. By 1958 the summer timetable still ran every eight minutes with seven buses; the winter every 10 minutes with six buses and winter evenings and Sundays four buses provided a 15 minute frequency.

Southern extensions commenced in 1961 with alternate journeys extended via Bond St, Clifton Drive and Highfield Road to Highfield Hotel. The remaining South Pier terminating journeys now showed 23A. The following year the 23 was further extended to Midgeland Road via Common Edge Lane and School Road replacing local service 10. 10 buses were now required for the summer 8 minute service, 6 on the 23 and 4 on the 23A. For about a year in 1964 the 23A was extended along Bond St and Clifton Drive to Starr Gate but otherwise continued to terminate at South Pier.
Victoria Hospital with Dennis Lancet 598 awaiting departure as two ladies give it a wide berth perhaps with a disparaging eye on the high entry steps
As with other services frequencies were progressively reduced with a 10 minute daytime service and 12 minute evening/Sunday service in Summer 1967 and a 12 minute daytime and 20 minute evening/Sunday service in winter 1968/9. Throughout the life of the 23/23A, extra seasonal short journeys ran from Layton to South Pier as service 24; rarely appearing in the timetables. In 1972, for example, the year round 24 minute evening/Sunday service was supplemented by the 24 in the summer to make a 12 minute service.

Midgeland Road turning circle was often occupied by a pair of Swifts on the 23 and the 3A. Here 583 leads a sister in the earlier plain cream livery
Leyland Titans continued to be the mainstays, generally PD2s rather than the larger PD3s as used on the 22/22A. Sunday journeys were converted to OMO in 1973. 1976 saw the withdrawal of the South Pier to Midgeland road section in favour of route 19 which now ran from Mereside-South Pier - Midgeland Road every 45 minutes. The 23A now ran every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 evenings/Sundays with just four buses needed. November 1977 saw conversion to OMO and route 23 once again ran to Midgeland Road once per hour. 5 buses were needed, but the 23A was inter worked with the now hourly 19 (once again South Pier to Mereside only) so a combined 6 buses operated the 19, 23, 23A cycle. On Sundays the 19 still covered the Midgeland Road section but this was later dropped.

Nationals appeared on the 23/23A from 1984 including 544 passing the Pleasure Beach in this March 1986 shot
From 1981 summer journeys were extended the short distance from Victoria Hospital to Blackpool Zoo and this pattern with a 15 minute daytime, 30 minute evening/Sunday service with an hourly Monday to Saturday only extension to Midgeland Road.
In the town centre the 23/23A served Market Street loading outside the town hall. This is ex Crosville 545 (CFM345S) in May 1986.
Deregulation saw major changes. A basic 15 minute service was provided from Hospital to Royal Oak provided by new services 23, 24 and 25. The 23 ran hourly via its previous route (Clifton Drive and Highfield Road) before turning down Lindale Gardens to terminate at Squires Gate Lane. The 24 also ran hourly but via Lytham Road, Watson Road and Welcome Inn to Mereside replacing the 19. The other two journeys ran as service 25 via Lytham Road, Watson Road, St. Annes Road to Halfway House replacing services 5/5A. Six single deckers were used. Evenings and Sundays saw a half hourly service on the 25 only. Fylde Borough won a county council contract for an hourly evening and Sunday service numbered 23A from South Pier to Mereside via Clifton Drive, Highfield Rd, Lindale Gardens, School Road, Midgeland Rd, Welcome Inn and Langdale Road to Mereside. This would use single deckers - particularly Bristol REs - but later minibuses appeared.
Swifts continued after deregulation, as the new fleetname shows. 576 crest Skew Bridge on its way to Halfway House on route 25. The 25A blind is redolent of the former Dickson Road tram replacement service and is shown as the correct number was not included on the old number blinds
As with most services in the deregulated era various tweaks took place which are summarised below:
  • January 1987 - 23 extended to Halfway House returning via St. Annes Road with the 25 operating via Lindale Gardens on northbound journeys. 4 25 journeys diverted to Midgeland Road mainly to serve St Nicholas School
  • April 1987 - daytime journeys extend from Hospital to Grange Park. 23 diverted at Highfield Road to Midgeland Road; alternate journeys on the 25 run clockwise and anticlockwise via St. Annes Rd/Lindale Gardens loop
In June 1988 the service was reduced to every 20 minutes with the Grange Park section withdrawn and the summer Zoo extension reinstated. Each route ran hourly with the 23 no longer serving Clifton Drive and diverted at Highfield Road to the Welcome Inn and onto Mereside. Evening and Sunday journeys on the 25 were curtailed to South Pier. Further change saw:
  • Sept 1988 25 extended from Halfway House to Airport
  • March 1989 23 serves Clifton Drive again; 25 diverted via Highfield Road to Midgeland Road; evening 25 extended to Halfway House and inter worked with the 22/22A
  • July 1990 23 and 24 extended from Mereside turning circle to nearby new Tesco store
Deltas made their debut on the 23-25 in 1990. From April 1993 to November 1994 the routes terminated at Cleveleys Bus Station where 112 loads for the long run to Midgeland Road.
The withdrawal of the AEC Swifts saw increasing Leyland National operation but, surprisingly, double deckers took over in 1989 though this was short lived as March 1990 saw the first batch of new Optare Deltas enter service operating the 23-25 and 53 (Airport to Poulton). An unusual innovation in April 1993 saw the daytime services extended to Cleveleys with two extra buses required. All three services ran via Grange Park, Bispham Road and Bispham Clinic and then split to serve:
  • 23 via Red Bank Road, Norbreck, Russel Avenue and Fleetwood Road to Cleveleys
  • 24 via Ingthorpe Avenue, Ashfield Road, Warren Drive and Fleetwood Road to Cleveleys
  • 25 via All Hallows Road and Fleetwood Road to Cleveleys
The November 1994 network change which co-ordinated the Blackpool and Fylde networks saw the Cleveleys extension withdrawn. Blackpool had taken over the contracted evening/Sunday 23A in March and integrated with its commercial journeys so that an hourly Hospital to Mereside service was provided (as 23) supplemented an hourly Hospital to South Pier service which took the 23A. While this reflected historical precedent it did mean that route 23 took two different routes depending on the time of day. At the same time the Sunday service was converted to minibus operation.
City Pacer 570 sits on Staining turning circle on route 23 in July 1998. Buses were scheduled to have 12 minutes layover here which was the only respite from otherwise tight schedules on these services
August 5 1996 saw the Deltas transferred onto services 12A and 26 while the 23-25 were converted to City Pacer minibus operation. All three routes were doubled in frequency giving a ten minute service from Hospital to Royal Oak. The 23 adopted the evening and Sunday route (Lindale Gardens and Midgeland Road) during the day and as a result the 25 was re-routed via Lytham Road, Highfield Road, Progress Way to Mereside. The 23 was extended from Hospital to Staining to allow the withdrawal of the 15 providing a half hourly service all day. 11 buses were required, with 4 in the evening and on Sundays. Minor changes followed:
  • November 1996 - 25 via Lostock Gardens between Highfield Rd and Lindale Gardens and also via Welcome Inn and Cherry Tree Road instead of Progress Way
  • January 1997 - 23 via Lostock Gardens and 25 via Acre Gate and Lennox Gate, 23/23A also serve Maternity Unit at Hospital.

Metrorider 592 stands in for a Solo on the 24 at the 2000/1 terminus at B&Q
The City Pacers were long in the tooth, but well suited to a tightly timed route. Metroriders were common on the Sunday service by the time the final batch had arrived in late 1998. 15 new Optare Solos arrived towards the end of 1999 and this allowed conversion of the 23-25 to low floor operation from the end of January 2000. The extra capacity allowed a reduction to every 15 minutes with the 23 and 24 dropping to hourly - they were also diverted to the new B&Q at Whitehills. The 25 still ran half hourly and took-over the daytime service to Staining from the 23. The evening/Sunday 23/23A continued as before. 
The introduction of Optare Solos in January 2000 brought improved quality to the services after several years with long in the tooth City Pacers. August 2000 sees 267 loading at the Maternity Unit at Victoria Hospital served by journeys to/from Staining only

The Staining extension saw the 23 (later the 25) replace route 15. Here Solo 265 heads through the village - a regular in the Britain in Bloom competition
The 23, 23A, 24 and 25 ceased operation after nearly 65 years on 29 April 2001 replaced by Line 5 from Staining to South Shore and routes 8, 8A and 9 from South Shore to Midgeland Road and Mereside. These lasted until November 2001 when they were revised to incorporate tendered services 10 and 53 with the 8 running Claremont to Manchester Square via Hospital, Mereside and the former 25 route; the 9 from Mereside to Poulton via the 23 and 53 routes and the 10 from Mereside to Pheasant's Wood via the 24 route Hospital and Cleveleys. These ended in April 2002 with parts replaced by the 2B/2C and later service 2A. Today the 10 and 16 cover much of the area previously served by the 23-25.