Friday, 22 April 2011

Top 20

401 was the first Olympian painted into Lilac and Yellow. Here it turns from Station Road into Lytham Road in May 2004. It took some time for the destination display to be modified to blank out the incorrect "Park Road" via point
Today saw the restart of summer service 20. This year is runs from Town Centre to Marton Mere via Stanley Park and Blackpool Zoo with Olympians 372, 373 and 378 on duty. It seems opportune to trace its history.
Atlantean 362 leaves Market Street on 25 May 2001
The 20 commenced on 17 April 2000 from Blackpool Town Centre via Promenade, Station Road, Royal Oak, Waterloo Road and Preston New Road to Marton Mere Leisure Park. Since 1988 Marton Mere had been served by the 44A/B; its predecessors and evening routes 333/444, some times summer only, some times year round. Route 23 also provide a summer evening/Sunday service to South Shore (particularly the Pleasure Beach), though it was lightly used - most people preferring the Town Centre link. These last served Marton Mere at the end of the 1999 season.

During the Atlantean era, 349 leaves Marton Mere on 30 August 2000
The 20 operated daytimes only every 30 minutes, depriving Marton Mere of its evening service and there were gaps on weekdays to allow the two Atlanteans required to operate school services. The service lasted until the end of the Illuminations period but resumed at Easter. This continued until 2005, save for a route change in 2003 which saw buses diverted at Station Road via Lytham Road, Watson Road, Marton Drive to rejoin the former route at Spen Corner.

401 leaves Marton Mere Caravan Park in April 2004
2004 saw the 20 route branded in the Metro style with lilac for the route colour. Ex Trent Olympians 401-403 were painted during the spring, providing a spare bus - all continued to be available for school workings.
402 with its modified front crosses the tram tracks at Manchester Square
2006 saw the 20 merged with Tower to Zoo service 21. Marton Drive/Watson Road was dropped in favour of the former route via Waterloo Road. Buses continued from the Town Centre via Hornby Road, Stanley Park, Model Village to Blackpool Zoo. At Easter a half hourly three bus service was provided, but from 24 April to 28 May the Tower to Zoo section was not served with the full route restarting on 29 May. Unusually the summer school holidays saw extra journeys on Wednesday, Thursdays and Sundays from Tower to Zoo in the morning and back in the afternoon. During school terms some journeys ran Zoo to Tower only to release two of the three Olympians for school work. 404 joined the 20 branded fleet in March.

From 1972 to 2010 Zoo buses usually departed from Adelaide Street at this designated stop where 403 loads in the final season of the Lilac Olympians
 Route 20 formed part of the farewell to the Atlantean event on 28/29 October. Saturday saw 361, 362 and 364 run on the 20 while 358, 360 and 362 covered the service on the Sunday - though 360 failed and was replaced by 371 around 1900. This was 362's last duty before preservation, coincidentally LTT's other Blackpool Atlantean 334's last duty was also on the 20 (29 May 2003).

2007 saw a complete revision with route 20 now starting at Pontins and running along the Promenade to the Tower then resuming its former route via Hornby Road to Stanley Park, turning in front of the Cricket Ground and heading up the rarely bus served North Park Drive to reach Blackpool Zoo. It then continued via Model Village and Preston New Road to Marton Mere. The frequency remained every 30 minutes with three buses but the school day gaps were removed as the service now used City Sightseeing branded Leyland Olympians. It ran weekends only until 27 May then daily. The lilac Olympians were repainted into Line 1 Orange
City Sightseeing liveried Olympian 858 heads to Pontins on the 20 in August 2007
For 2008 an interim service started in mid March running Town Centre to Marton Mere only, running direct from Stanley Park via West Park Drive and Preston New Road to Marton Mere without serving the Zoo. This ran hourly with one bus. The full tour started at weekends at Easter with the interim service running weekdays until daily tours started in late May. This was repeated in 2009, but the closure of Pontins saw the terminus move to Airport in October. For 2010 the southern terminus was Pontins.

The 20 has struggled for reliability on busy days when loadings are high. For 2011 the route has been shortened to Marton Mere to Town Centre only with additional running time to occupy the three buses. Closed top Olympians are used with the open toppers restricted to a high season Promenade service.