Sunday 29 January 2012

Solos regroup with Centrebus

The six Solos sold in 2011 were split between Centrebus group (261/2/4) and Holmeswood Coaches (263/5/6). Centrebus allocated 261 to its Bowers fleet based at Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire, while 262/4 ran in the Huddersfield area. Holmeswood used 263/5/6 on tendered services in the Preston and Blackburn area and registered 266 to R5HWD.

January has seen 263/5/6 join the Centrebus group fleet, with 265 and 266 noted at Waterloo (Huddersfield) depot, the former in white and the latter in Holmeswood colours. 263 has been noted with Bowers carrying cherished plate B8WER.

Meanwhile Trident 306 has been reported as suffering rear end accident damage on Thursday on route 14.

The Marton Route

Swift 588 awaits departure on a summers evening from South Pier to Talbot Square following the former Marton tram route
Bus route 26 was the Marton tram route replacement. The tram route opened in May 1901 and ran from Talbot Square via Clifton St, Church St, Whitegate Drive and Waterloo Road and Central Drive to Central Station. In 1902 it was also linked to the Lytham Road route at Royal Oak and onto Station Road for Victoria (now South) Pier. By the 1930s the Marton route comprised three tram services from Talbot Square to Central Station; Talbot Square to Royal Oak/South Pier and Central Station to Royal Oak/South Pier with the timetables co-ordinated on the common section. The Central Drive route closed in 1936 (as did the Talbot Square to Layton service) and the replacement bus services maintained the links running from Layton to Talbot Square then to Central Station and along Central Drive to Waterloo Road. Route 22 turned left to Marton Tram Depot, route 23 turned right to South Pier. This left the Marton tram route as running Talbot Square to Royal Oak or South Pier only at frequencies of every 3 or 4 minutes, with peak extras.
Although the route had been upgraded with modern trams after World War II, it was decided to close the line as the second of three closures between 1961 and 1963. With much fanfare the last trams ran on Sunday 28 October 1962. The previous winter service had dropped to a five minute frequency with a four minute summer frequency.

Bus service 26 started on Monday 29 October 1962 with a six minute service using 8 buses with two extras in the afternoon peak to make a 5 minute service. Evenings and Sundays saw a 9 minute frequency using 5 buses. In the Summer the service ran every 5 minutes except before 8am, after 7pm and all day Sunday. Unlike trams, buses needed turning facilities so the Talbot Square terminus was moved to Corporation Street outside the Town Hall, and all buses now ran to South Pier via Waterloo Road and back via Station Road rather than terminating at Royal Oak.

The regular buses were the Corporations first 30ft long buses - PD3s 351-370 which arrived during the summer and also saw use on service 12. The pioneer PD3s were later supplanted by further new deliveries of the type. Over time the service frequency was thinned - by 1971 the service ran every 8 minutes in the day and 15 in the evening - with extra Summer evening buses.

OMO operation with AEC Swift commenced on Sundays in 1973 and weekdays from 3 March 1975. Extra running time meant that the 8 minute service needed 7 Swifts with four used for the 12 minute evening service. In September the terminus moved to Clifton Street outside Yates Wine Lodge with buses running via Abingdon St and Talbot Road to reach the terminus. October 1976 saw buses from Town diverted via Caunce Street and Grosvenor Street as part of the town's new one way system.

Summer 1982 and 576 displays a slipboard for the promotional Sunday only maximum fare of 25p
Frequency reductions continued - by 1977 the daytime service ran every 10 minutes; by 1979 the evening service every 15 and by 1982 the daytime service had dropped to every 12 minutes. 
Double Deckers were commonly allocated to the 26 after deregulation. Most were Atlanteans though the three ex West Yorkshire Olympians including 365 did make appearances
Deregulation in October saw the 26 continue as before but on a 15 minute daytime service (4 buses) and 20 minute evening/Sunday service (3 buses). Fylde introduced a competitive off peak service in August 1987 running every 30 minutes and Blackpool hit back with a tripling of the service to every 5 minutes using brand new Optare City Pacer minibuses with ten required. The evening/Sunday service was increased to every 15 minutes. Fylde soon retreated, but later made a more sustained attack on the Oxford Square to Blackpool section with its Fastlink 4 route. 
The City Pacer era started in September 1987 and lasted until 1996. Here 550 and 563 layover outside Yates Wine Lodge on Clifton Street
15 City Pacers were ordered for the new service but, amazingly, only one had been delivered before the conversion date! Five other City Pacers were in stock for the St. Annes Handybus services, two demonstrators were duly purchased and a third hired, while Blackpool borrowed a handful of Ford Transits from Midland Red North. 5 September 1987 was day one of the new service. The nine duties comprised brand new City Pacer 549, existing 560/2-4 the demonstrators (acquired 565/6 and D81NWW) and Ford Transit C41WBF.
In August 1988 the evening service was diverted via the Ice Drome on Watson Road on journeys to South Pier. This lasted until March 1992 when the daytime service frequency was reduced to every 6 minutes. The evening service was re-routed in Blackpool Town Centre to terminate at Cookson Street in May 1994 and in November 1994 was increased to every 12 minutes.

The 26 was briefly associated with the Optare Delta from 1996 to 1998. Here 128 and a sister stand at South Pier in May 1998
Surprisingly in August 1996 the 26 was converted back to 'big bus' operation with 7 Optare Deltas allocated with a seven minute daytime and 15 minute evening service. November saw the terminus move back to Corporation Street after 21 years on Clifton Street.

Metrorider 512 at South Pier terminus (James Millington)
April 1998 saw the daytime frequency drop to every 10 minutes but in December 1998 a batch of new Metroriders converted the service back to high frequency minibus operation. 8 were required to provide a six minute service which proved too ambitious a schedule so in January a 7 minute frequency was adopted. The first day was Monday 7th December and 505 was the first of the 14 new Metroriders to enter service on working 261 the 0624 from South Pier. It was joined by 506, 509, 511, 513, 514 and existing 589 and 592 on the eight duties.

Metrorider 515 in Line 26 green and yellow livery which was adopted by Line 2 in 2002. The livery debuted on 511 in September 2011 and by November all of 511-516 had been treated.
September 1999 saw the 26 terminus move to North Railway Station - the first time BT service buses had used the forecourt. Metro in April 2001 saw the 26 continue but with a slight frequency reduction to every 8 minutes. This lasted until 7 April 2002 when the 26 operated for the last time after nearly 40 years. The following day extended route 2 took-over on a ten minute service (as in 1998 but with minibuses not Deltas). In 2009 frequency fell to every 15 minutes. July 2010 saw the 2 split, with routes 4 and 16 providing replacements along Whitegate Drive with the 4 to Mereside and the 16 following the established Marton route to Royal Oak and then via a convoluted route to Cleveleys. The 4 ran every 20 minutes (hourly eves/Suns) and the 16 half hourly (hourly Saturdays and Sundays) without an evening service. This seemed a drastic reduction given that the evening service had been every 30 minutes previously and every 20 minutes as recently as summer 2009.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Routes 2 and 15 1920s to the 1980s

Abingdon Street Bus Stop shows services 2, 2A, 15, 15A and 15C - all (with the 15B) part of the complex group of services which ran along Newton Drive
Part of Blackpool's bus network originated in private hands with William Smith running buses to Bispham, Poulton and in Fleetwood and South Shore. The routes started in the 1920s and included a bus from Talbot Mews Bus Station via Newton Drive to the Plough Inn at Staining from October 1923. This was later extended to Hardhorn and Poulton.

Smith sold out to Blackpool Council (as Smith was a Blackpool Councillor, today this move would probably be controversial!) and BCT progressively absorbed his services. The Poulton via Staining route became BCT route 2 from April 1927 but in September was split to provide two basic hourly services along Newton Drive to Staining Road End with route 2 continuing along Normoss Road, Longhouse Lane and Hardhorn Road to Poulton Market Square and the 15 taking Staining Road End to the Plough. 

For about a year in 1933/4 the 2 became a circular, linked across Poulton with route 1 via Castle Gardens and Carleton to Blackpool. A minor route change saw buses leave the Bus Station via Talbot Road, Abingdon Street and Church St rather than the more direct Cookson Street. Route 2 appeared to have the higher profile and surviving accident records show new Leyland Tigers 102-113 as regulars on the 2 in 1935, while the 15 typically used 1928 vintage Lions 55 to 66.

From October 1936 extra short workings ran from Blackpool Bus Station to the brand new Victoria Hospital via Newton Drive displaying route 15A. Neither the 2 or 15 ventured off Newton Drive to the Hospital entrance. This used double deckers from the start and was soon extended from the Bus Station to Layton Station via Dickson Road and Warbreck Hill Road giving a cross town link to the Hospital. From June 1938 a second extra service, the 15B started running as far as Staining Road End and this made a ten minute service over the common sections with the 2 and 15. The 15A evolved as a separate service, though the section to Layton was dropped for the war.

PD2 334 approaches Talbot Road Bus Station to work a 15B working to Staining Road End in 1967
Double deckers were first introduced to the 2 and 15 in 1940 and 1942 saw the reversing point for the 15A at the Hospital gates replaced by a loop via Whinney Heys Road and Whinpark Avenue that is still followed by service buses today. Yet another service variation - the 2A - started in 1947 providing a winter service over route 2 as far as Hardhorn Road corner. With a variety of service numbers and individual timetables which didn't draw attention to the combined headway achieved along Newton Drive - the service pattern was never particularly clear to the casual observer. Analysis of the 1953 timetable reveals the following.

  • A 10 minute frequency from Bus Station to Staining Road End (just beyond the Borough Boundary) as services 2, 15 and 15B.
  • Service 2 continued every 40 minutes to Poulton via Hardhorn (into what is now Wyre Borough)
  • Service 15 turned right every 40 minutes onto Staining Road to Staining Village (in what is now Fylde Borough)
  • Service 15B terminated at Staining Road End every 20 minutes, buses reversing into Dobson Road to turn round.
  • On Summer afternoons and evenings the 2 was increase to every 20 minutes, with the extra trips running in tandem with the 15s over the common section.
  • In the winter an extra 40 minute service ran as the 2A as far as Hardhorn Corner from 1200 to 1900 Monday to Friday and 1000 to 1900 on Saturdays with two extra evening journeys.
On top of all this route 15A ran every 12 minutes from Layton to the Hospital in the winter and every 10 in the summer. The table below shows the afternoon departure pattern from Talbot Road in place in the late 1950s. A basic 5 minute summer service ran formed with either a 2 or 15B between each 15A. The 15 workings ran in tandem with the 2. Winter headways were at least every 10 minutes but with at least 12 per hour but much less even than in the winter.

Winter 58/9Summer 59
13:1115BStaining Rd End13:1115BStaining Rd End
13:3115BStaining Rd End13:3115BStaining Rd End
13:5115BStaining Rd End13:5115BStaining Rd End
Staining Rd End
Staining Rd End
14:3115BStaining Rd End14:3115BStaining Rd End
14:5115BStaining Rd End14:5115BStaining Rd End

Minor changes saw an extension of route 15 from Staining Plough to the new Whalley Estate where the buses reversed into Bibby Drive. 1955 saw the 15A extended from Layton Station to Bispham Tram Depot via Bispham Road and Red Bank Road and it was increased to every 10 minutes for most of the day in the summer but still ran every 12 minutes in the winter.

An unusual operation in Summer 1956 was service 1A which ran from Castle Gardens over the 1 and 14 route to Blackpool and then via route 2 to Poulton running every 40 minutes to make a 20 minute frequency to Poulton with service 2 (which remained every 40 minutes). From 1957 the previous pattern with service 2 running every 20 minutes in the summer resumed.

13 August 1983: An elderly clientele clambers aboard Lancet 599 at Poulton Church
Also by 1956 a summer special service 15C was in operation linking Blackpool with the Newton Hall Holiday Camp on Staining Road. This did not appear in public timetables and is believed to run on a limited basis.

The winter service 2A ended after 1959 and the 2 was increase to every 20 minutes from 1200 (1000 on Saturdays). Cut backs began in the 1960s with a reduction in evening and Sunday services from 1963. Residential developments in Poulton and Staining encouraged a simplification and enhancements of the 2 and 15. By Winter 1964 the 2 and 15 provided a 20 minute frequency from 1200-1900 (Winter M-F) and 1000-1900 (Sat and summer Mon-Fri) with a 40 minute service at other times. The 15B now provided a handful of morning trips to supplement the lower frequency of the 2 and 15 and by the end of the decade was no longer listed as a separate route but was still displayed on the bus blinds. 5 buses were required. The 15A was cut back in frequency during the late 1960s with a 12 minute summer and 20 minute winter frequency in place.

In February 1982 the 15/15A were revised again. The 15A no longer served the Zoo - its off peak journeys were diverted to Grange Park Estate (giving a link from there to the Hospital) showing 15B while peak journeys were extended to Staining to replace the short 15 journeys. The sole difference between the 15 and 15A was that only the latter served the Hospital.
Route 15B ran from 1982-1986 providing an off peak link from Grange Park to Victoria Hospital and onto Blackpool and Bispham. 353 runs through Grange Park in 1986.
The 2/2A continued on its 20/30 minute frequency, but the enhanced service was cut back to start at 1515 meaning only four round trips along Highcross Avenue.
National 548 leaves Poulton for Blackpool on route 2 in 1986
Deregulation in 1986 saw a simplification of the pattern with the 2 and 15 co-ordinated once more to make a 15 minute service along Newton Drive (2 every 30 minutes, 2A every hour and 15 every hour) with all buses continuing to Bispham via Devonshire Road (2) or Warbreck Drive (2A/15) replacing routes 7/7A (Bispham Circular). Evening/Sunday services ran every hour as 2A Poulton to Bispham and 2 Blackpool to Bispham only). Extra 2 (Poulton to Blackpool) evening services were provided under contract to Lancashire County Council by Fylde who also ran peak and evening/Sunday journeys on the 15.

Swift 580 leaves Talbot Road Bus Station on route 2A one afternoon in April 1980
21 December 1971 saw route 15A converted to OPO AEC Swifts which terminated at Bispham Clinic rather than the former Tram Depot, but were later extended to terminate at Warbreck Drive/Cavendish Road where buses turned in a triangular junction layout. The 15A now ran every 20 minutes (days) and 30 mins evenings but in the summer extra buses ran every 20 minutes from Hospital to Cornwall Place (near Gynn Square) on weekdays to make a 10 minute service while the Sunday service was doubled to every 15 minutes. The Winter 1971 timetable also saw some weekday afternoon journeys on route 2 diverted via Highcross Road instead of Longhouse Lane passing Baines School. These ran every 40 minutes from 1200-1840.  
February 1973 saw the Sunday 2 and 15 reduced to every 48 minutes so they could be operated with one bus each and summer 1973 saw the extra short 15A workings continue to Antrim Road (turning via Warbreck Hill Road/Devonshire Road roundabout). From the winter the 15A dropped to every 24 minutes (3 buses) on weekdays and the even more unusual 36 minute headway evenings and Sundays. 
6 May 1974 saw the 2 and 15 converted to OMO as the 15 could now turn via the Nook near Staining Plough - depriving Whalley Estate of its bus service until c1975 when Fylde council completed the construction of the present turning circle near Bibby Drive. Route 2 now ran every 20 minutes in the morning peak and afternoon (one per hour as 2A); every 30 minutes from 9am to 12 noon and again in the evening with a 60 minute Sunday service. The 15 ran 2-3 times per hour in the morning peak, every hour 0900-1200 and every 30 minutes until 1900 then hourly evenings and Sundays. This meant there was now no co-ordination between the 2 and 15 along Newton Drive.

The 2 was a common test bed for demonstrators - here Ipswich Dennis Falcon loads alongside one of Blackpool's traditional bus shelters on Newton Drive.
1977 saw route 15A reduced to every 30 minutes (45 Sundays and no evening service) and it was extended the short distance from Victoria Hospital to Blackpool Zoo. One way systems affected the services with outbound routes diverted via Caunce Street and Grosvenor Street in Blackpool in 1976 while Poulton Square was pedestrianised in the 1970s.

January 1980 saw a merger of routes 15 and 15A which now provided a standard 30 minute frequency service from Cavendish Road (Bispham) to Newton Drive with one per hour to Staining as service 15 and one per hour to the Hospital and Zoo as 15A. Some extra peak hour Blackpool to Staining runs were provided. Atlanteans were usually used, while the 2 retain its single deckers.
Atlantean 336 at the Cavendish Road terminus of the 15/15A in 1980

2 and 15 since Deregulation

National 2 542 unloads at Bispham Hotel having arrived from Poulton on the extended 2A on 15 August 1987
 Deregulation on 26 October 1986 saw several changes to the Blackpool bus network to ensure it ran on a commercial footing. The Poulton and Staining routes 2, 2A, 15, 15A and 15B were revised with most journeys running across Blackpool to Bispham replacing the Bispham circulars 7/7A.

The 15A and 15B variants were discontinued - except for a single Sunday morning 15A from Bispham to Victoria Hospital which managed to last until the Metro era! Along Newton Drive a basic 15 minute frequency was provided from the Town Centre to Staining Road with the 2 running to Poulton via Hardhorn every 30 minutes; the 2A to Poulton via Highcross hourly and the 15 to Staining also hourly.

Between Blackpool and Bispham the 2 ran via Talbot Road, Devonshire Road and Red Bank Road to terminate at Bispham Hotel (though buses ran onto Cavendish Road to turn). The 2A and 15 ran via Dickson Road, Gynn Square, Warbreck Drive and Red Bank Road to Bispham Library where they turned on the roundabout. They made a 15 minute frequency with service 3 (Mereside to Bispham) over this section. The resulting services were:
  • 2 Poulton - Hardhorn - Newton Drive - Town Centre - Devonshire Road - Bispham Hotel every 30 minutes using 3 double deckers
  • 2A Poulton - Highcross Road - Newton Drive - Town Centre - Gynn Square - Bispham Library every 60 minutes sharing 3 single deckers with the 15
  • 15 Staining - Newton Drive - Hospital - Town Centre - Gynn Square - Bispham Library every 60 minutes sharing 3 single deckers with the 2A.
In the evening Blackpool used two buses to provide an hourly service 2A from Poulton to Bispham where buses continued back to Blackpool as service 2, terminating at the Bus Station. Lancashire County Council chose to buy back several services which had dropped below previous levels and awarded contracts to Fylde Borough Transport to run:
  • 2 Bus Station to Poulton every hour Monday to Saturday evenings only
  • 7/7A Blackpool to Bispham Circulars, each every hour Monday to Saturday evenings only
  • 15 Blackpool to Staining every hour Monday to Saturday morning peak, afternoon peak, evenings and on Sundays. 

Fylde RE 37 works a tendered journey on the 15 to Staining in 1989 shortly before a repaint into the new livery, having lost the lettering on its former Blue Bus Rambler allover advert
 This resulted in a 20 minute evening and 30 minute Sunday service along Newton Drive; a near 30 minute peak frequency to/from Staining and a near 30 minute evening service to Bispham via both Warbreck Drive and Devonshire Road.

The service pattern became quite stable with only minor tweaks. Most notable was the re-routing of the 15 to regain its former route via Warbreck Hill Road and Bispham Road to Bispham Library from July 1987. Route 2A was also now interworked with the 180/182 from Poulton to Preston - five single deckers (usually Nationals) were now deployed on a five hour cycle which worked a 15 to Staining and back, a 2A to Poulton, a round trip to Preston and then back to Bispham as a 2A.

In November 1987 Fylde introduced commercial daytime services on the 2 (Blackpool to Poulton) and 15 (Blackpool to Staining) running 3 to 5 minutes in front of a Blackpool 2 and six minutes in front of their 15. Initially they ran from the Bus Station, but from June the terminus moved to Market Street, and in November 1988 again moved to Abingdon Street. The 2s were reduced to school holidays and Saturdays only from May and the commercial services ended on 15th April 1989. Blackpool took over the evening and Sunday 15s in October 1989, with the peak workings and evening 2s withdrawn without replacement. This ended Fylde's presence on the corridor - for now.

The 7/7A evening services was taken over by Blackpool Transport on 4 January and in December 1988 a new daytime minibus service was started on the routes on a 15 minute frequency as a response to competition from Fylde's 11, 11A and 11B and the evening service ended in 1989. Blackpool later improved the 7/7A to replace the 3 and it became apparent that the Bispham end of the 2/2A was no longer necessary.  

Delta 104 heads for Poulton on Abingdon Street in September 1991 (Donald MacRae)
 As a result on 10 June 1991, the 2/2A were revised to provide a 20 minute frequency service between Blackpool and Poulton only with one bus per hour via the 2A route. 5 single deckers were now used as the routes remained interworked with the 180/2. Deltas were now the usual allocation. The 15 was extended from Bispham via All Hallows Road, Fleetwood Road, Cleveleys Victoria Square to a new Safeway Store off Victoria Road West in Cleveleys. 2 buses were used - again normally Deltas. The 2A ran hourly evenings/Sundays as did the 15 but only from Staining to Bus Station as before.
30 March 1992 saw a reallocation of the company's minibus fleet and the Poulton service was doubled to every 10 minutes. Five out of the six hourly departures ran via Highcross Road as the 2A and used City Pacers (5 required) while the sixth ran as a 2 via Hardhorn and was linked to the 180/2 to Preston using three Deltas. The evening 2A continued using 1 minibus. The 15 was also converted to minibuses. For the first time the 2/2A now ventured to the Hospital, making the diversion off Newton Drive to get passengers much closer to this obvious traffic objective.

City Pacer 577 heads down Church Street from Devonshire Squire on a Poulton to Bispham 2 working, passing a Dart demonstrator on the 26 in 1998.
 The contract for the evening and Sunday services on the 15 passed to Fylde in April 1992 and later in the year Fylde also won a contract for the first 2 from Poulton at 0730 Mondays to Fridays. October 1992 saw the 180/2 end and the 2 workings now became minibus operated. Single deckers took over the 15 in January 1993 but in April the service was curtailed to Gynn Square.

November 1994 saw a major recast of the Blackpool and Fylde networks as Blackpool now owned the latter. Changes saw the 2/2A and 7/7A merged as they had been eight years earlier. A 7/8 minute service was introduced with six buses per hour via Highcross (as 2A or 2B) and two via Hardhorn (as 2). From Blackpool (Odeon Cinema) the 2 and 2B ran every 15 minutes via Claremont, Devonshire Road, Red Bank Road, Warbreck Drive, Gynn Square and Claremont back to the Bus Station and onto Poulton. The 2A ran every 15 minutes in the opposite direction. Evening and Sunday buses ran every 30 minutes alternating between the 2A and 2B. 11 City Pacers were used, though reliability problems saw a 12th soon added.

The 15 continued, though the Gynn to Blackpool section was withdrawn. Fylde retained the evening service and the early morning 0730 trip. However with such a high frequency on Newton Drive, the 15 was becoming less popular and Blackpool withdrew the service in April 1995 with Fylde winning a contract for a replacement daytime service to maintain links to Staining. This was only a temporary measure as independent Town Bus took over in April 1995 using ex London and West Midlands Fleetlines amongst others. This too was short lived as Fylde registered the daytime 15s commercially in April - throughout this episode it retained the contracted evening/Sunday operations.

The 15 was finally withdrawn in August 1996 as services 23/23A were extended from Victoria Hospital to provide a half hourly service to Staining with the same resources as deployed on the hourly 15. April 1998 saw the 2 reduced to every 10 minutes with alternate buses over the 2 and 2A route but the evening/Sunday service was increased to every 15 minutes - this time with alternate 2A and 2B workings as Hardhorn was not served. Nine minibuses were required (six evenings/Sundays) and Metroriders were now common.

The evening/Sunday service dropped back to half hourly in May 2000 but the Metro network saw a complete revision. The Bispham link ended again and the all buses now ran over the former 2A route via Highcross but showed service 2. A 10 minute daytime service and 30 minute evening service ran from Blackpool to Poulton. Metroriders continued to feature, but Double Deckers took over some of the daytime only buses from September as the minibus fleet underwent a major repaint programme into Metro liveries. Hardhorn was served by an off peak tendered service 52/54 (Poulton-Hardhorn-Hospital-Carleton-Poulton) run by an independent.

508 in the Line 2 Metrorider era in 2004 waiting time on a Cleveleys working at Poulton Church
8 April 2002 saw the 2 extended over the 26 route to South Pier and the evening/Sunday service increased to every 20 minutes. Three weeks later, one bus per hour was diverted via Hardhorn Road (ironically as 2A) to replace the 52/54 and was also extended to Cleveleys via Carelton, Thornton and Pheasants Wood. Every hour one bus was extended from South Pier to Mereside alternately as a 2B or 2C via different routes in South Shore, though these were quickly replaced by extending the 2A over a consolidated route.

There then followed a period of expansion by extending the 2 over several legs, often replacing other operators services:
  • 6 January 2003 - 2 buses per hour extended from South Pier to Lytham Square incorporating Blackpool's 77 St. Annes Roamer (16 buses needed)
  • October 2003 - 1 evening bus per hour linked to tendered service 88 (Poulton to Cleveleys
  • November 2003 - Lytham to Poulton workings extended to Thornton (Hillylaid Crossing) to replace Stagecoach 167/8 workings (17 buses needed)
  • November 2004 - Thornton workings extended to Cleveleys but 2A curtailed at Poulton (still 17 buses)
  • 30 October 2005 - two buses per hour (one evenings/Sundays) extended Poulton to Knott End as service 2C replacing Stagecoach 85
  • 5 December 2005 - 2A withdrawn (10 replaces in South Shore) with 2C workings now serving Hardhorn instead
  • 4 September 2006 - Cleveleys-Lytham workings extend to Wesham replacing Kirkham Roamer 70 (20 buses needed)
  • June 2007 - evening 88 incorporated into 2 route (one bus per hour each to Poulton, Cleveleys, Knott End)
  • July 2009 - one Sunday bus per hour extended to Cleveleys as per evening service
Meanwhile on 22 November 2004 service 15 resumed. Funding from Blackpool Council, Lancashire County Council and Tesco saw the new service run from Poulton via Castle Gardens, Norcross, Bispham College, Bispham, Warbreck Drive, Dickson Road, Town Centre, Hospital, Staining and Mythop Road to Mereside Tesco. This reinstated the Bispham to Hospital link, replaced the 5 to Staining (which had itself replaced the 23/23A) and provided new links to the expanded Tesco store. A half hourly service was provided using 4 minibuses, though in the evening and on Sunday this dropped to three as the service terminated at Bispham and the late evening service ran Gynn Square to Staining only.

Excel 226 passing through St John Square on the 2C, while still in Line 7 livery
September 2009 saw the end of the Tesco funding so the 15 was cut back to Staining using the time released to extend running times and improve reliability. The late evening buses now ran Staining to Blackpool only. Daytime trips to Poulton now served Faraday Way and Kincraig Avenue between Norcross and the College. At the same time route 2 was reduced to every 15 minutes over the South Pier to Poulton section and the Cleveleys journeys were withdrawn completely. Buses now ran Wesham to Lytham or South Pier to Knott End and 14 buses were now needed. The Hardhorn section was withdrawn completely in February 2010 and further changes in July 2010 saw the South Pier to Blackpool section withdrawn.
The 15 was diverted via Grange Road and Layton in February 2010 and again via Newton Drive and Devonshire Road in July 2010. February 2010 saw the evening service reduced to hourly (Blackpool to Staining only) It has since lost its evening service completely (May 2011) and its Sunday service has been reduced to hourly (Bispham to Staining)

The 2 has also seen minor reductions in service but October 2011 saw the 2C diverted away from Highcross Road and Newton Drive as it now runs via Blackpool Old Road, Collegiate School and Grange Park between Poulton and Hospital. Seven buses are still required normally five minibuses, one Trident and a single decker (Excel or Volvo) with the bigger buses intended for school time workings - though both stay out to provide two of the three evening workings.

Metro Buses
When the Metro network was launched the 2 was given a black and yellow identity. Metroriders 505-510 received Line 2 stickers in July 2010, but these were soon removed as up to four Atlanteans would appear from September to release minibuses for repainting in route branded liveries. The merger of the 2 and 26 in April 2002 saw Line 2 adopt the light green colour of the 26, before any buses had received the black route livery. This was later adopted for pool buses. 511-516 were the six buses allocated to the 26 and this immediately received Line 2 branding. Sisters 504-510 were treated between May and August 2002 with 517 following in December making 14 buses for the 16 workings from January 2003.

As the route expanded several more Metroriders were repainted:
  • 518 March 2003
  • 503 December 2003 (for Thornton extension)
  • 502 November 2004 (to replace 511 which was out of use for nearly two years with accident damage)
  • 501 December 2004 (total 17 buses for 17 workings)
  • 595 November 2005 (for Knott End)
  • (511 returned Aug 2006 after repaint in March) 
The Solo era started in June 2006 when 249 was painted out of Line 5 red to provide a larger capacity bus for particular workings and 285 followed in August. This had been the dedicated bus supplied by Lancashire County Council for the Kirkham Roamer which was now merged into the 2.

Solo 281 on Newton Drive during 2008.
Further Solos entered service in June/July 2007 when 279, 281-284 were transferred from the Lifestyle Line. These replaced 514-517 which were repainted into the pink Line 15 colours and replaced 584-587 which had been so attired since the route stated in 2004. 518 had also been painted into Line 10 colours earlier in the year. There were now seven Solos and 14 Metroriders in Line 2 colours. May 2008 saw the first new Solo to arrive in Line 2 colours as 247 and this replaced 595, while 240-246 arrived in May 2009 replacing 501/2/4/5/7 while 513 had moved to Line 15 earlier in the year after 516 had been withdrawn.

585 shortly before withdrawal in 2007 on the rural section of the 15 from Staining towards Tesco
The September 2009 services reduced the requirement to 14 buses and the service now became mainly Solo operated. 240-247 were joined by fellow long Solos 286/7, 294 from Lines 3 and 16 and these allowed 279/81-83 to receive pool livery with 249, 284 and 285 making up the 14 buses as Metroriders 506, 508-512 were withdrawn.

December 2007 and 353 works the regular double deck duty on the 2C to Knott End
From 2006 a double decker was allocated to the 0742 2C from Knott End as this experienced heavy loadings at school times and had outgrown 33 seat Solo 249 which was the regular bus. Initially it was swapped for a Metrorider in the Town Centre or at South Pier but this soon ceased and the bus would stay out all day - a duty which included a return trip on the 88 to Poulton. Atlanteans were commonly used, though Deltas became common as the Atlanteans were withdrawn.
Today there is a regular double deck working which starts with the 0548 2 from Poulton and works:
  • 2C Blackpool to Knott End at 0620, 0950, 1320 and 1650 returning at 0725, 1055, 1425, 1755
  • 2 Blackpool to Poulton at 0835, 1205, 1535, 1857 and hourly to 2257 and return at 0548, 0918, 1248, 1618 and hourly from 1928 to 2328.
A second big bus working uses a single decker which forms the 0625 from Knott End and:
  • 2C Blackpool to Knott End at 0850, 1220, 1550, 1927 and 2127 returning at 0955, 1325, 1655, 2025 and 2225
  • 2 Blackpool to Poulton at 0735, 1105, 1435, 1805, 2327 and return at 0818, 1148, 1518, and 1848.
The other five workings are normally Solo operated after a period between June 2010 and January 2011 when Excels were usually allocated.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Trident 344 arrives; Solo and Excel repaints

Trident 344 has now arrived at Blackpool Transport and 343 has returned from Blackburn. 344 is confirmed as former Bus Vannin 50 but it has not yet received its new registration, though H2FBT is rumoured to be allocated to it.

A last look at Solo 257 in red on a diverted Line 5 working in 2009
 Meanwhile Solo 257 has entered the paint shop to become the latest of the 2003 Solos to receive the new fleet livery. Of the 12 buses 250-255 and 257 will be in the new livery, 258-260 retain Line 3 blue, 249 Line 2 green and 256 Line 5 red. 248 of 2008 is the only other Line 5 liveried Solo. Excel 226 has also been repainted.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Buses to Great Marton

August 1935 and one year old Leyland Lion 92 turns from Hoo Hill onto the Promenade at Central Station. This was one of a batch of six - Blackpool's only Cravens bodied buses. Like all buses from 1933 to 1951 these buses had centre doors. They were withdrawn after the war - having been converted to perimeter seating for serviceman's transport and also converted to gas power. Scrapping took place in 1950. Lions 90-95 were regulars on route 16 at this time.
February 1928 saw the launch of a new bus service numbered 16 from Talbot Road Bus Station via Cookson Street, Raikes Road (now Church Street), Newton Drive, Beech Road, (West and South) Park Drive and Preston New Road to Newhouse Farm. It returned via Preston Old Road. Frequency ranged from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time of day.
November 1930 saw the 16 revised to start on the Promenade and run via Victoria Street, Hornby Road, Forest Gate, West Park Drive and Preston New Road to Cornwall Place, returning via Preston Old Road back to West Park Drive. A half hourly service was provided with short workings to Park Gates as service 8 to make a 15 minute service. The 8 was dropped in the winter from January 1931 leaving the 16 to serve Hornby Road and Stanley Park alone. The 16 terminus reverted to the Bus Station at this time, but reverted to the Promenade again in December 1931 and now served Preston Old Road both ways.

June 1935 saw the 16 extended from Cornwall Place across Preston New Road via Cherry Tree Road to Welcome Inn - buses now running every 10 minutes having been progressively increased in frequency as Great Marton developed. One year old Tigers 90-95 were commonly used. Short workings had used the number 16A for Cornwall Place and 16B which ran off the main route via Halifax Street, Goldsboro Road and Worcester Road to St Leonard's Road. 1939 saw this Welcome Inn extension cease and buses terminated at Cornwall Place - or at workers times continued across Preston New Road to Kumara Crescent (opposite Newhouse Road just across Preston New Road) and the service was converted to double deck operation for the first time as permission had been granted to lop tree branches on Forest Gate and Mere Road. The 16A was now redundant and the 16B soon suspended due to fuel shortages. The latter was soon reinstated and the each of the 16 and 16B now ran every 15 minutes making a 7-8 minute interval on the common section. This was later increased to every 12 minutes and the 16B was extended along Worcester Road and Lancaster Road to terminate at Cornwall Place with the 16. 6 buses were required.

In 1953, despite its long established use as a terminus, residents of Cornwall Place complained about buses reversing there and as an experiment the terminus was moved slightly further along Preston Old Road to Buttermere Road which was renamed Wordsworth Avenue by 1956 after the experiment had been made permanent. The 16/16B were amongst the last refuges for the prewar Burlingham Titans as shown on this flickr link at the Promenade terminus outside what was Woolworths and is now Wetherspoons. With these retired in 1958, the route became the territory of the post war streamliners as seen here and here.

Summers 1964-1966 saw an unusual linkage of the 16 and 16B with the 3A and 3 respectively. Buses continued from Wordsworth Avenue via Preston Old Road and Cherry Tree Road with the 16B turning onto Newhouse Road to follow the 3 route and the 16B picking up the 3A route at Cherry Tree Gardens and onto Vicarage Lane. Both routes met at Oxford Square and continued via Park Road, Town Centre into Claremont terminating at Westminster Road (16) or Cromwell Road (16B). The combined six minute service continued with no less than 14 buses required. For the winter - and permanently after the 1966 season, the separate routes were reinstated.

Route Map of Great Marton - click on image to view large size
Frequencies were progressively withdrawn during the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Summer 1967 saw an 8 minute combined headway reducing to every 10 in the evenings and on Sundays. Winter 1968 saw just a 15 minute headway with 3 buses and a 20 minute evening/Sunday service using two buses. Around 1966/7 the Town Centre terminus moved to the Town Hall.

Now preserved AEC Swift 570 leaves Park Gates for Wordsworth Avenue on 28 August 1982
21 December 1971 saw the routes converted to OMO operation with AEC Swifts, buses now terminating via Cornwall Place, Kingsley Road and onto Wordsworth Avenue to avoid conductorless buses reversing. Winter 1976 saw the 16/16B simplified into a single service in Great Marton with all buses showing 16 and running via South Park Drive, Preston Old Road, St Leonard's Road, Worcester Road, Lancaster Road and Preston Old Road to the Wordsworth Avenue terminus. Buses no longer served Halifax Street and Goldsboro Avenue, no doubt a relief to the drivers who had to pilot long Swifts around these quite tight roads. The peak frequency was every 10 minutes, off peak every 15 minutes and evenings every 24 minutes, but this was soon reduced to every 15 minutes (peaks), 20 off peak and 30 evenings and Sundays with a maximum of 4 buses.

Route 16 loadings were rarely sufficient to require the 86 seat Atlanteans, but on Saturday 18 February 1984 343 makes an appearance
In 1977 the Town Centre terminus moved to Cookson Street, outside Talbot Road Bus Station. Number 16B reappeared in February 1982 to denote Sunday journeys which were an amalgam of services 3 and 16. Buses ran via Park Road to Oxford Square and South Park Drive following the 16 route to Wordsworth Avenue, then via Cherry Tree Road North and as service 3 to Mereside. An hourly service was provided, supported by hourly services on both the 3 and 16. The 16 ended on Saturday 25 October 1986.
At deregulation route 16 was replaced by route 4 which served Park Road rather than Stanley Park. In October 1987 Swift 589 heads into Blackpool Town Centre displaying Thornton - terminus of alternate journeys at the time (Donald MacRae)
It was replaced by service 4 which ran from Cookson Street via Park Road and South Park Drive and then as the 16 to Wordsworth Avenue. A half hourly service was provided using two buses, though this reduced to hourly in the evenings and on Sundays. Single deckers - typically Swifts - continued to be allocated. On 6 April 1987 the 4 was extended from Wordsworth Avenue to Mereside on Monday to Saturday (including evenings) and one weekday daytime bus per hour was extended from the Town Centre to Thornton via Warbreck Drive, Bispham and Ashfield Road. July saw alternate daytime journeys (those starting in Blackpool) and all evening/Sunday journeys re-routed via Preston Old Road not Worcester Road in Marton as route 4A. Sunday journeys were extended to Mereside.

April 1988 saw the 4/4A end with one bus per hour on route 3 diverted at Oxford Square as 3A via South Park Drive and the 4 route (including Worcester Road) to Mereside. This lasted until April 1990 and Great Marton was now left to Fylde.
Minibuses often appeared on route 33 as demonstrated by 552 at St George's School - the terminus by Marton Hypermarket
Also from deregulation Stanley Park was served by route 33 which ran from Marton Hypermarket (now Asda) via Great Marton, Stanley Park, Town Centre, Warbreck Hill, Bispham and Norbreck to Cleveleys. Daytime buses ran every hour Marton-Cleveleys and every 30 minutes Blackpool-Cleveleys but in the evening and on Sundays only an hourly Blackpool-Marton service ran. The 33 was withdrawn in August 1988 as Fylde services covered most of its links.

Fylde in Great Marton

Fylde Renault 119 sets off from Marton Mere Caravan Park on Fastlink F4
As part of its post deregulation expansion, Fylde introduced minibuses to Marton and Mereside. Its second service was 'Fastlink F4' which ran from Market Street to Marton Mere Caravan Park via Church Street, Whitegate Drive, Preston Old Road, Halifax Street, Goldsboro Avenue, Worcester Road, Lancaster Road, Wordsworth Avenue, Kipling Drive and Preston New Road. A half hourly service was provided using three buses shared with the F1 (to Mereside via Park Road). An hourly evening and Sunday service was also provided which prompted the withdrawal of LCC subsidised route 33.
The F4 competed with the much more frequent Blackpool service 26 along Whitegate Drive as well as providing a better frequency in Great Marton compared to the paltry hourly service on Blackpool's 3A. Goldsboro Avenue was served for the first time since the 16B came off in 1976, as was Halifax Street but the other section (to Preston Old Road) compared to the 16B (which accessed it from West Park Drive). By combining Whitegate Drive and Great Marton, the F4 gave a link to the shops near the Saddle. The service ran into Marton Mere Leisure Park, initially serving the internal road system before the later terminus at the Park entrance was adopted.

The F4 saw periodic minor changes summarised below:
  • November 1988 - diverted to Mereside Shops due to winter closure of Marton Mere - now uses two buses without interworking
  • February 1989 - renumbered 44 and extended to Hypermarket
  • April 1989 - evening buses diverted to Marton Mere (33 served it daytimes)
  • October 1989 - 33 and 44 linked as circular, 44 out via Preston Old Road to Mereside Shops and back via Newhouse Road and Park Road. Now every 20 minutes each way
  • March 1990, circular split, 44 terminates at Mereside Branstree Road until Tesco opened in March 1990
  • November 1990, 44 terminus moved to Mereside Troutbeck Crescent
  • 1991 - 44 re-routed to run via Weymouth Road and St. Leonards Road between Goldsboro Avenue and Preston Old Road (not via Halifax Street)
  • September 1992 - 44 increased to every 15 minutes and converted to single deck operation using Bristol REs. Terminus usually Branstree Road, but some extend to Tesco
  • March 1993, 44 converted back to minibuses and split as 44A to Tesco and 44B to Marton Mere. No longer serves Weymouth Road or Goldsboro Avenue - continues on St Leonards Road to reach Worcester Road.
  • February 1994 44A/44B extended to Cleveleys Park via Bispham over 55A/B route
The Bristol RE era on the 44 sees 15 (ex 38) depart from Corporation Street for Mereside on 8 October 1992 (Keith West)
The evening F4 lasted until October 1989 when it was merged with contracted evening service 3 (Gynn to Mereside) as the 333 and 444 which ran from Gynn via Claremont, Blackpool and Park Road to Oxford then in a loop via Penrose Avenue, Mereside and Great Marton (444 ran the reverse). Each ran hourly. This periodically changed terminus between Mereside Shops, Tesco and Marton Mere Leisure Park. In 1992 the circular was split on paper with the 444 running both ways via Great Marton - though buses continued onto route 333 at Marton Mere and vice versa.

Blackpool Deltas 101 and 102 spent 1995/6 with Fylde in blue and cream as 8/9. 9 waits at Corporation Street for Mereside in April 1995 (Dave Hatcher)
November 1994 saw the 44A upgraded to single deck operation using Deltas and single deck Atlanteans, with the 44B, 333 and 444 retaining Renault minibuses. The 44B was diverted via Mere Road, West Park Drive, Knowsley Road back to Whitegate Drive at this time. June/July 1996 saw all four routes converted to low floor operation with Optare Excels. Marton Mere was last served in November 1999 and the year round terminus for both routes was now Tesco.

The Excel era sees 206 on turn out of Forest Gate on the 44B - historically the 16 continued past the photographer onto Hornby Road
Two further Fylde routes served Great Marton briefly. February 1989 saw new route 4 take a meandering road from Cleveleys to Lytham via Little Bispham, North Shore, Blackpool, Stanley Park, Victoria Hospital, West Park Drive, Lawson Road, St Leonards Road, Worcester Road, Lancaster Road, Wordsworth Avenue, Kipling Drive, Paddock Drive, Mereside Shops, Clifton Drive, Queensway, St. Annes housing estates and Ansdell. It lasted in this form until October 1989 when it was replaced by a more direct route between Cleveleys and St. Annes via Hospital but not Great Marton.

Between May and September 1992 route 33B ran from Blackpool to Marton Mere via Park Road, Oxford Square, South Park Drive, Preston Old Road, Wordsworth Avenue, Kipling Drive, Paddock Drive and Preston New Road to Marton Mere, though this was replaced by the increased frequency on the 44 in September.

Great Marton was also served by Phoenix North West route 53/53A from Squires Gate to Poulton every 30 minute from January 1996. Between Oxford Square and Hospital the service ran via Preston Old Road, St Leonard's Road, Weymouth Road, Colchester Road, Lawson Road and East Park Drive. From April 2001 this was taken over by Blackpool Transport following the sudden collapse of Phoenix and ran until November 2001 when it was replaced by route 9 (Poulton to Mereside via Hospital and South Shore) which lasted until April 2002.

August 2009 saw a shuttle service numbered 4A from Wordsworth Avenue to Mereside due to the shortening of Line 4 due to roadworks. Solo 269 waits at the terminus across the road from the original route 16 terminus
Metro Era
April 2001 saw the 44A, 44B, 333 and 444 replaced by Line 4 which followed the 44B route from Tesco to Blackpool and the 44A route to Cleveleys Park. It ran every 20 minutes with seven buses, and hourly evenings/Sundays. Excels were used until January 2003 when Solos took over. With minor changes it continues in this form today.