Sunday, 29 January 2012

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.