Tuesday 15 July 2014

News Update

Blackpool Transport Trident 311 is the latest to visit the paint shop and is receiving a side and rear advert for the new Sainsbury's Supermarket on Talbot Road.

The surviving former City Sightseeing Olympian 857 (D257FYM) has been treated to a repaint in green and cream in the late 1980s style as recently applied to preserved Atlantean 362.

Compensating for the withdrawal of staff bus services 34, 34A, 34B and 34C, Blackpool Transport has recently introduced extra early morning journeys on main network services from 23 June:

  • 9 0546 Cleveleys to Town Centre
  • 11 0615 Grange Park to St. Annes
  • 11 0610 St. Annes Square to Grange Park
  • 14 0555 Mereside to Town Centre as extension of 0626 to Fleetwood
  • 17 0550 St. Annes to Blackpool

From 27 June Lytham Road bridge reopened and services 5, 10, 11 and 68 reverted to using it. The 68 had been refined from 9 June. The terminus and layover point moved from Adelaide Street to Market Street but the route remains unchanged running via Promenade, Adelaide Street, Bank Hey Street, Central Drive and Chapel Street to the Promenade.

Oakwood Travel has repaired Dart 512 (X512UAT) and this is back in service in place of sister 533 (X533UAT). Recently purchased X617JCS has also been repainted but is not yet in use. Sister R356LER entered service on 4 June. Olympian 701 XAU701Y has been out of use with gearbox problems for some time.

Preserved Blackpool PD3 501 has passed its MOT test, while sister 512 was taken to. Fleetwood on 22 June for photographs alongside Pantograph tram 167. Atlantean 362 has moved to Preston Bus for pre MOT work after repaint at Blackpool Transport.

It seems locally preserved Delta 101 and Metrorider 510 have been sold for scrap. Delta survivors appear to be down to four 128-130 and 133. Sister 109 has been delicensed by Kanes Foods in Evesham and is presumed scrapped.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Life on the Buses

With this post the Fylde Bus Blog has reached its 500th. I started the blog in April 2009 with 74 posts that year, 85 in 2010, 124 in 2011 and 136 in 2012. Rate of posting then tailed off as change of job, family commitments combined with a reduction in activity in the local bus market and a natural shortage of articles - there is only so much material! So with just 54 posts last year and 26 so far this year, post 500 has come somewhat later than intended. Stuck for a suitable topic, I thought I'd indulge and post about myself. Or more specifically the year and a half I spent working at Blackpool Transport.
1998 and the two routes I would conduct. Atlantean 356 heads to St. Annes on the 14 having given way to Balloon 718 on its way to Fleetwood at Broadwater. (Brian Turner)
Having a life long interest in transport, I had two spells of working experience at Fylde Transport but started my working life at Booths Supermarkets. In May 1998 I decided to indulge my hobby and applied to become a seasonal conductor at Blackpool Transport. My interview was 1500, but having arrived by 1450 I was duly given the briefest of grillings and told to report for the final tram school on 8 June and was on my way home before the interview should have started.

Guard's school was a five day experience. Monday was class room based other than a short trip to the Uniform stores to collect our equipment and clothing - much to the disgust of the stores manager who was faced with a queue of 20 staff. That said we were equipped with what was to hand often I'll fitting and our own cash bag and Almex strap. Tuesday saw ticket machine training including a run to Bispham and back on Balloon 717 to get used to working on a moving vehicle and to try changing points. Prior to this we all tried turning the trolley of Boat 606 on Hopton Road.

Wednesday and Thursday saw duties as a Probationer Guard whereby you worked with the rostered guard to learn the ropes. At the time Guards worked bus service 14/14A (Fleetwood to St.Annes) as well as the trams. The 14/14A ran every 15 minutes using 12 buses - the A suffix denoted buses via St David's Road North in St. Annes, 14s ran via Headroomgate Road. 12 Atlanteans were used until teatime when OPO buses took over. Sunday services were OPO with a mix of full sized and minibuses.

Wednesday 10th saw my bus probation. Sign on 0630 leave depot at 0635 on Atlantean 355 working 'route' 147 empty to Borough Boundary - one of two journeys to start there in the morning. We worked the 0645 to Fleetwood Ferry from where we left as a 14A to St. Annes at 0750 after just one minute layover. We then worked the 0915 14 back as far as the Bus Station for 0953 and our break. This was a longer than normal break of 75 minutes and we took over 358 on route 141 at 1108 for a trip to Fleetwood Freeport and back for 1244. As this was a rare three part duty (two was more common) we did another trip to Freeport and back on 361 at 1323 before finishing at 1459. After paying in it was back to Depot as a passenger on an 11, 11A, 12 or 12A to sign off at 1514.

The following day saw a three part late turn on the trams. This was the final week of single deckers on crew service duties with 2 on Fleetwood (plus five Centenaries) and four on Cleveleys. The following week saw the Cleveleys to Pleasure Beach service extend to Starr Gate with Balloons on the five 'routes', plus the two Fleetwood workings. Single deckers worked on Sundays for a few more weeks. Sign on was 1536 with five mins to prepare then two to walk to Manchester Square. We took over 621 at 1543 to Cleveleys - straight into the thick of it with fares to collect, doors to open and close and bells to ring. Cleveleys was reached in no time but with nine minutes layover there was time to do the blinds, turn the seats and grab a moment to relax. Only one round trip made up part one - just as well as the compressor failed so we finished the trip on handbrake only and the next crew had a change over. We left the poorly 621 at Manchester Square at 1703 and hung around for 636 on route 10 as the weather was fine and there was not much point in walking back to depot. We took this over bound for Pleasure Beach at 1727 - a more leisurely journey as few boarded southbound after Central Pier, but we only had two minutes to turn round so after unloading, setting the points it was a quick run round the loop and straight onto the stop. Off to Cleveleys and back to Manchester Square for 1847 and off for tea. The first of many visits to the Aquarius chippy.

Part three was more leisurely as weekday evening traffic was much lighter in June. 678 was our steed from 1947 southbound then three round trips and finish with Pleasure Beach to Tower and back to depot.

Friday was more classroom training - a customer care course, I recall - and then we had the weekend off. Many drivers worked to a roster - others worked as 'spare' - duties were allocated the previous lunchtime. Conductors were all spare, unless you paired with a driver and worked to their roster. I remained spare. My first week 'proper' was early turn with days off on Thursday and Sunday. I phoned in to find out my duty and had been allocated tram specials with a fellow guard from my school. Balloon 720 was allocated and we spent the day working mainly between Pleasure Beach and Cabin but did work to Fleetwood - my first time beyond Cleveleys. 

The rest of the week saw me on 711 on Tuesday, Trailer car 687 on both Wednesday and Friday and finishing on Saturday with Cleveleys service workings using 703 and 711, reaching Starr Gate for the first time. The Summer season saw me work mainly on double deckers on specials and service, plus Twin cars at times. I often did overtime after work (aka grab) which was often single deckers. Oddly one crew duty worked OPO route 6 - presumably to balance the duties. I did this quite often and conducted on several of the Centenaries. Double deck duties had a bottom deck and top deck guard so on route 6, the top guard sat on standby and the bottom guard went out. To complicate matters not all crew drivers could drive the OPO cars but they were not usually allocated this duty. On two occasions my driver wasn't trained so on one I conducted a depot reserve driver, on others we went out in a railcoach to cover the service!
Your blogger hard at work marshaling passengers onto HMS Blackpool at North Pier. Hard work is perhaps an overstatement - a full load of fares was collected within a few minutes then other than changing the points at Little Bispham and Pleasure Beach it was a relaxing round trip. (Brian Turner)

Bus duties were few and far between - partly because 'crew' drivers could take a bus only, tram only or bus and tram roster - and many on the bus roster had regular guards. I worked buses 2-3 times per month. Overtime started to become available as the summer went on - usually working rest day at 1.5x normal rate (2.25x at weekends when a normal rostered duty was 'time and a half). 'Grab' after hours was sometimes available too. The ultimate weekend for me was a morning 'grab' on boat 606, followed by an Illuminations Saturday duty on Jubilee 761 (on this and 762 the driver collected fares alongside you as a solitary conductor) with the duty extended to duplicate the last tram to Fleetwood arriving back at 0100. The following day the same driver and I took 762 out for our morning duty (shifts switched early to late on Sundays) and then took over 605 for the evening finally finishing at 2100! - A hectic day with over £1000 in takings on both days.

Saturday 11th July saw my most unusual duty of the summer. There was one 'late late' on 14s - which finished at 0159. This involved working the 1810 Bus Station to Fleetwood and back to St. Annes then empty to depot for 2018. You sat spare from 2103 to 0159, but were called to operate the two night staff buses (one north,one south) - so the duty usually had two drivers, one acting as guard. Clearly I was just a guard, so couldn't drive the staff bus - my driver had to cover both! There was little purpose being spare at that time of the night - perhaps covering for drivers taken ill mid-shift. However work was found and at 2225 we left the tram depot in 703 (top deck closed!) with instructions to run to North Pier and Pleasure Beach. Much to the surprise of the Pleasure Beach inspector who had little choice but to send us back to North Pier and depot so my driver could be ready for the staff bus at midnight. 703 was back on shed after just 55 minutes! At least it relieved my boredom.

During October I applied to be a trainee minibus driver and was accepted to 'stay on' at the end of the season. My final tram duty of the season was to work Coronation 660 on a Fylde Tramway Society tour. My second vintage car after Box 40 earlier in the year. 

Monday 9 November saw me on 14s for the winter though I was soon to do my theory test. I worked various duties - all earlies, or middles on my late week as I never did the solitary late late again. Some duties had standby and one day I conducted a 22 to Lytham and back with 362! This somewhat confused the passengers who had not seen conductors since 1994. Conducting 14s was quite straight forward once you were familiar with the route and the multitude of fares - far more than the simpler structure in place today. The biggest challenge was mass boarding of school kids who made fare collecting far harder than it ought to be. Guards had various tricks - I used to start upstairs for variety to surprise those who regularly evaded. Others took a pay as you enter approach, much to the disgust of the driver who saw the timetable ebb away. Busy loads at other times were easily manageable though. One particular duty ended in Blackpool at 1615. Your outward trip collected school children from Fleetwood High towards Fleetwood; Cardinal Allen towards Blackpool; then Sixth Form College at Highfurlong and just one stop before the Bus Station, a gaggle of pensioners boarded outside Mecca Bingo - making you work right to the limit.

The Bus Station could cause confusion as the 14 ran through in both directions. Stand C to St. Annes; Stand H to Fleetwood. A regular occurrence was luggage laden passengers boarding at Stand C hoping to get to Cala Gran Caravan Park on the outskirts of Fleetwood. They had to be dropped off on Market Street to catch a bus back north from Corporation St. Tourists in Fleetwood would not believe the 14 didn't serve the Promenade, especially at the common bus/tram stop by the lighthouse. One day someone was insistent that we would stop at the Pleasure Beach and boarded with Travelcards. After worried looks as we navigated the back roads through Thornton, smugness took over as the bus reached the Promenade from Church Street, before turning off again after the Tower. They eventually accepted the inevitable at St. Annes Square and caught the number 1. 
Driver Trainer 516, a 1967 Leyland Titan PD3 was the first bus I drove, passing my test in it on 15 January 1999 (Brian Turner)

I was scheduled for my bus test in early January. Myself and a new driver employed at Squires Gate Depot reported for the bus school on Monday 4 January and spent the morning on class room exercises before being taken onto the car park near Blackpool FC to get used to driving the trainer - venerable PD3 516 of 1967 - a trainer since 1984. I then drove the bus on my first stint taking it out to Broughton near Preston! Training continued over the next two weeks with our test on Friday 15th. I went second and went out mid morning. One of the Chief Inspectors was the examiner and we did the reversing exercise in the depot yard. We had practised the test route many times but were warned it could change at the examiner's discretion. With reversing done, we set off down Rigby Road and onto the Prom doing gear change exercises down to 1st and back to 4th outside the Pleasure Beach. At Starr Gate I turned onto Clifton Drive then Harrowside for a hill start with 'snatch' from 1st to 2nd. On Midgeland Road I did the emergency stop then headed to School Lane. At Peel corner I was told to turn left - we would do the next section in the opposite direction and did the obligatory 50mph running on the M55, before running past Kirkham and into Wrea Green. Exercises over it was back to depot via A583 and Yeadon Way. A successful pass. After a canteen lunch I then drove a Metrorider for familiarisation. My colleague went back to Squires Gate.

The following week started with two days of route probation - another new driver needed probation too so we took out 513 on Monday and 568 on Tuesday. Previously you simply took another driver's turn and he guided you round the route - but our approach involved running extra journeys untimetabled. Minibus routes at the time comprised:

2/2A/2B Poulton to Bispham circulars every 15 minutes day, 30 minutes evenings and Sundays - 9 buses, usually Metroriders but sometimes City Pacers
12A Bus Station to Lindale Gardens every 10 minutes, no evening/Sunday service 5 buses - Metroriders
23/24/25 Staining (23), Hospital (all)-South Shore (all)-Mereside (all via 3 routes) each every 30 mins daytimes combined 10 minute service. Eves/Suns 23/23A hourly. 12 buses usually City Pacers (Metroriders Sundays)
26 Corporation St to South Pier every 7 minutes 8 buses (15 eves/Suns)
Plus Sunday daytime extras on service 14 Fleetwood to Rigby Road.
Metrorider 503 on service 2A, the first service I drove as a fully fledged driver. A Delta overtakes on the 26 during the brief interlude of single deck operation on this long term minibus route (Brian Turner)
My first week as a driver was late turn. You started as spare then moved to minibus roster, then crew spare; crew roster; opo spare, opo roster. I expected a late finish, but surprisingly my first duty was the earliest late. Late turn meant anything finishing after 1730 and duty 802 finished at 1807. I signed on, collected by "ACE" - the drivers module for the Almex Eurofare and caught the bus to the Bus Station. I was due to work the "route 28" 0946 2A from Bus Station to Poulton, then the 1020 Poulton to Bispham and Bus Station for 1116. I then waited ten minutes and took over the bus behind for another 90 minutes round trip before my break. As I walked out to the bus, the incoming driver had seen me prior to my test in the canteen and cheerily announced - "you passed then" as I walked past the waiting passengers. Fortunately they still boarded despite their novice driver. 502 was my steed and I activated the Eurofare with driver number, pass code, service number, journey number and start stage and loaded up. Off we went and life as a bus driver began. 501 was the bus for the following round trip. Much like my first guarding duty, I enjoyed a long break before waking down to Corporation Street for 1413 to relief the incoming driver on bus 509 on route 268 on service 26. At this point it is worth explaining that "routes" were the bus workings - route 268 is the eight bus on service 26. Due to depart at 1418, my final part involved four round trips to South Pier and back before running empty to depot from the Town Centre.
City Pacer 581 heads away from the stop at C&A working a 24 from Hospital to Mereside (Brian Turner)
The following day saw my first duty on the 23-25 group. City Pacer 571 was on route 240 and I started at 1556 at the Bus Station as a 24 to Hospital, then 1612 24 to Mereside; 1704 25 to Hospital, 1752 25 to Mereside and 1840 25 Mereside to Royal Oak and Depot. Another three parter saw me work on the 2A/2B with 593 and 26 with 517. It was not until my second week that I worked the 12A - a fast 50 minute round trip from Bus Station to Lindale Gardens - five round trips was the most you could do and it flew by unlike the 26s which I always felt to drag.

The 2 group was an enjoyable route. Starting at Poulton you either went via Hardhorn (2) or Highcross Road (2A/2B) then via a common route past Victoria Hospital and Devonshire Square to the Town Centre serving the Winter Gardens, Abingdon St and the old Odeon on Dickson Road. That took 26 minutes day in day out - evening and Sunday running times were the same which led to much hanging around. A 30 minute circuit to Bispham followed via Claremont with the 2 and 2B via Warley Road, Devonshire Road, Red Bank Road, Warbreck Drive and back to Claremont and the Bus Station. The 2A did the reverse but via Claremont Road not Warley Road. From the Bus Station it was 27 minutes to Poulton where you had seven minutes layover. Metroriders were booked vehicles and you felt cheated if a City Pacer turned up. It regularly did on route 29 which was the last minibus working from depot and tended to get whatever was left.

23-25 routes was the hardest. A basic ten minute service was operated between Royal Oak and Hospital. Buses extended over three routes to Mereside. The 24 was simplest, up Watson Road, Daggers Hall Lane to Welcome Inn where all three routes rejoined via Clifton Road, Deepdale Road and Langale Road to Tesco. It was well timed, but you often stood at Welcome Inn on the way to Tesco. At Tesco the 24 turned into a 25 for the next trip. From Royal Oak to Welcome Inn a 25 went via Lytham Road and Highfield Road diverting via Acre Gate and Lennox Gate. Six minutes was allowed from Royal Oak to Highfield Road/Lytham Road - 9mph speed - so you sat for 2/3 mins to keep to time. Trouble is you needed to do 19mph on average to get to Welcome Inn in the 6 minutes allowed! So you were normally now late and with just one minute layover at Tesco you invariably started your 23 late. From Welcome Inn this went the longest way via Midgeland Road, School Road, Lindale Gardens, Lostock Gardens, Highfield Road, Clifton Drive and Bond St. At the Hospital you served the Maternity Unit before the main stop and carried on to the almost rural terminus at Staining. 12 minutes layover here and more generous running time helped you regain your delays and catch your breath.

I kept my hand in guarding on 14s for "grab" overtime and did the odd tram grab during the summer - but preferred minibus driving for day off work. Rigby Road had Metroriders 501-518 and 591 to 596, plus City Pacers 568-583. The remaining Metroriders (584-590) and City Pacers 559 and 567 were at Squires Gate. This depot closed in April 1999 and all work, buses and drivers moved to Rigby Road. While the fleet was integrated, the drivers and routes were not. It took some time to negotiate a common wage deal and this reduced the overtime pay considerably. A new progression was introduced with drivers starting as 'tendered roster' then 'tendered spare' - this was a school service roster plus the evening contracted services to Preston (154/8). You then moved to minibus roster then minibus spare, low floor roster then spare (for the Excels on the 44A/B), then crew roster then spare and finally OPO. As a result all drivers would now start on big buses. Previously progression involved a period back in the bus school to retrain on double deckers - a legacy from the time when minibus drivers had a restricted license. All existing minibus drivers were given a quick 'upgrade' which involve me and three others spending two days with an instructor getting used to Atlantean trainer 322 (which had just replaced 516) on 11/12 of September.

The new combined roster commenced on 20 September. Additional minibus routes comprised:
33 Mereside to Cleveleys Park every 30 minutes, 5 buses (Metroriders) no evening/Sunday work
77 St. Annes Roamer - 1 bus every hour daytimes (Metroriders)
193 St. Annes to Wesham - every 30/60 minutes (Stagecoach provided 1 bus to make a half hourly service) using two Metroriders.

I was initially expected to be on tendered work, but so many drivers left that I moved back up to minibus roster. I was slightly disappointed as although I would have lots of schools, I would drive some of the older Atlanteans in the fleet! 

It was business as usual on the 20th with a duty on 23/24/25, 26s and 12As. I was asked to do standby for overtime as some former Squires Gate drivers had automatic only licenses and could be rostered to drive manual City Pacers. This problem would last until January 2000 when the final City Pacers were withdrawn. I thus drove a round trip on 23s to cover! This also lead to Atlanteans working on the 193 to release extra Metroriders to reduce the daily output of manual buses. Sometimes your Metrorider on the 2 or 12A was hastily pinched by an inspector in the Bus Station and you gained someone else's City Pacer! 

With big bus enticement, overtime became more interesting, helped by a shortage of drivers which led to more schools being available to cover by volunteers. My first was on 21 September when after my minibus duty I took Olympian 408 to Baines School to work the 1525 541 to Preesall St Aidans and then service 545 back at 1558 to the Bus Station and back to depot. My training on Atlanteans was little help on Olympians but the empty run to school allowed me to find my feet. 
Atlantean 442 works service 14 during 2000 - I had the pleasure of driving this for a round trip in December 1999 - it was new as Fylde 98 (PCW98X) in 1982. (James Millington - to whom I am grateful for convincing me to take the job!)
I had another school on Thursday morning, working route 639 from Mereside to St Mary School with Atlantean 348. This was a very oddly timed route you had just 25 minutes from Mereside to St. Marys, involving a double run to Stanley School, then via Penrose Avenue, Whitegate Drive and Newton Drive - a 6.2 mile route. Needless to say with 80 odd children to board I was horribly late and with the full length of St Walburgas Road to negotiate so as to enter the school grounds, I was clearly not going to be back in depot in time to get back to the Bus Station for my 0906 departure on the 2. I had little choice but to park 348 in the Bus Station and pick up my service duty. As my second half started at the depot, I could take the Atlantean back at lunch time! The afternoon work was my first 77. This had been a regular driver duty with a lunch break at Squires Gate but was now split into three duties on a 12 week roster with many familiar drivers. I was fortunately familiar with the circuitous route from my childhood. I took the bus from depot at 1302 and empty to St. Annes Square to restart the 77. Two round trips then led to an unusual minibus school working - the 595 from Lytham St Annes RC Primary to Spring Gardens before a final round trip on the 77 and back to depot just after 1700. 

Saturday saw day off overtime and happily I was allocated to drive 14s as as crew driver for the first time. I had worked the route as a guard of course and driven it a few times with Metroriders on Sundays. I had Atlantean 332 from depot at 0620 in service from Bus Station to Fleetwood Ferry, St. Annes, Fleetwood Freeport and off at Bus station at 1044. Part two was 349 for a full round trip finishing at 1429 at Bus Station. Back to depot I then conducted Boat 605 on specials until an unexpected rain storm at Pleasure Beach saw us soaked on a run to Tower and back to depot to collect Brush 625 for the rest of the evening! 

My first 33 was just a trip to Mereside and back to town then depot, but I worked this on several occasions. On duties involving the full route, on arrival at Cleveleys, you worked to Cleveleys Park, back to Cleveleys to Cleveleys Park again (but the opposite way round the loop) then back through Cleveleys to Mereside! One Saturday I spent so much time stuck in traffic that I missed an entire trip to Cleveleys Park (15 minutes). This odd arrangement replaced the 44A/44B which had been cut back to Cleveleys from the September change but was soon reversed in January leaving the 33 to terminate at Cleveleys Centre again.

My first 193 was a minibus working just before the double deck conversion. You took over in St. Annes Square and this working (route 932, but 585) involved one and half trips before working the first evening trip on service 11A (which replaced the 193 at these times) from Wesham at 1719 to Bus Station and back to depot. This was the only minibus duty on this otherwise big bus route. The 193 was a pleasant route - only suffering delays at peak times which were easily regained. I remembered the route from childhood so it was a pleasure to drive. Personally though that first day saw ex Fylde Atlantean 442 work the other board, so I was disappointed to have the Metrorider!

The September agreement meant that any driver could work any service regardless of status for overtime. I was thus allocated to Promenade service 1 as my first opo duty on 28 September. With the 1 starting after 9am, it involved late turns taking buses from depot. I had Olympian 401 from depot at 0920 empty to St. Annes Square where I left at 0930 taking on an near full load at Pontins which made me late, but there was enough slack to get back to time at Cleveleys for the 1005 departure. After two round trips I was relieved at 1210 at Manchester Square. Part two was 405 on route 102. I took this over at 1320 at Manchester Square and worked to Cleveleys and back to St. Annes for 1510 - as it was school term the next round trip was dropped and I hurried for Lytham St. Annes High School to work the 1515 597 school service to Spring Gardens. I drove to St. Annes Promenade to park up out of the way by around 1545 to wait my next trip at 1640. It seemed odd to drop  a 90 minute round trip from the schedule to work a 15 minute school service. I worked the bus back to Manchester Square for my relief at 1655. I then finished the duty with a St. Annes and back trip with 408 finishing at 1745.

Over the next few weeks I worked some unusual duties. On 30 September I had 579 on the 12A - the five Metroriders usually allocated had been replaced by City Pacers 572, 575 and 579 plus Olympians 367 and 372!). I drove my first former Fylde Bus - Altantean 445 (NJI5505) on 14s for a round trip on 8 October. On 9 October after a routine minibus duty finishing at 1546 I was on overtime spare from 1700 which involved my only Private Hire. I took Atlantean 360 to York House Hotel at 1900 to take a party to Mecca Bingo. I left the bus in the Bus Station until the return hire. The bus station was littered with buses in the evening as the September duty changed meant drivers were not paid to travel back to depot so if they didn't need to (as their didn't have a car for example), they would park up in the Bus Station and go home! The inspector on duty asked me to take Olympian 372 back to depot - I agreed as I had never driven one and was otherwise sitting in the canteen. After a bite to eat I returned to the Bus Station about 30 minutes before the return journey to find - well nothing - 360 had been taken as a changeover bus! I had to quickly head back to depot on the next service bus to pick up 352 and just got to Mecca Bingo in time to take the party back! 

Overtime continued and one day after a minibus duty I guarded a round trip on 14s and then was asked to do a trip to Preston and back on the 154/8. Being an Illumination Saturday I thought the five minutes allowance to run dead to the Bus Station was tight, so left at 1920 but was still a few minutes late for the 1930 154. I had Atlantean 327 - which was overkill for the two passengers -but managed to achieve the 50mph speed limit on the open sections either side of Kirkham and despite further delays in town I reached Preston on time. The 2030 return 158 was straightforward, but on arrival at Oxford Square where I followed the 26 route, two of the three buses headed South at the same time, I was clearly the first bus north for some time - and could answer the question "where on earth have you been" with the honest "Preston". 

There was one unusual overtime turn on the 14s. Route 141 involved an empty run to Thornton Social Club where you left at 0800 for Bus Station, five minutes in front of the scheduled bus. On arrival at the Bus Station you let your bus on stand H at 0823 as the bus would start its regular work with the 0825 for Fleetwood. You then waited at Stand C and took over the 0829 to St. Annes  the bus you had just run in front of! A Friday afternoon output from the scheduler perhaps. 

The 14 was great to drive. On Sundays minibus drivers worked short workings from Fleetwood to Rigby Road every 30 minutes which caused the regulars some confusion as the yellow/black Handybuses were not common in Fleetwood. As a crew driver it was wonderful, with a long 83 minute run from end to end, well timed with rarely more than a minute needed at timing points to regulate service. Carleton Crossing could cause delays if you found the barriers down - but there was time built in for this. There were times when Blackpool suffered traffic problems, usually illuminations weekends or Christmas shopping. Once when driving 14s we crawled through the Town Centre. As we turned onto Topping Street, still in a queue, my guard hopped off to make us a brew in the Bus Station canteen and said he would meet me on the stand. After about 15 minutes I had inched along Deansgate and into the gloom of the Bus Station to be handed a cold coffee from my guard who had enjoyed his extended break!  It was one of those days when we kept going ever later just like everyone. We eventually arrived back in St. Annes from Fleetwood very late but just after the previous bus had gone, so we ran empty to Spen Corner and resumed service on time. We were late again when we got to Fleetwood faced with the optimistic dead time allowance of 20 minutes back to depot. 
Former Fylde 479 - one of five I drove (442, 445, 479, 482 and 496) at Grange Park on service 6 (Paul Turner)
During November I worked two 1975 Fylde Atlanteans (479 and 482) on school service 194 from Wesham to St Bedes School via Freckleton. 

5 November saw my duty on 12A in the morning then Atlantean 351 on the 193 finishing at 1349 at St. Annes. A quick run back to depot in my car to pay in, home to change and at 1600 I was at a job interview with TAS Consultancy in Preston. I was offered a job from January 2000 thus beginning my career in transport planning which lasted over 12 years before joining First in 2012. 

I continued to work as normal of course, even receiving driver familiarisation on Solo 262 on 19 November before I handed in my notice! It entered service on the day I joined TAS. In December I worked Olympian 367 on the 194 - my only experience of the West Yorkshire Trio and ex Fylde Atlantean 496 a few days later on the 173 from Kirkham to St Bedes via Wrea Green. Curiously on arrival the school was closed due to a heating failure and I had to take everyone back again! I then worked my minibus duty on 26s and 23s. Finishing again at the Bus Station, I drove one of the stacked buses back - choosing Delta 110 as I had never driven this type. This proved to be prophetic as I was asked to cover a driver who had an accident on route 6. After my required break I was taken in a van to Market Street and took over 103 for a round trip to Mereside Tesco then Grange Park (Collegiate School) and back to Market Street A near 14 hour day of some variety.

With my departure now known and Christmas affecting the duties, work became rather varied. On 15 December I worked my final City Pacer - 577 on the 23/24/25 and also my last 26 with 517. The following day saw my last 77 and the 22nd was my last minibus duty with 502 on the 2 and 589 on the 12A.

On 23rd December I worked the 14s with ex Fylde 442 for a round trip and 359 for a trip and a half. Christmas eve saw many duties end early as service levels reduced after 8pm. I had quite an early finish as a minibus duty, but a colleague had been rostered on a later finish as a crew driver despite expecting an early minibus finish. I happily swapped! 356 and 360 occupied me from 1059 to 1923. 

27 December was an extra day off  using one of my bank holiday lieu days before I left - rosters were suspended due to non standard timetables. The following day I was spare and gave route probation on the 26 and 6 routes. On the 29th I was supposed to be day off but worked overtime which undid the saving of my lieu day. I worked 345 on route 149 from 1023 Bus Station to Fleetwood, St. Annes and back to Bus Station. Part two was 350 on the 146 from Bus Station to St. Annes, Fleetwood, St. Annes to Bus Station and then garage. I then supplemented this with grab working the 158/154 working at 1930 from Bus Station. Slightly disappointingly this was Olympian 371. I took one passenger from Blackpool on a Stagecoach ticket (we accepted these as part of the contract) and two people from Preston to Ashton at a total revenue of £1.50. Having been a crew driver, this was my sole revenue for the day - a far cry from the £1,000 days during the Illuminations. A compulsory day off on the 30th preceded by last day and to my surprise when I phoned in I had been given a lieu day - ending my 571 days on a bit of an anti-climax. 371 on the 2030 158 from Preston Bus Station on 29th had been my last trip as a bus driver. 

It was an entertaining and mostly enjoyable year and a half, which gave me good experience of driving (and a license!). I drove several buses - mainly Atlanteans - that I had grown up with and most types in the fleet at least once.