Sunday 24 January 2016

Trident fire damaged

Blackpool Transport Trident 318 suffered upper deck fire damage last night. Blackpool Gazette reports seats on the upper deck were set alight causing 3 metres of damage to the roof. 

Saturday 23 January 2016

Stagecoach may exit Fleetwood

Further to the recent post about the withdrawal of funding for tendered services, Stagecoach is faced with a reduction of its Fleetwood depot services to just three buses from the current nine. As a result commercial journeys on service 84 have been deregistered and the company is reportedly engaging with staff on the depot future. 

Stagecoach is the successor to Ribble Motor Services who's role as the major operator in Fleetwood commenced in January 1931 when they took over Lawrence Motor Services who had become the main operator having absorbed local competitors. The Lawrence depot at Birch Street was taken over and became Ribble's home in the town for 60 years.

The depot ran a network of town services in Fleetwood and local routes between Cleveleys and Thornton and from Fleetwood to Cleveleys. It contributed to interurban routes into Blackpool and Preston. At times these were linked across Preston with Fleetwood depot participating in long runs to Wigan. By 1959 28 vehicles were based at Birch Street for a peak vehicle requirement of 25. 17 of these were lowbridge double deckers - and 4 highbridge ones. 5 single deckers and 2 coaches completed the allocation.

Despite being one of Ribble's smaller depots, it continued to warrant investment. In the late 1960s it received an allocation of dual door ECW bodied Bristol REs for its town services to introduce one man operation. These were in turn replaced by the first Leyland Nationals of 1972. 1980 saw a network recast with the long established F-series local routes replaced by the 91, 93-95 in Thornton/Cleveleys and the 97/98 in Fleetwood. 

October 1986 - just before deregulation - saw the 1980 network replaced by 'Fleetwood Minilink'. 64 Mercedes Benz minibuses were introduced to Ribble in 1986 starting in Kendal in August. Fleetwood had 12 allocated - 512/3 with 'coach' seating and 541-550 with standard bus seating. A residual fleet of full size buses were retained for the Fleetwood-Blackpool services and schools work.

As well as Fleetwood, Ribble had two bases in Blackpool at Talbot Road and Devonshire Road. The former - traditionally a coach depot - was replaced by space at Coliseum Coach Station in 1986. Both this and Talbot Road closed in August 1988 with the work moving to Fleetwood. No less than 27 buses made the move, with overspill parking on the Pandoro docks compound in the town.

Ribble had contracted since deregulation, losing school and tendered work to Fylde and Blackpool. This continued despite the centralisation on Fleetwood with 34 vehicles left by August 1990. 8 were coaches (Leopards/Tigers), 4 single deckers, 10 double deckers and the 12 Mercedes minibuses from 1986. Fleetwood's work included remote work such as the 85 (Blackpool-Knott End) and 193 (Wesham to St. Annes) - though for some time this was worked out of Fylde's Squires Gate Depot. Some duties on 167/8 (Blackpool-Preston) were also worked.

April 1991 saw a dramatic reduction with all big bus worked moved away - mostly to Lancaster. Garstang allocation would work the 85 as an example. 17 Mercedes minibuses remained for town services which now included the Fleetwood-Blackpool links. This led to the end of Birch Street which closed on 31 August 1991 and the minibuses move to the current base on Sidings Road, Fleetwood.

The position then stabilised. Larger vehicles returned, initially Volvo B6s for the F4 (the current 84) and Stagecoach standard Olympians and Volvo B10Ms would also be based there for interurban work. 

The 1986 Minibuses were replaced in the 1990s with new buses, then later the B6s and these were replaced on the F4 by new Optare Solos in 2001. More Solos came in 2004 for the Fylde Villager Tendered service. By 2006 18 minibuses (mainly Solos) and 2 double deckers were based at Fleetwood.

Progressively the Fleetwood and Cleveleys town services were withdrawn with tendered services generally replacing them - most of which have evolved into just two routes the 74 and 87. The F4 remained and was increased to every 20 minutes, renumbered 84 in 2004 and extended to Blackpool. New Optare Versa buses were procured in 2008 with 8 needed for the 84. Solos remained for the Fylde and Wyre Villager work and 2 double deckers were outbased for the 68.

2009 saw the loss of the Fylde villager work but the gain of new service 74 which replaced various other services including parts of Blackpool's 2 and 16. Decline set in on service 84 with the withdrawal of the Poulton to Blackpool section in March 2012, the frequency was later reduced to half hourly and the Versa's moved away replaced by older Solos. A further reduction to 40 minutes took place at the start of January. 

Allocation had reduced to 12 by April 2012 - 2 Enviro 200s were used on the Wyre Village with Versa and Solos, plus 3 double deckers. A year later it was just with 4 Solos for the 84, 2 new Enviro 200s for Wyre Villager and 3 double deckers for the 68. 

November 2013 saw Stagecoach resume the tendered 74 from Cumfybus (they took it over in June 2012) using 3 Solos and a further bus ran the short lived 82 (Fleetwood to Poulton). The Enviro 200s followed the Versas out of the fleet soon after. The 68 work returned to Preston in summer 2014 leaving just ten Solos for the 74, 84 and 86/9.

The final date for the 74, 84, 86 and 89 is Saturday 2 April. Catch 22 Bus has announced a replacement for the 84 by extending its 22 from Cleveleys to Fleetwood and starting a new service between Cleveleys and Poulton that will also take in Hillylaid Road as served by the 87 presently.

Monday 18 January 2016

Lancashire Bus Subsidy Under Threat Again

Following a reprieve in 2014, Lancashire County Council has once again proposed to completely withdraw from subsidised bus services as part of budget cuts from 2 April 2016. A consultation has been launched which lasts until 27 March - less than one week before the change is implemented! Click the Link here if you wish to participate

It is understood operators have received 12 weeks notice of the withdrawal of funding - and they have been invited to state what, if any, they would preserve commercially. Fylde Coast routes affected are:

  • Blackpool Transport 2C between Poulton and Knott End - evenings/Sundays
  • Blackpool Transport 12/13 between Bispham and Poulton - daily
  • Kirkby Lonsdale 42 between Lancaster and Blackpool - evenings
  • Stagecoach 61 short section at Peel/Whitehills Park
  • Preston Bus 68 between Blackpool and Preston Sunday to Thursday evenings
  • Stagecoach 74 between Blackpool and Fleetwood - complete service
  • Preston Bus 75 between Fleetwood and Preston - complete service
  • Coastal Coaches 76 between Blackpool and St. Annes - complete service
  • Coastal Coaches 78 between Wesham and St. Annes - evenings/Sundays
  • Waltons Coach Hire 79 between Lamaleach and Kirkham - complete service
  • Preston Bus 80 between Preston and Myrescough College - complete service
  • Stagecoach 86 between Fleetwood and Knott End - complete service
  • ACE Travel 87 between Cleveleys and Poulton - complete service
  • Stagecoach 89 between Knott End and Lancaster - complete service

Enviro 400 City for Blackpool

Blackpool Transport has placed the first provisional order for Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 City model. The double decker was launched recently as ADL's equivalent of the New Bus for London and features a glass panelled staircase. Blackpool's order is for service 9 and is understood to be for ten buses. The interior specification follows that of the Palladium Citaros purchased last year for service 5 with leather seats (for 72) and USB chargers. Euro 6 diesel engines are specified. 

The Enviros will be the first new double deckers for ten years - the longest such gap the fleet has experienced, beating the 9 year gap between the last PD3s and first Atlanteans

Friday 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

Catch 22 898 on its last day on service 12 - 31 December 2015 - (David Umpleby)
2015 ended with the latest stage of DDA regulations affecting local buses. At the end of 2014 minibuses under 7.5t with a capacity of more than 22 needed to be compliant, now all single deckers do and from end of 2016 all double deckers likewise. These only apply to local bus services - hires, "closed door" contracts (i.e not available to general public), excursions and express services can use non compliant buses. Some limited exemptions of up to 20 days per year also apply.

Blackpool Transport had already withdrawn its last non DDA compliant single deckers in May, but Catch 22 bus marked the occasion by operating step entrance Volvo B10M 898 on service 12 during the Christmas period, culminating in a last duty on New Year's Eve. 898 is now relegated to private hire work. Red Rocket Express ceased after its Christmas operating period on Christmas eve and the two red Darts - 365 and 371 - appeared on service 12 alongside 898, Trident 51 and even ex Blackpool Atlantean 334. Dart 143 is now withdrawn, while ex Arriva 234 is unlikely to enter service here. MPDs 657/8 are under preparation for repaint having operated in blue during 2015.