Monday, 28 March 2016

Ribble on the Fylde: Part 2: Preston to Lytham and Blackpool

The start of many a journey to Preston - Ribble Leopard 621 awaits departure from Talbot Road Bus Station  in 1980 (Mike Rhodes)

Ribble's first venture onto the Fylde started in March 1922 when they started a service from Preston to Marshall Street Garage in Blackpool. This ran via Kirkham, Preston New Road, Whitegate Drive (stopping at Victoria Hospital and Devonshire Square), Talbot Mews (the site of the later Bus Station) and the Promenade/Princess Street to Marshall Street. 

By 1931 this was running as a half hourly service numbered 13 and serving Wrea Green - but the Blackpool terminus was now Talbot Mews (forerunner of Talbot Road Bus Station). A handful of journeys diverted via Weeton.

By 1925 Ribble was also linking Preston and Lytham having purchased John Bull. The route had two variants between Lea and Freckleton, one via Kirkham and one across the Marsh. By 1931 these were numbered 15/15A. 

The Blackpool routes saw much competition in the 1920s which Ribble tended to deal with through take-over, though the aftermath of one particularly extreme battle saw Blackpool based Scout move into the market and relocate to a depot in Starchouse Square in Preston - now long since obliterated by modern development next to the town's covered market. After a battle Scout won licenses under the 1930 Transport Act and both Ribble and Scout provided a 30 minute frequency. Ribble had adopted the 154-158 series and at times linked routes across Preston to places such as Bolton.

During the Second World War Ribble and Scout entered a co-ordination agreement. The 1949 Ribble timetable advertised a 15 minute service with services 154, 155 and 158 in operation. The 158 served Weeton not Wrea Green and the 155/8 both served Fylde Road in Preston rather than Garstang Road (154). Some 154 journeys ran through to Burnley. Ribble also began a single Blackpool local service - the B1 - from Blackpool to Clifton Arms (and Peel Corner at times) mainly as a loss leader to keep Blackpool Corporation away from Ribble's Preston New Road patch. 
Until 1984 Ribble's Lytham terminus was alongside Market Square by the cenotaph. Here one of the 1962 lowbridge Atlanteans 1803 waits time out on a 167 journey to Preston. In 1984 the 167 was extended to St. Annes and this terminus ceased. (Mike Rhodes) 

The Preston to Lytham route had been numbered 165 (via Kirkham) and 166 or 167 (via the Marsh with different routes in Preston). By 1949 a new 171 route provided the main Kirkham to Lytham service every hour in the morning and half hourly in the afternoon, through some peak journeys still ran from Preston as 165s. The Preston to Lytham service now generally took the Marsh route as service 167 on a half hourly frequency. Some 171 journeys extended from Kirkham to nearby Wesham.

In 1953 Ribble commenced a process of linking services across Preston and the following were dealt with:

  • 162 Fleetwood to Preston extended over the 113 route to Wigan
  • 158 Blackpool to Preston via Weeton extended over the 1 to Blackburn and 244 to Rochdale
  • 155 Blackpool to Preston extended via 123 to Chorley and 239 to Wigan
  • 126 Bolton to Preston extended via 154 route to Blackpool
  • 154 Blackpool to Preston extended via 150 route to Burnley
  • 152 Burnley to Preston extended via 167 route to Lytham
Ribble 1974 - an ex Scout PD3 is seen in Devonshire Road depot after a duty on the 171 Lytham to Wesham (Keith Till)
In 1956 the former Viking Preston to Great Eccleston route - now Ribble's 180 was extended to run Wigan to Cleveleys. Scout participated in some of these, particularly the 158 taking its buses out to Rochdale. Ribble acquired Scout in 1961 but kept the undertaking separate. In 1965 the cross Preston workings to/from Blackpool were ended and others followed soon after. The 154/5/8 now each ran hourly making a 20 minute frequency.

By 1977 the 154/5/8 still each ran hourly, the 167 half hourly (with some 165/166s) and the 171 also half hourly - but with most journeys now to Wesham. In 1978 the 171 was merged with Fylde service 3 to provide a through Spring Gardens to Wesham service via St. Annes, Fairhaven, Lytham, Warton and Freckleton. Initially Fylde and Ribble provided two buses each but by the mid 1980s it was 3:1 in Fylde's favour. Around 1981 many of Ribble's workings were extended beyond Wesham to Poulton and Blackpool replacing part of the 162/4 and 87-89 routes. In March 1984 Ribble extended the 167 to St. Annes replacing Fylde Borough service 1.

1986 Onwards

At deregulation Ribble retained the 154 and 158 at a combined half hourly frequency. The 167 was reduced to hourly but extended on to Blackpool. LCC procured an extra service numbered 165 between Blackpool and Lytham which also served Mythop Road in Lytham. This was awarded to Blackpool Transport. In March 1987 Ribble took over the 165 and renumbered it 168.

The 168 was later, briefly, extended from Lytham to Heyhouses and back via Ansdell, but it was soon re-routed to follow the 167 from Lytham through to Blackpool making a half hourly service throughout.

An hourly express 761 was retained from Blackpool to Liverpool, but provided jointly with North Western. Some journeys ran as 762 and there was a brief extension to Poulton in 1986/7. Fylde ran some early Sunday and evening journeys under tender, but the service was curtailed in August 1990 to just a single morning Blackpool to Preston journey at 0610. This was provided by Blackpool, then later by Carriages and Fylde before Stagecoach took over and it was eventually incorporated into the 68 timetable.
Now preserved, Ribble 2101 was the first production Olympian and spent a number of years promoting the Evening Gazette news paper (Keith Till)

154/8 Changes
The 154/8 was extended to Fleetwood via Poulton and Thornton replacing the 81/2 in October 1987 but this only lasted until April 1991. The 158 also ran through to Chorley from August 1990. For a period from 1989 and extra hourly 158 ran from Fleetwood to Blackpool before undertaking a return trip to Knott End as service 85.

In June 1992 the 154 was replaced by service X58 which served the M55 between Marton and Wesham, while the 158 was diverted to serve Wrea Green not Weeton. The former 154/8 routes remained for the evening/Sunday routes.

In  January 2003 the 158/X58 were extended to Knott End Monday to Saturday daytimes replacing the 85 and were renumbered 58/58A in October 2004. A short lived extra 157 (later 57) ran from Preston to Wesham to interwork with the 169 to St. Annes. The services were completely replaced by new route 61 from Blackpool to Preston but not via Wrea Green or Clifton in October 2005. Wrea Green and Clifton were later added back. Blackpool Transport 2C replaced the Knott End operation.

Evening/Sunday services varied from this pattern somewhat:
  • 31 October 1987 - Fylde took over 154/8 on tender - each hourly eves/Suns
  • Summer 1988 Ribble resumed Sunday daytime operation and later took on the rest of the evening/Sunday service
  • Summer 1989 - hourly Sunday service diverted via M55 as 155
  • April 1990 - hourly Sunday service 155 run through to Burnley as 152 
  • October 1990 - Fylde resume evening/Sunday services every 30 minutes every evenings and hourly Sunday daytimes (alternate 154/8)
  • Winter 1991 - Carriages run 152 for the winter (Blackpool-Preston only)
  • September 1991 - Every 2 hours on Sundays 158 (day), 154 (Eves) replaced by 758/754 extended to Liverpool and operated by ABC of Southport
  • October 1994 BTS take over 754/8 from ABC Travel (BTS have taken over Fylde who still have the 154/8)
  • October 1999 Stagecoach take over 754/8 from BTS
  • October 2003 - BTS evening/Sunday services revised to run as daytime 158 route hourly - and evening work continues to Knott End. Stagecoach Sunday 152 becomes 258 and runs through to Knott End
  • October 2004 - BTS evenings becomes 58, Stagecoach 258 becomes 58B
  • October 2005 Stagecoach 61 replaces evening/Sunday pattern on 58/A/B

Competition was quite limited - Lancaster City Transport - doing battle with Ribble in its homeland - had registered competing services to both Blackpool (42) and Preston (40) and introduced an hourly service 41 between the two points in 1988 via Kirkham and M55. For summer 1988 Preston Bus provided a similar service 39 to make a half hourly route. LCT ended their service in September 1989. At various times Redline, Phoenix North West and Carriages have provided single tendered journeys in the early mornings.

167/8 Evolution
Having established a half hourly service to Blackpool in 1988, changes to the 167/8 were mainly focused on Sunday services. Mercers of Longridge took on a 2 hourly Sunday service 166 (Preston-Lytham) in January 1988, Ribble taking this back in July 1989.

In July 1989 the 167/8 were extended from Preston to Accrington, in August 1990 they were diverted to Burnley instead. In August 1991 the service was curtailed at Preston again save for occasional trips which still ran through as 152s. In June 1992 the 168 was dropped and the X67 replaced it operating via Clifton Drive and missing out Ansdell. In October 1992 the 168 was reinstated. McLaughlins were now operating the Sunday service. 

From 1994 some journeys continued beyond Blackpool to Poulton where Stagecoach Ribble outstationed a couple of buses. In 1996 Harrys of Kirkham took over the Sunday service, it passed to Redline in 1997. Ribble resumed the Sunday service - extended to St. Annes via Fairhaven in 1999 at the same time the number 761 was adopted for the evening services which now ran through from Blackpool. 

Blackpool Transport took over the Sunday service in 2001, later routed via Ansdell. For most of 2003, the 167/8 extended to Thornton after the withdrawal of minibus services F6/7 in January but this ended in November 2003
The Alexander R bodied Olympian type was a Stagecoach standard in the 1990s and Ribble 2244 is seen on the 168 in Lytham Square in June 1998

In 2001 the 193 (Wesham to St. Annes) was renumbered 169 and extended to Blackpool making a 15 minute service with the 167/8. This reverted to terminating in St. Annes in November 2003. In November 2004 the 169 became the 69 and the 167/8 were merged as service 68 with the unique section via Mythop Road dropped. Stagecoach resumed the Sunday daytime service in the summer in 2005 and the evening service in October 2005. October also saw the 68 increased to every 20 minutes with the 69 withdrawn and again increased to every 15 minutes in October 2009. Preston Bus provide some evening work on tender (at least until April 2016), but Stagecoach now provide the Sunday service - BTS ending in October 2005.
Stagecoach purchased five of these Mercedes Varios in 1997. 670 was one of the last to operate and is seen here in 2004 on normally Solo operated service 169 - a replacement for the once joint 193
The 193
From its inception in 1978 there was little change to the 193, except for the diversion of evening/Sunday services via Ansdell rather than Fairhaven.  The 193's joint arrangement continued after deregulation, though the Wesham to Blackpool section was annexed Mondays to Saturdays with Fylde winning the contract for replacement servcie 192 Blackpool to Kirkham and also the Sunday service which continued as the 193! Ribble provided one of four buses Monday to Saturday daytime and one of two evening buses Monday to Saturday. The Sunday section from Wesham to Blackpool ended in October 1988 when Blackpool Transport also took over the 192.
Joint services: Fylde and Ribble jointly operated the 193 and were jointly licensed for the extended 167 to St. Annes in 1984. Fylde 85 was typical of their output, Ribble's Lion less so. This is March 1984 and restored Lion 295 is on display in St. Annes Square to promote the extension of the 167 the following week (Brian Turner)
BTS also introduced a competitive 193 providing a 2 hourly service from St. Annes Square to Wesham in 1988, expanding to a 30/60 minute Spring Gardens to Wesham service in August 1988 - carefully avoiding Ribble's working!  This ended in October 1989. At the same time Fylde and Ribble withdrew the Spring Gardens to Wesham section and Ribble now ran every 90 minutes providing one of three buses. Evening buses had run as 293 since April 1989 and Ribble still provided one journey every 2 hours - however both operators ceased the 293 in the evening (and Fylde on Sundays) in favour of extended journeys on Fylde's 11A.

Ribble's last journey at 1808 was later tendered by LCC giving Fleetwood based Carriages a single journey - though this passed to Fylde in 1992. Fylde's two workings passed to Blackpool Transport in 1996 when they absorbed Fylde. On 5 August 2000 Blackpool withdrew its two workings and Ribble took over. As noted above in 2001 the 193 became the 169 operating Wesham to Blackpool. Cut back to St. Annes again in November 2003 it became the 69 a year later and was with withdrawn in October 2005 replaced by extended Kirkham Roamer 70 between Saltcotes Road and Wesham. Today Coastal Coaches service 78 covers the corridor, after spells as Blackpool Transport 2 (2006-2010) and 7 in 2010/1.

The 193 was generally provided by Blackpool depot, until this closed in 1988 when Fleetwood gained responsibility - this reduced to a minibus operation in 1991 and the 193 then became Preston's responsibility. For a period Fylde hosted Ribble's bus for the 193 at its Squires Gate depot - often Tiger 900 was outbased there with an Atlantean at times for school work. On 8 October 1989 Tiger 900 and Atlantean 1342 were photographed in the Fylde yard.