Tuesday 31 October 2017

Preston Bus wins expanded Tendered network

Route 74 will end in December with services 76/77 replacing it. Here Preston Solo 20831 waits at Abingdon Street terminus in Blackpool (Brian Turner)

Preston Bus has registered service changes following the award of new contracts by Lancashire County Council from 10th December. The 74 (Poulton to Blackpool) is withdrawn and replaced by new 76 and 77. Changes are made to route 75 which will serve Cleveleys; reinstated sevrice 76 will link Lytham, Kirkham, Poulton and Blackpool and new service 77 will replace the 80 running Preston to Blackpool via Inskip, Great Eccleston and Poulton.

Route 75 will operate via Pheasant Wood Drive, Mayfield Road, West Drive, Rossall Road, Cleveleys, Victoria Road, Four Lane Ends, Thornton Centre, Tarn Road, Breck Road to Poulton. Four buses are needed and the 75 interworks with local service 29 from Preston to Frenchwood.

The 76 has six trips from Lytham to Poulton via Kirkham and Great Eccleston and five return. Three trips continue to Blackpool via Victoria Hospital. The 77 and 77A run hourly from Preston to Great Eccleston, the 77A running off peak to Myrescough College. The 77 continues to Blackpool every 2 hours with some extra trips at peak time. The 77 also serves Myrescough at peak times with a morning Preston to Myrescough bus, running back to Blackpool with the reverse in the afternoon, albeit starting at Poulton. Four buses are needed for the 76, 77, 77A. One works all 77A journeys plus some peak 77s, the rest stick to the 76/77 cycle.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Lost Routes: 7/7A Bispham Circulars

259, one of Blackpool's classic centre entrance PD2s waits time at Bispham Hotel as it prepares to head back into Blackpool on service 7 (John Hinchliffe)

One of Blackpool's long lost routes are the Bispham circulars 7/7A - which ended, finally, in 1994. Back in June 1926 Blackpool Corporation created a North Shore circular which ran from Gynn Square through Claremont and the Town Centre and out via Church St, Caunce St, Devonshire Road and Warbreck Hill Road back to Gynn Square. This took route number 1, with 2 used for the reverse direction. In February 1927, the circular was withdrawn and new route 5 (Gynn to Halfway House) covered the Warbreck Hill Road and Devonshire Road section, but used the more direct Talbot Road into the town centre.

In May 1929 the 5 was diverted to replace route 7 alnog Caunce Street to Hoo Hill - just beyond Layton and a new service 7 started from Town Centre to Holly Road via Talbot Road and Devonshire Road, terminating just short of Warbreck Hill Road. The link to Gynn ended. Buses turned via Links Road and Warbreck Hill Road to get back to Devonshire Road. Thus route 7 of this article was born.

For a few months in 1930 the 7 ran to Gynn Square via Warbreck Hill Road reinstating the former 5 link but this was finally killed off in May 1930. In October 1937 the 7 was extended to Bispham Tram Depot via Devonshire Road and Red Bank Road with a terminal loop via Promenade, Hesketh Avenue, Warbreck Drive back to Red Bank Road. 7A was used for shorts to Holly Road.

Meanwhile in 1932 service 12 was started operating along Park Road to Marton. In 1934 it was extended cross town along Dickson Road and Warbreck Drive to Pembroke Avenue and in 1936 further extended to Bispham Tram Depot. The 12 used Leyland Titan Double Deckers, while the 7 remained single deck operated mainly with Lions and later Tigers. The 12 was split in 1939 with the Bispham end showing 12A.

In May 1940 the 7 and 12A were linked as circulars with the 7 running out via Devonshire Road and back via Warbreck Drive and the 12A ran the opposite. 7A was still shown for the shorts to Warbreck Hill Road (Holly Road). These now returned to town via Warbreck Hill Road, Links Road, Warley Road, Devonshire Road. In 1953 the logical move of renumbering the 12A to 7A took place - the shorts now showing 7B. The service pattern was every 10 minutes on each 7/7A sharing 6 buses but before 1000 (summer) and 1200 (winter) a reduced 15 minute service was provided, with the 7B infilling as far as Warbreck Hill Road.

PD2 325 turns from Red Bank Road into Warbreck Road at Bispham Hotel on 11 May 1968 - behind the bus is the entrance to the former Bispham tram depot (Brian Turner)
In October 1959 the circular was split with the 7 running both ways along Devonshire Road and 7A both ways along Warbreck Drive. Between 0900 and 1800 Monday to Saturday alternate 7A buses became 7Cs and were extended from Bispham to Whiteholme. This only lasted a few months and the circular resumed in 1960 - the 7C becoming a stand-alone service.

4 May 1970 saw new One Man Operated AEC Swifts replace the Leyland Titans used hitherto. Economies saw the frequency reduce to a maximum 15 minutes during the 1970s, then in 1982 the Sunday service was diverted off Dickson Road into Claremont to replace service 3. The 7B ended regular operation in the early 1970s. Atlanteans took over from Swifts during the late 1970s.
Atlantean 303 departs from Talbot Road Bus Station on a 7 towards Bispham. It carries the remants of a promotional livery for service 6 which featured two orange and one yellow stripe and a green skirt (PT Collection)
At deregulation, Blackpool Transport replaced the 7/A with revisions to the 2,2A, 3 and 15. The 2 ran every 30 minutes Poulton-Blackpool-Bispham via Devonshire Road, while the 2A, 3 and 15 combined to make a 15 minute service to Bispham via Warbreck Drive with 2A/15 via Dickson Road and the 3 via Claremont. Evening/Sunday buses ran hourly on the 2 and 2A only. Lancashire County Council contracted Fylde to provide an additional evening service - over the old 7/7A route - keeping the established service going - just! Fylde tended to use Atlanteans.

Blackpool took over the evening contract in January 1988 but it ended in 1989. However a daytime service resumed in December 1988 operating over the traditional routes every 15 minutes each way - but starting from Corporation Street. This was a response to Fylde introducing its 11/11A/11B routes over the Bispham circulars (operating Lytham to Blackpool from November 1988). In January they extended these to Cleveleys, with the 11A/B on Devonshire Road now serving Claremont estate rather than Talbot Road . Fylde withdrew the 11A/B in April 1989, but kept the 11 via Warbreck Drive going - it lasted until the Metro review in 2001. 
From 1988 to 1994 the 7 was resurrected using Handybus livery City Pacers including 571, seen on Warbreck Hill Road in late October 1994 just before the end of the service (Peter Makinson)

In April 1990, Blackpool revised the 7/7A to run via Claremont in both directions - and increased the frequency to 12 minutes - making a bus every six minutes from Claremont to Blackpool - allowing the 3 to be withdrawn. The section to Corporation St was dropped, the terminus moving back to the Bus Station. The 2/A and 15 were withdrawn from Bispham in June 1991, leaving the market to the 7/7A. This lasted until November 1994 when routes 2/2A and new 2B were provided to replace the 7/7A as Bispham circulars. the 2/2B covering the 7 every 15 minutes and 2A covering the 7A at the same frequency.

The Bispham Circular finally ended in April 2001 after 61 years when the new Metro network saw Lines 3 and 4 provide a link through Claremont (3) or Dickson Road (4) to Bispham via Warbreck Drive and then via two routes to Cleveleys combining to a 10 minute frequency replacing the 7/A part 11 and 44/44A. New Line 7 (Lytham to Cleveleys) provide a 20 minute service along Talbot Road and Devonshire Square - a familiar number in a new era. With minor changes (such as the 4 serving Claremont) this remains the pattern today. 

Friday 27 October 2017

Fresh Out of the Box

454 SN67WZV - the penultimate of the latest 20 Enviro 400s on test at Alexander Dennis in Falkirk (Photos Gordon Scott courtesy of the Oxford & Chilterns Bus Page)

454 SN67WZV - the penultimate of the  latest 20 Enviro 400s on test at Alexander Dennis in Falkirk (Photos Gordon Scott courtesy of the Oxford & Chilterns Bus Page)

From the Archives: Unlucky Numbers: Blowing Sands

Buses to Blowing Sands: Updated post from 2016, with some corrected information about the 1950s; a new map and updated to reflect the end of service 10.

The original bus to Blowing Sands was provided by William Smith's Motor Services
Blowing Sands was the delightful early name for the outskirts to Blackpool crossed by School Lane and was first served in 1922 by William Smith’s bus service 3 from Waterloo Hotel which terminated at Midgeland Road/School Road. 

In 1926 This became Blackpool’s service 10 and survived until 1962 when it was partly replaced by the 23. In South Shore the terminus moved to Waterloo Road/Promenade in the mid 1920s and South Pier in 1933. It ran hourly with some extra journeys at busy times.

Blowing Sands saw some residential development but no dense housing and today is quite affluent. It has never been promising bus territory and the history of its links to Blackpool centre is littered with short-lived services hence its appearance in the ‘unlucky numbers’ series.
Centre Entrance PD2 274 heads towards Midgeland Road on the 6B in 1968 (Brian Turner)
The first link to the town centre started in 1936 when service 21 started. This ran over the 6 route from Adelaide Street to Hawes Side Lane/Daggers Hall Lane and bridged the short unserved section to Watson Road where it joined the 10 route via Common Edge Road and School Lane to Midgeland Road. Suspended in 1939 it was formally discontinued in 1940. During the Second World War, route 11C was diverted to cover the section of route between Blackpool and Common Edge Road, on its way to St. Annes having previously used St. Annes Road the section of Blackpool Road across what is now Squires Gate Airport.

In 1946 a peak hour service was resumed on the 21 route, but showing 11B to relate it to the 11C. 
A second route was introduced in 1948 as the 18. This also ran from Adelaide Street over the 6 route but further – to Welcome Inn then straight along Midgeland Road to the terminus. It ran every 90 minutes and was co-ordinated with service 17 to make a 45 minute service as far as Welcome Inn - the 17 running to Mereside.

This continued until August 1951 when a network recast took place. The 11B was replaced by route 19, both the 18 and 19 now ran hourly and interworked at Midgeland Road and also interworked with new route 4 in the Town Centre.
Map Data c2017 Google
These routes to Blowing Sands were hampered because they really duplicated other routes on the main corridors into Blackpool. The aforementioned service 6 was coordinated with route 13 between the Town Hall and Spen Corner – the 6 continuing to Welcome Inn and Cherry Tree Gardens (later extended to Mereside) while the 13 took in Marton Drive to reach the developing housing estate at Lindale Gardens. In 1953 they provided a bus every six minutes.

Additionally service 6A ran as far as Highfield Hotel, leaving the Tower just in front of service 13 every 12 minutes. The 11C ran every 20 minutes through to St. Annes, the 18 and 19 to Blowing Sands each ran hourly and the 6C to Little Marton via Welcome Inn on a bizarre 84 minute frequency. If this was not enough, route 4 ran over the same corridor as far as Condor Square on its way to Mereside every half hour and the unadvertised 6B was a short working to Condor Square. This made at least 22 journeys over the common section to Condor Square and 20 to Spen Corner with varying frequencies. Co-ordination was unlikely, however the the timing of the 11C and 19 to leave the Town Centre at exactly the same time when the latter had over 95% of its route in common with the former was remarkable! With enough journeys to provide a 2 or 3 minute interval, the poor co-ordination resulted in four gaps of six minutes and two of five minutes in each hour!

The upshot of this was that routes like the 18 and 19 relied on their unique sections to pay their way – unlikely given the spare population – as they didn’t really generate any extra passengers on the over-bussed common section. Rationalisation was therefore inevitable. First to go was the 19 in 1956, replaced by extending the 6A to Midgeland Road – though this was also reduced to every 15 minutes at the same time.

From 1964 certain 6A journeys were diverted via the Welcome as service 6B to replace the 18. The 6A/6B were then progressively cut back through the 60s and 70s as declining passengers and increased costs caused the undertaking to review the duplication of its services. Firstly they were reduced to every 20 minutes in 1966; then their evening service was virtually eradicated in 1968; 1970 saw their frequency halved to every 40 minutes and one man operated buses took over in 1971. In 1975 the deepest cut of all saw the 6A go and just an hourly Tower to Midgeland Road service 6B remain for just one year until it too was cut in 1976. From a 15 minute service to nothing in just 10 years was a remarkable decline.

Midgeland Road did retain a link to the Town Centre, however, as route 3A (North Shore – Town – Park Road – Cherry Tree Gardens) was diverted at the Welcome Inn to run along Midgeland Road to School Road turning circle as a replacement.

Service 3A included a couple of peak journeys which extended to the Borough Boundary, mainly to serve St Nicholas School on School Lane. Here Swift 559 awaits departure for Cleveleys. (Brian Turner)
By contrast the original link to South Shore (the 10) remained largely stable until it too was axed in 1962, replaced by the 23 (Hospital to South Pier) which was extended to Midgeland Road via Highfield Road and School Lane. Other than a brief period when the 19 replaced the 23 in 1976, both the 3A and 23 continued in this form until 1986, with both buses usually terminating together at the rural turning circle.
Single Deckers (and more recently minibuses) have been the domain of the routes to Midgeland Road, apart from a brief period in 1987 when both the 10 and 23 operated with 86 seat Atlanteans! Here 313 awaits departure on service 10 in a short lived experimental livery whilst 358 promotes the Travelcard on the 23 departure behind. (Brian Turner)
At deregulation both the 3A and 23 ceased and ten years of stability ended. Midgeland Road was linked to the Town Centre by a new service, ironically numbered 10. This took most of the the old 6A route but at Highfield Hotel turned into Highfield Road and then Midgeland Road. Blackpool withdrew the service after a year and its former associate but now competitor Fylde Borough took over. Blackpool instead reinstated the link to South Shore with a revised 23. Fylde’s 10 later became the 12B and was also diverted via South Shore but ended in 1989. Since then an array of routes have tried to serve Midgeland Road. Few have been left in peace to do so, partly because of the bus industry’s obsession with tinkering at the margins of its networks. As the changes defy any simple description and chronological list follows:

  • October 1986 – BTS 10 Blackpool-Spen Corner-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road. Fylde 23A South Pier-Common Edge Rd- Midgeland Rd – Mereside (Eves/Suns) introduced
  • Jan 1987 – BTS 25 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Halfway House) extended off peak to Midgeland Rd via Common Edge Road
  • April 1987 – BTS 23 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road) introduced
  • November 1987 – Fylde take over 10
  • June 1988 – 25 no longer serves Midgeland Rd
  • November 1988 – Fylde 10 replaced by 12B Town-Lytham Rd-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road
  • March 1989 – 23 replaced by 25 (Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Road) Fylde 12B withdrawn
  • March 1994 – 23A evening/Sunday service taken over by Blackpool
  • November 1994 – 23A evening/Sunday service replaced by extended 23
  • August 1996 –25 replaced by 23 Staining -Hospital-Town Centre-South Shore-Common Edge Road- Midgeland Road-Mereside (includes eves/Suns service) – now minibus operated
  • April 2001 – 9 Royal Oak-Watson Rd-Highfield Rd-Common Edge Rd-Midgeland Rd back to Highfield Rd replaces 23
  • Nov 2001 9 revised to run Poulton-Hospital-Royal Oak-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Mereside
  • April 2002 – new 2B Poulton-Blackpool-South Pier-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Mereside replaces 9 evening/Sunday service ends
  • June 2002 – 2A Poulton-Blackpool-South Pier-Highfield Rd-Squires Gate Lane-Midgeland Rd-Asda replaces 2B
  • December 2005 – 10 Blackpool-Lytham Rd-Watson Rd-Highfield Rd-Midgeland Rd-Common Edge Rd circle replaces 2A

2009's line 10 provided one bus an hour linking the area with the Town Centre and South Shore. 593 was the branded minibus in light blue until 518 took over in 2007 painted silver-grey. (Brian Turner)
Since 1986 Midgeland Road has therefore been served by the 10, 23A (evenings/Sundays), 12B, 23, 25, 23 (again), 9, 2B, 2A and currently – once again the 10. For good measure the Welcome Inn to Highfield Road section has also seen the 25, 8A, 8, L1, 10 and 16 in recent times. 

The 10 proved quite stable with limited changes over the years until 28 June 2015 when it was extended to St. Annes, working both ways via Highfield Road, Midgeland Road and School Lane then as service 17 via Queensway, Spring Gardens, Leach Lane, Heeley Road and St Davids Road North. Then on 4 April 2016 it was extended across Blackpool Town Centre to Poulton over the erstwhile 2 route.

Then, on 1 April 2017 route 10 was withdrawn, due in part to a series of roadworks affecting Highfield Road and Midgeland Road but also due to the end of a subsidy from Blackpool Council. After 95 years School Road lost its bus service; and Midgeland Road is now only served between Highfield Road and Vicarage Lane.

Thursday 26 October 2017

Unlucky Numbers: Past 19s

Taken from an 11C, Swift 572 swings from Daggers Hall Lane onto Hawes Side Lane on its way to South Pier on 5 July 1986 (Brian Turner)

5 November sees the introduction of service 19 to Staining. This is the first use of the 19 number since 1986; and quite surprising given previous nods to history with route numbering in this area. When the separate Staining service first started in 1927 it gained the lowest vacant number 15, having before than been part of service 2 to Poulton. The 15 lasted until August 1996 when services 23/23A were extended to Staining from Victoria Hospital. Various changes have taken place since:
  • January 2000 - 25 replaces 23 during the day
  • April 2001 - Metro Line 5 runs to Staining replacing 23/23A/25
  • November 2004 - Metro Line 15 introduced, replacing the 5 to Staining and also continuing to Mereside
  • September 2009 - 15 terminates at Staining with Mereside leg ended
  • July 2012 - 15 withdrawn, with 2 diverted via Staining on its way to Poulton
  • June 2015 - 2 withdrawn, Staining served by 12/13 circulars on way to Poulton
  • April 2016 - 12/13 withdrawn, Staining now served by 15/16 circulars with link to Mereside once again
  • November 2017 - 19 replaces 15/16 between Blackpool and Staining
So the current route pretty much replicates the Blackpool to Staining version of the 15 which ran from 1927 through to 1980 and in different forms since. Oddly despite replacing the current 15/16 an all new number is being adopted.

The 19 is one of those numbers which has seen failed to generate longevity or particular importance. Broadly speak, Blackpool's bus network could be split into two series:

  • 1  to 16 - routes which started in the 1920s and became established, generally lasting until at least the 1970s/1980s.
    • a few exceptions, the 4 was a short working service until 1939 and used for a new route in 1951; 8 was mainly summer only and the 11 was vacant from 1929 to 1935.
  • 17 to 30 - various mainly short lived routes introduced in 1930s, 1950s or limited works services (31, 33, 34, 36, 39 and 41 were also recorded)
    • Tram replacement 22 and 23 (1936) and 26 (1962) were exceptions which became regular frequent services

The first 19 service was identified in 1938. Before that 1-16 were established, with use of 17 for an occasional market day Fleetwood express and 18 for a brief circular service in 1935. Surprisingly 20 was allocated to the next new regular service in October 1935 (Stanley Park Airport). In 1938 the 18 and 19 were introduced as  summer circulars starting at Gynn Square. The 19 ran along the Promenade to South Pier, then onto Station Road, Lytham Road, Waterloo Road, Preston New Road, West Park Drive, Stanley Park, Collingwood Avenue, Caunce Street, Devonshire Road, Warbreck Hill Road back to Gynn Square. The 18 ran the opposite direction. It lasted from June to end of September 1938 and is believed to have run again in 1939, but the Second World War put paid to future operation. The route was similar to the 1935 circular referenced as 18 - so the 19 may have been reserved as number for the return working, but simply not used.

The 19 number resurfaced on 28in August 1951 as part of a recast of services to Marton to serve the expanding Mereside estate. Prior to this, 'Sandham's Green' the traditional name for Mereside was served by route 17 from Town Hall via Welcome Inn and Chapel Road every 90 minutes, with route 18 making a 45 minute service to Welcome Inn before continuing via Midgeland Road to School Road and Borough Boundary. Route 11B, officially a short on the 11C provided a second link to Midgeland Road/School Road via Hawes Side Lane and Common Edge Road.

No photo has been found of a 19 to Midgeland Road - but this is a 1937 Tiger number 5(either 5 or 6) operating on the 11B to "Midgeland Lane" (HPTG)
New routes 4 and 6C replaced the 17, with the 19 replacing the 11B and making a circular with the 18 - both now running hourly. This 19 ended in March 1956 when the 6A was extended to Midgeland Road as a replacement.

A third 'seasonal circular' arrangement commenced in 1959 when three of the 1940 centre entrance Leyland TD5s (26 to 28) were converted to open top and used on a new circular starting at the Tower via the Promenade to Anchorsholme then Fleetwood Road, Devonshire Road, Bispham Road, Layton Road, round Stanley Park, Mere Road, Hornby Road back to Tower. This lasted for the 1959 and 1960 seasons.
Route 19s - the 1951 to 1956 version in blue, 1961 to 1986 in red (map data c Google 2017)

The 19 finally got permanency in 1961, albeit somewhat out of site of the town centre. A new service started at South Pier running via Waterloo Road, St. Annes Road, Watson Road, Daggers Hall Lane, Vicarage Lane, Cherry Tree Road, Langdale Road to Mereside Shops - extending to Branstree Road in 1963. It ran every 40 minutes initially (45 from 1963) using 1 bus. A Sunday service ran until 1970. An unusual extension took place on 9th February 1976 when it replaced the 23 between South Pier and Midgeland Road. It was converted to OPO with two Swifts needed, with a reinstated Sundays service needing just one bus.
19 at night - Swift 588 stands at a desolate South Pier terminus on 9 February 1986 towards the end of the 19's life  (Brian Turner)
In November 1977 the Midgeland Road extension was withdrawn Monday to Saturday, but kept on Sundays. The weekday and Saturday service now ran hourly and was interworked at South Pier with the 23A to Victoria Hospital. The Sunday service was cut back to South Pier again in 1982 and was operationally linked to the 16B at Mereside. 

On 25 October 1986 the final 19 left Mereside at 2311 heading to Waterloo Hotel and empty to depot. Deregulation started the next day and route 24 replaced the 19/23A running Mereside to Victoria Hospital as a through bus.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Enviro Demonstrator inside and out

Demonstrator SN66WLK in its attractive blue scheme stands at Starr Gate terminus on service 1 (Mark Whitehead)

The upper deck is very light with the glass roof (Mark Whitehead)
And a downstairs view with the impressive seats (Mark Whitehead)

Monday 23 October 2017

Independents on the Fylde: Route 53 - not always the Easyway

Easyway's ex West Yorkshire Leopard JWU248N turns from Waterloo Road into Lytham Road on service 53 (Brian Turner) 
With two local municipals and three Ribble Motor Services depots covering the local bus market, traditional independents on the Fylde focused on the coach market until deregulation. The new freedoms of the deregulated era from 1986 were to encourage smaller firms to enter the bus market.

One local enterprise so tempted was Easyway. This was formed by a former Blackpool Transport employee and on 11 March 1986 commenced new bus service 53. This was still over six months before deregulation but licensing restrictions were relaxed in the run up to deregulation as it seemed little point in enforcing restrictions which were soon to be abandoned.

Route 53 commenced at Squires Gate Airport and ran along Lytham Road to Royal Oak, up Waterloo Road to Spen Corner then Hawes Side Lane, Daggers Hall Lane, Vicarage Lane, past the Hypermarket then via Penrose Avenue, Oxford Square, South and East Park Drives to Victoria Hospital. It continued via Grange Road to Layton, Westcliffe Drive, through Grange Park Estate, along Blackpool Old Road passing Collegiate School and Sixth Form College, across Carelton Crossing to Castle Gardens and into Poulton Centre. An boardly hourly service was provided, daily with two buses needed. The March timetable comprised:
  • Monday to Saturday 0641NS Royal Oak-Grange Park, 0700NS Royal Oak to Poulton Industrial Estate, 0800 and hourly to 1500, 1610, 1840, 2040NS, 2100SO, 2200SO Airport to Poulton, 1650, 1800, 1940, 2225NS Royal Oak to Poulton and 2300SO Airport to Grange Park
  • Monday to Saturday 0714 Grange Park to Airport then departures from Poulton at 0800 and hourly to 1400, 1515, 1600*, 1710* 1740, 1850*, 1940, 2030NS*, 2100SO, 2135NS*, 2200SO, 2315* (*=to Royal Oak only)
  • Sundays 1300-2200 from each end plus a 2255 from each terminus to Royal Oak only
Initially coaches were used in a white based livery but two former NBC Bristol RE coaches with Plaxton bodywork in a red and cream livery arrived. These were NCN815L new to Northern General and XBW74M new to Oxford. 
XBW74M working 'Free Bus' 53 at the Airport on 20 February 1987 (Brian Turner)
15th September saw a simplifcation of the timetable with some later journeys withdrawn. The 0700 Royal Oak to Poulton IE remained, with 0800-1500, 1615, 1710 Airport to Poulton journeys and 1815, 1910 Airport to Grange Park. From Poutlon to Airport buses ran 0700-1400, 1515, 1605, 1720, 1815 plus two from Grange Park at 1857 to Royal Oak and 1954 to Airport. SUnday buses ran 1300-1900 from Airport and 1300-2000 from Poulton.

Easyway had also registered two competitive services from 27 October - the first weekday of deregulation. These duplicated Blackpool services 9 and 14 and provides two buses at peak times Monday to Friday and two buses during the day on Saturday. The timetable was:
  • 9 Mon - Fri one bus 0730/0845 Blackpool-Cleveleys return, one bus 0750 to College and return then 0830 Blackpool-Cleveleys return. PM buses did two returns to Cleveleys each at 1550, 1610 1710 and 1730. Saturday buses ran every 40 minutes 0830 to 1710
  • 14 Mon-Fri one bus 0700 to Fleetwood and return then 0822 to Thornton Social Club and back the second bus did a 0735 return to Fleetwood. PM saw one bus do 1533/1703 to Fleetwood and back and the other did 1548 to Thornton and 1648 to Fleetwood and back. On Saturdays one bus worked 0810, 0940, 1103, 1233, 1403, 1533 and 1703 trips to Fleetwood with the other working an hour later finishing with the 1633 - leaving an aleranting 30/60 minute gap!
For the 9,14 and 53 six buses were needed and Easyway bought six Plaxton bodied Leyland Leopard buses from West Yorkshire PTE - JWU244-249N. These retained their green and white livery.
The gloomy interior of Talbot Road Bus Station. Easyway JWU249N loads for Cleveleys on service 9 on Saturday 8 November 1986 (Brian Turner)

The company fleetlist for December 1986 showed:

  • 2x AEC Reliances with Plaxton bodies A1 TDK687J new to Yelloway and A2 RHN887R - the latter a 1977 rebody on a 1960s chassis
  • 2x Bristol RE with Plaxton bodies B1 NCN815L and B2 XBW74N
  • 1x Bedford J2S D1 TRN367A of 1961
  • 1x Ford R114 F1 HEA993N
  • 7x Leyland Leopards with Plaxton bodies L1 KCK979H new to Ribble, L44-L49 JWU244-9N new to WYPTE
  • 1x Leyland Atlantean L51 609KD
The Atlantean was new to Liverpool Corporation and was bought by Fylde in 1977 operating until 1983 it then ran for two seasons for the Venetian Glassworks on a shuttle bus and reappeared at Fylde's depot in 1987 with Easyway's red livery on the lower panels. After some work in Fylde's workshops it then moved to Easyway's Princess Street depot but was sadly never used and eventually broken up on site. 
Two of Easway's Leopard buses (244/7) parked up in Princess Street yard shortly after the end of the 9 and 14 in January 1987 and shortly before these returned to West Yorkshire. Also in the background is AEC Reliance TDK687J (Brian Turner)

Easyway's operation on the 9 and 14 was somewhat fraught. With Blackpool Transport keen to maximise its own passengers there were occasional conflicts between staff from both firms. Easyway had received a warning from the traffic commissioner for maintenance reasons just before deregulation. Things came to a head on 20 December when Easyway were banned from services 9 and 14 due to incidents in Talbot Road Bus Station, however permission was given to resume on 23 December but using Abingdon Street as a terminus. However on 2 January Easyway had their right to operate local services withdrawn and the 9 and 14 ended - route 53 continued albeit unlicensed and as a free bus with a donations bucket! Four of the WYPTE Leopards returned to their former owners, leaving JWU248/9N and the two Bristol REs for the 53. 

Eventually the Traffic Commisoner reinstated Easyway's registration for service 53 and it started taking fares once more on the 28 August 1987. Operation was relatively peaceful then onwards until it was decided to expand again. A change to Blackpool Transports 23-25 services in June 1988 had left Bond Street and Clifton Drive unserved, so Easyway started route 54 on an hourly basis running from Town Centre (Market Street) to Lindale Gardens via Bloomfield Road, Bond Street, Clifton Drive and Highfield Road. This needed one bus. It started on 20 June between 830 and 1600 with an expanded service from 0700 to 1900 from 18th July. Betwen 0818 and 1518 buses showed 54A and ran via Bond Street, and before/after and on Sundays they showed 54 and ran via Lytham Road.
Leopard L49 working route 54 no Lytham Road - July 1988 (Brian Turner)
In November the 54 was dramatically expanded. It now ran half hourly as a circular. It started at Booths on Highfield Road then via Lindale Gadens, Highfield Road, Lytham Road to Manchester Square, Promenade, Town Centre, Talbot Road to Layton Square then back via Devonshire Road, Whitegate Drive, Waterloo Road, Marton Drive, Highfield Road, Lindale Gardens, Common Edge Road and back to Booths. The 54A ran the reverse route. One trip per hour served Clifton Drive -showing 54B in both directions! An hourly Sunday service was provided. 

Four buses were now needed, plus the two on route 53 and two AEC Swifts were purchased from Great Yarmouth (PEK168/73K). These retained GY blue and white, contrasting with the red Bristols and green Leopards. The circular was not a success and was cut back to run Layton-Lindale Gardens by Christmas and ended completely in February. The Swifts moved on, with 168 running in Leeds and 173 in Middlesborough. 

Easyway were back to their original 53, but trouble loomed again and in November 1989 the Traffic Commissioner revoked their license. Blackpool Transport immediately stepped in and took over the 53 on 25 November 1989 initially using double deckers but with new Optare Deltas allocated from March which made a change from the eclectic 70s stock of Easyway.

Enter Town Bus
Blackpool Transport's 53 saw a few modifications. In April 1990 it was diverted away from Royal Oak via Highfield Road, St. Annes Road and Marton Drive between the Airport and Spen Corner. It was also diverted via Mereside Estate, Great Marton, Stanley Park and Newton Drive. The Sunday service was withdrawn with Lancashire County Council funding a replacement which was awarded to Fylde. They initially used minibuses, but full sized buses later took over.

In June 1990 the Marton Drive route was dropped, in favour of the original routing (except for the Fylde Sunday service). The service was also diverted via Mereside Tesco and returned to the former route along East Park Drive. 

Meanwhile, some of the Easyway fleet had remained at their Princess Street depot. The two Bristol REs had gone for scrap, but the two ex WY Leopards JWU248/9N and at least one coach remained (RHN887R).  The son of the proprietor succeeded in getting a license and began to trade as Town Bus. On 24 August 1990 Town Bus resumed the former Easyway 53 route, but numbered 53A to reflect the differences with the BT route. It ran Monday to Saturday only initially five minutes in front of the 53, but quickly retimed to run on the opposite half hour. This didn't last and soon the previous times were reintroduced. The two Leopards reappeared, by now with red lower panels. A Willowbrook bodied Leopard (XCK220R) completed the initial fleet. A third, ex WY Leopard LUG515P later joined the fleet by 1992. After a period running from Princess Street, they moved to premises on Poulton Industrial Estate.

With a competitor five minutes in front, BTS decided to pull out and withdrew the 53 in July 1991, but extended service 6 from Grange Park to Poulton every 30 minutes covering what it felt to be the strongest part of the service. The Fylde tendered service carried on until April 1994. For a while one early morning 53 continued Monday to Friday at 0700 from the Airport to Poulton Industrial Estate operated initially by Carriages and later by Archway on behalf of LCC. 

Town Bus re-routed the 53A to run along Whitegate Drive and Newton Drive in 1994 and this prompted Blackpool Transport to run a duplicate service from Airport to Victoria Hospital five minutes in front! This ran from 21 February to 15 July 1994 by which time Town Bus had reverted back to the old route.

Leopards 248 and 516 were withdrawn in 1993, but 248 later reappeared in 1994 with 249 departing instead. Briefly in 1993 Leyland Cub C813KBT operated on the 53A but was soon replaced by new to GM Buses Dodge C829KBU. Town Bus then began to pick up school contracts and decided to pull out of its original route, ending the 53A in September 1995. It had a brief period of operating service 15 Blackpool to Staining on a tender after Blackpool withdrew it in October 1995, but Fylde (by then a Blackpool subsidiary) registered it commercially in April 1996. Town Bus also operated the 89 from Knott End to Lancaster in 1994.

Town Bus continued to focus on schools. In 1996 it was operating several double deckers in a larger fleet:
  • THX566/9S - new to London Fleetlines had arrived from Midland Fox
  • KON366P and NOC450R were more Fleetlines but new to West Midlands
  • OCS114R was a new to A1 service Fleetline 
  • HOR314N was a new to Portsmouth Atlantean
  • NRN404P was an ex Ribble Atlantean bought from Hyndburn
  • VKW999S was a Bedford coach
  • C829CBU the Dodge bought earleir
  • D122NON was a new to Bee Line Buzz Sherpa
In Summer 1996 Atlanteans ONF698R, RJA709/19R and Leopard GLS265N arrived, repalcing the Fleetlines. Various coaches were also owned. Town Bus fell foul of the regulator as they were banned due to maintenance issues following an incident at Preesall where school children had to leave the bus and help push it up a hill.

The Phoenix Era

When Town Bus ended their 53A, Fylde took over on an emergency contract from LCC. By this time the Saturday service had dropped to 2 hourly but the weekday service stayed hourly. Fylde used two minibuses. 
Phoenix 803 working the extended 53A to St. Annes on 19 July 1997 (Brian Turner)
A new operate then entered the scene. Phoenix North West was formed by two industry managers and entered an agreement to use the Blackpool Transport Handybus brand. It bought a handful of Mercedes Minibuses and took over the operating centre of RM Coaches on Squires Gate industrial estate, replacing RM's contract for service 185 (Blackpool to Kirkham). Town Bus also took over the 53 from January 1995 on a commercial basis, increasing to every 30 minutes and revising the route to run via various local roads on the established corridor. Some journeys showed 53A

Fylde providing fueling facilities and the fleet was numbered in an 8xx series which helped BTS identify third party vehicles in the fuelling system. 801-3 (H611-3CGG), 804 (H804SFP) and 808 (J608KGB) carried Handybus livery while brand new 805 (N295DWE) retained plan white.

Phoenix extended the 53/A to St. Annes in September 1996 and later linked it to the 180/2 between Poulton and Preston - making a lengthy interworked service. Various tendered services were also taken on which took them as far as Lancaster and Southport. Sadly Phoenix ceased trading in April 2001. By this time the 53 had been reduced to hourly and withdrawn between Halfway House and St. Annes. Service 10 (Cleveleys to Hospital) had been extended to Halfway House to maintain the half hourly headway on this section. 

Once again BTS picked up the replacement service keeping both the 10 and 53 going until a network review saw the replacement of the 53 with a revised 9 (Poulton to Mereside) in November 2001. The 9 itself ended six months later, partly replaced by service 2. After over 15 years and the 53 had finally ebbed away having seen off three of the Fylde's independents.

Friday 20 October 2017

Ansdell and Fairhaven Diversion

The closure of Blackpool Road in Ansdell for resurfacing has prompted some lengthy diversions. Here Coastal Coaches Solo "Master Pete" heads through the junction at the White Church on 17 October 2017, having missed out South Park from its route. (Brian Turner)

BTS DAF 365 passes the 1923 Shelter at Fairhaven on route 11 on 12 October. At this time the 11 was diverted via Cambridge Road, Clifton Drive South and St. Thomas Road, missing out most of Ansdell (Brian Turner)

Later in the week, the diversion was extended to Fairlawn Road. Here Enviro 432 turns from Church Road onto Fairlawn Road on the 11 on 17th October (Brian Turner)

Stagecoach Enviro 300 27715, branded for route 3 but on the 68 passes the old tram shelter on 17th October. Stagecoach omitted much of St. Annes too as their buses ran straight down Clifton Drive to St. Annes Square (Brian Turner)

Stagecoach also used Fairlawn Road from the start of the diversion, here Enviro 400 15839 turns from Fairlawn Road onto Clifton Drive on 10th October (Brian Turner)

Trident 332 is let of out Fairlawn Road by DAF 369 which would shortly turn left. The 7 diversion was short, just leaving Cambridge Drive unserved (Brian Turner)

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Lights Diversions in Camera

Enviro 412 at the temporary Friday/ Saturday evening terminus for service 11 on Abingdon Street on 14 October (Brian Turner)
Solo 294, still carrying the Resort Hopper advert, stands at the temporary terminus of service 2 in the pedestrianised  St John's Square (Brian Turner)

Heritage livery 524 on route 17 stands at the temporary stop with a pair of double deckers on the 15 and 7 behind. The 15 is working the first of two evening journeys on service 15 that terminate at Harbour Hospital near Mereside - this was the 1900 departure on Saturday. (Brian Turner)