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 In February 1927, the circular was withdrawn and new route 5 (Gynn to Halfway House) covered the Warbreck Hill Road and Devonshire Road section, but used the more direct Talbot Road into the town centre.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.