Friday 17 November 2017

Lytham Gearless Lion Returns

Lion 34 on Clifton Drive North in St. Annes (David Umpleby)
The Lancastrian Transport Trust's 1936 Gearless Leyland Lion 34 is nearing a return to use. 34 ran with Lytham St. Annes from 1936 to 1957 and was then preserved passing through various owners until it was purchased by Fylde Transport - the successor to Lytham St. Annes in 1988. After a three year restoration it returned to use in 1992. 'Use' was mainly on private hires and the occasional bus rally, though it sometimes worked free event services and even put in a turn on service 21 from Blackpool Zoo once Blackpool Transport had taken over Fylde.

BTS retired it in 2006, as it needed further attention and it was purchased for LTT in July 2008. Recently work to reactivate it, with new seat cushions, repairs to the interior bodywork and a full repaint have culminated with repairs to the vacuum brake system. Some local test runs had taken place, but on Wednesday 34 was taken for a longer run reaching both St. Annes and Blackpool Town Centres. 34 will be joining the Catch 22 Bus hire fleet for 2018, though restricted to Fylde Coast hires

In other Catch 22 news, withdrawn Darts 466 and 617 have passed into preservation. One of the two ex First Bristol Volvo B6s has returned to use (812) - the other is still stored (813). A fourth Routemaster has been purchased, with RML2290 rejoining the fleet - it had formed part of the original Classic Bus operation back in 2007 on hire from Graham Oliver and was used on Seafront service 12 in 2012, leaving in early 2013 on sale to Ensignbus. It has spent much of the intervening period in Cornwall.

Lion 34 stands in St. Annes Square, about to be passed by a Blackpool Transport DAF (David Umpleby)

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Squires Gate Depot to Return?; Tridents for Sale; Sold Solo Update

Squires Gate Depot to Return?
The recent release of a masterplan for Blackpool Airport, now in Blackpool Council ownership includes a proposal for the long rumoured relocation of Blackpool Transport's bus depot from Rigby Road to the enterprise zone at the Airport. This is, of course, merely a proposal - but the document suggests there are limited alternatives. The new site would be at the opposite end of Squires Gate Lane from the former Fylde Squires Gate depot closed in 1999.

Tridents for Sale
The withdrawn ex Isle of Man Dennis Tridents have been re-advertised on Facebook by Chartwell Bus and Coach Sales at £9,000.

Sold Solo Update
Recently sold Sold Solos 254, 256, 258 and 260 are now registered C17BUS to C20BUS and are in service with Newbury and District in their red and black livery. Sisters 251/2 are C15/6BUS - but have not yet been reported in use.

Not previously reported is the sale of 285 from a local owner to Easyway, Bridgend as BW53BUS - note this is the third Solo to carry this identity according to Flickr!

Rail Replacement

Enviro 448 picks up customers at Poulton-le-Fylde railway station on its way to Preston

Enviro 451 heads through the new exit from North station specially for Rail Replacement Buses (Paul Turner)

Meanwhile Solo 241 waits time outside the Library on Abingdon Street, due to Town Centre diversions. Note that the temporary stop shows Line 3 and Line 4 - a throwback to the Metro Coastlines era (Paul Turner)

Enviro 441 on the direct service leads 451 on the stopping service at 1200 (Paul Turner)

455 pulls onto stand for the 1215 departure while 448 arrives from Preston (Paul Turner)

Sunday 12 November 2017

Changed Lifestyle

The second Lifestyle Line identity was blue and yellow as previously used on Line 10. The aim of the service was to link housing areas (such as Mereside here) with shopping, work and health facilities away from the Town Centre (Brian Turner)
Back in 2001 Blackpool Borough Council was awarded a grant a grant of £809,225 from the Department of Transport's Urban Bus Challenge. This was to purchase six Optare Solos and provide revenue support for a new bus service from Morrisons near Halfway House to Norcross Government Offices near Thornton. Blackpool Transport was awarded the contract and the six Solos arrived during May/June 2002 and were initially kept in storage at the Council's Layton yard. They moved to Rigby Road in late June and the service commenced on 8 July. It started at Norcross and ran via Norcross Lane, Whiteholme Road, Ashfield Rd, Kincraig Road, Moor Park Avenue, Bispham Road, Plymouth Road, Garstang Road, Dinmore Avenue, Easington Cres, Dinmore Avenue, Tarnbrook Drive, Newton Drive, Hospital, East Park Drive, South Park Drive, Preston New Road, Kentmere Road, Langdale Rd, Clifton Rd, Tesco, Clifton Rd, Cherry Tree Rd, Midgeland Rd, Highfield Road, St. Annes Rd to Halfway House. Initially it terminated on Amy Johnson Way but was later extended into Morrisons. The route was largely new but helped replace services 8/9/10 linking South Shore and Mereside; and Mereside with Victoria Hospital which had been withdrawn a few months before.
The original Solos carried this uninspiring Blackpool Council livery, strangely devoid of promotional material for the new route with just the "Lifestyle Line" name carried. (Brian Turner)
A half hourly service was provided using four Solos until c2100 with an hourly Saturday service until c1900. The six buses were allocated fleet numbers 277-282 (YG02FWH, YG02FVP/R/S/T/U), but 277 remained in store as having two licensed spares was excessive. Buses carried the council red and cream livery with Lifestyle Line branding and the route was numbered L1

The L1 terminated on Blundell Street behind the Somerfield Store and adjacent to the bus and tram depot, here 278 heads up Hopton Road, where in a previous era vast numbers of express coaches would be arriving at the Coliseum Coach Station (Brian Turner)
A second successful Urban Bus Challenge bid in 2002 saw a further £865,600 awarded to Blackpool and Lancashire County Councils in partnership. This saw two more Solos arrive - owned by LCC according to legal lettering - as 283/4 (PN03UGG/H). The service was extended from 1 June 2003 from Norcross to Fleetwood with buses running from Rossall Point via The Esplanade, Queens Terrace, Dock Street, Freeport, Station Road, Copse Road, Stanley Road, Radcliffe Road (back Radcliffe Rd to Station Rd), Hatfield Avenue, Highbury Avenue, Poulton Road, Beach Road, Fleetwood Road, Amounderness Way, Victoria Road East, Alexandra Road, Belvedere Road, Hawthorne Road, Beechwood Drive, Fleetwood Road South, Norcross Lane and as before. The route was also extended from Morrisons via Squires Gate Lane, Lytham Road, Harrowside, Clifton Drive, Burlington Road West, Bond Street, Station Road, Lytham Road, Hopton Road, Blundell St to Somerfield Supermarket. Seven buses were now needed with a half hourly service Monday to Saturday until about 2200. An hourly Sunday service was also started. In addition to 283/4, 277 entered service on 1 June, but within a few days was re-registered PL03BPZ as it could now legitimately carry an 03 plate rather than the 02 one.

Minor route changes had seen a diversion via Fulwood Square and St Walburgas Road between Grange Park instead of Tarnbrook Drive and Newton Drive and the Hospital and, in January 2003, a short diversion to serve the Maternity Unit at the Hospital was introduced replacing Line 5.
Handybus liveried Solo 276 stands in for a defective branded Solo near Tesco in March 2004 (Brian Turner)
The service continued to grow and it was necessary to introduce an extra peak journey at 0753 from Mereside to Norcross in November 2004. This was operated by a Line 15 Metrorider - a rare example of a scheduled allocation of a route branded bus to another service. Metroriders rarely appeared on other L1 journeys - Handybus and later pool liveried Solos were the common substitutes for 277-284. Further minor changes saw the L1 diverted via Acre Gate and Lennox Gate in December 2005 - to replace the 2A - and via the perimeter road at Victoria Hospital in May 2006.

Seeing double: Solo 289 on the routine workings overtakes Olympian 370 on the school peak working from Norcross to Manchester Square at Halfway House (Brian Turner)
Continued growth in passengers started to result in capacity issues around school and work peak times. As a result two school day only workings were added using double deckers from January 2007: 0835 from Hospital to Norcross using a bus from a St Mary's School special and 1532 from Norcross to Manchester Square. The L1 had improved in performance to such an extent that it was close to commercial viability once the Urban Bus Challenge subsidy ended. 

It was decided to upgrade the service using larger 33 seat Solos to replace the original 29 seaters and relaunch the service as part of the Metro network. Eight new Solos were ordered, six funded by Blackpool Council and two by LCC, though BTS undertook to purchase the existing eight from the councils, partially offseting the extra capaital needed. 

The route was extended to start at Blackpool Market Street via the Promenade to Manchester Square. It was also extended into Blackpool Business Park; removed from Acre Gate and Lennox Gate. From Victoria Road East it was diverted into Cleveleys then via Rossall Road, West Drive, Fleetwood Road to take up its former route at Hatfield Road. It no longer ran into Freeport, however. A half hourly service ran during the day using 8 buses, while in the early evening and on Sunday an hourly service used four buses. The extra short workings continued, though oddly still as L1s for a while.

Brand new Solo 293 crests Plymouth Road bridge on its way to Blackpool in April 2007 (Brian Turner)
Unfortunately not all of the eight new buses (286-293) were ready. On the first day 286-290 were in use and possibly 291 too. The other two workings used the L1 liveried buses one of which was 280. Unfortunately their electronic destinations had not been reprogrammed so these still showed L1! 292/3 entered service later in the week and the original Solos were progressively repainted into pool or line 2 livery. Extra peak running time was added in November 2008 and the three extra journeys at 0753 from Tesco, 0835 from Hospital and the 1525 ex Collegiate which used to be the 1532 from Norcross - were renumbered 116 to differentiate from the low floor workings. The 116 was progressively reduced with the afternoon journey going in April 2009 and the rest by February 2010.

September 2009 saw the section from Cleveleys to Fleetwood withdrawn as LCC awarded a contract to Stagecoach for a replacement service (74). Buses 286/7 were rebanded as Line 2 buses as a result. The route was also re-routed via Lytham Road rather than Bond Street/Clifton Drive. February 2010 saw the limited evening service withdrawn and the Saturday service reduced to hourly. With the end of route branding and the major network review from 26 July 2010 the 16 was radically changed as it now ran from Blackpool North Station via the former 2 route (Church St, Whitegate Drive, Waterloo Road) to Royal Oak, then along Bond St, Clifton Drive and Harrowside before running the full length of Highfield Road. It now missed out its original terminus at Morrisons. Its route to Cleveleys from Highfield Road was largely the same, save for a diversion via Fleetwood Road between Norcross and Thornton Four Lane Ends. 7 buses were needed for the half hourly Monday to Friday service and 4 for the hourly Saturday and Sunday service.
The circuitous nature of the 16 saw buses displaying Fleetwood heading down Lytham Road in completely the opposite direction than one would expect. (Brian Turner)

Although no longer known as the Lifestyle Line - the 16 is one of the few Urban Bus Challenge services to survive after its funding expired. It is still recognisable from its original service - save for the Morrisons to Highfield Road section, though it has seen several revisions. It also provides a replacement for the former Marton tram route with just two buses per hour (one at weekends and non in the evening) along Waterloo Road - a sad contrast to the era of a three minute tram service in the 1950s.
Solo 248, in line 5 livery works a 16 to Poulton in 2012 at Mereside Tesco (Brian Turner)

The 16 was diverted in July 2012 to run to Poulton instead of Cleveleys, also serving Bispham Library, Ashfield Road, Bispham College, Norcross Lane and Castle Gardens - it was soon diverted via Kincraig Avenue and Faraday Way. For a few months from January to May 2013, the 16 terminated at Castle Gardens due to a bridge closure in Poulton. From September 2013 the 16 served Preston Old Road, Lancaster Road and Lawson Road in Great Marton but missed out most of Grange Park Estate, serving Chepstow Road from Fulwood Square to Poulton Road, but not Dinmore Avenue.

The 16 ended in this format on 27 June 2015, with new circular services 12/13 and 15/16 starting the following day. The 12/13 covered the northern section from Victoria Hospital to Poulton - returning via the traditional 2 route - both continued from Hospital to Blackpool via Newton Drive. The new 16 ran over its current route from Blackpool to Tesco except it was diverted via Stanley Park instead of Whitegate Drive; then via Marton Mere Park, Preston New Road, East Park Drive and Zoo to Hospital then Newton Drive to Blackpool. The 15 ran the reverse. It ran every 30 minutes M-S and hourly Sundays. There was a limited evening service to Marton Mere (out as 15 back as 16) and this later extended to Harbour Hospital.
The rural part of the 15/16 as 294 reaches the end of Chain Lane from Staining (Brian Turner)
In April 2016 the 15/16 was diverted with buses now running from Mereside back to Blackpool via Marton Mere, Staining, Hospital, Zoo, Stanley Park - and returned to using Whitegate Drive between Devonshire and Oxford Squares. For winter 2016/7 the service was reduced to hourly, except at peak times when it remained every 30 minutes. It returned to half hourly for the summer 2017 season. The 12/13 ended in April 2016, the final link with the northern end of the Lifestyle Line, save for one school journey which remains today.

The 15/16 ended on 4 November 2017 with new services 18 Blackpool to Mereside via South Shore and 19 Blackpool to Staining replacing the service. The new 18 reinstates the link to Halfway House - therefore covers the original Mereside to Halfway House section of the L1 and its later extension as far as Royal Oak. There is now no direct link from Mereside to Victoria Hospital.
The last summer of the 15/16 saw double deckers dominate the allocation - here 369 heads through St Johns Square while on diversion (Paul Turner)

First day on the railways

Today was the first day of the rail replacement services to Blackpool North. Reported sightings of all 20 Enviros have been received indicating some changeovers during the day. BTS has 13 all stops and 5 direct workings with 7 coaches from Tyrers, Avacoach and Atlantic Travel also noted on direct workings. G Line and Archway provided coaches for the hourly South line workings.

Observations and reports show arrangements at North station including a new entrance next to Sainsbury’s petrol station and extra layover bays provided there. At Preston there are three dedicated stops in the Butler Street car park with buses laying over in the parking bays. Dropping off is reportedly done on Fishergate. Layton stop is on Benson Road, the Blackpool bound service 9 stop is used in both directions, the stop opposite Poulton station is used in both directions too, while Blackpool bound buses stop across the road from Kirkham station. Preston buses use the stop on the same side as the station entrance.

The new Enviros have three fewer seats on the lower deck. Its worth clarifying the layout on all three batches as they have been widely reported - included here - with incorrect seat layouts! 

  • 401 to 410 of 2016 seat 74 with 45 up and 29 down. All upper deck seats face forward. Downstairs there are 5 inward and 1 rear facing tip up seats, the remainder are fixed seats with 4 reward facing ones
  • 411 to 435 of spring 2017 seat 72 with 43 up and 29 down. There are three tables upstairs which mean six seats face backwards. The lower deck matches the earlier buses. 
  • 436 to 455 of autumn 2017 set 69 (43/26) - the upper deck matches 411 to 435 but there are now tip up seats on the offside which explains the difference in capacity. 436 to 442 have a luggage pen on the offside, while 443 to 455 don't.
Thanks to Mike Wilson for helping get to the bottom of this!

Thursday 9 November 2017


Ex Bus Vannin Trident 353 approaches Victoria Hospital on new service 19 on Wednesday 8th November
With the new service pattern now in place a few observations have been made of new allocations. Many thanks to David Smith for sharing some of this information. The 1 bus operation of service 19 started with a Solo on Sunday, with double deckers since, including Trident 353 on Wednesday. 

The Enviro 400s have continued on services 9, 11 and 14 and still share the 6 with Centros - Wednesday saw 5 DDs and 3 Centros. New route 18 had a mixed allocation on Wednesday of Solos 243 and 245 and Volvo B7RLE 520 and 524. Service 17 had B7RLE/Wright 521/523 and two Centros. Centros 532/3 were noted alongside Citaros on service 5.

Former Blackpool Olympian 375 has now been completed by Blackpool Design Coachworks for Delves Infant and Nursey School, Walsall as a library.

Sunday 5 November 2017

Morton's Travel

Adrian Morton, owner of Morton's Travel of Tadley, Hampshire has very kindly sent some photos of his refurbished ex Blackpool, new to Blackburn Tridents. Former 335 entered service six weeks ago and is now registered E13 BUS, with 333 arriving on Saturday from certification, and will enter service soon with new registration F13BUS. Adrian also has former Blackpool, new to Reading, Excel 225 in stock, its currently used occasionally as a spare bus.

The Tridents join a fleet of high capacity high quality double deckers and coaches used on school contracts, private hires and rail replacement work.

Morton's E13BUS, former Blackpool 335 and new as Blackburn 3 in Morton's stylish livery (Steve Foster)

The before shot: Trident 335 in service in Blackpool (Adrian Morton)

Refurbishment work has seen new coach seats with belts fitted in 333/335 (Adrian Morton)

A before interior of the Tridents (Adrian Morton)
And finally. Former Excel 225 is seen on Sunday 17th September at Reading Northern Interchange operating an all stations rail replacement service to Basingstoke on behalf of Great Western Railway. Apart from a deep clean and MOT 225 remains, at present, in as acquired condition and sees only minimal use as a spare vehicle. (Adrian Morton)
Many thanks for Adrian for taking the trouble to get in touch and share these photos.

Farewell to the Southern Circular

Yesterday marked the end of the Southern Circulars 15/16. Their replacements, 18 and 19 leave the section of route between Mythop Road and Staining unserved, so here are a few 'last week' photos. Ex Bus Vannin DAF 361 swings round ready to take the sharp left turn from Mythop Road into Chain Lane on 4th November while working a 16 (Brian Turner)

Marton Mere will be devoid of  buses this winter as service 20 also finishes today. Yesterday DAF 363 waits time on a 15 (Brian Turner)

And sister 364 calls in on a 16 (Brian Turner) 

The Circulars used a range of buses. DDs were common in the summer, Solos in the winter and the Volvo B7RLEs often appeared too. Here is 245 on 2nd November on Chain Lane (Brian Turner)

There were a number of spots where the circulars ran in the same direction - other than the Town Centre, Mereside Tesco, Victoria Hospital and Blackpool Zoo feature one way workings as does Marton Mere here. New to Blackpool Trident 331 on a 16, leads ex Manx Trident 353 out of the park on 2nd November (Brian Turner)

Ambling through the countryside, Trident 327 on Chain Lane, service 16 2nd November (Brian Turner)

A candidate for imminent withdrawal, ex IOM 350 turns form Chain Lane onto Mythop Road on the 15 on 2 November (Brian Turner)

Sister 353 approaches the same junction on 30 October (Brian Turner)

Saturday 4 November 2017

Fleet Update

The 20 new buses are now all believed to be in stock. They differ from the previous batches as they seat 69 (v 74 for 401-10 and 72 for 411-435). 436 to 442 also have a small additional luggage pen on the lower deck. A different seat supplier has been used. Visually the only difference is some yellow relief on the front end.

It is expected these will enter service next Saturday on the Blackpool North to Preston rail replacement. It is understood BTS is providing most of the 'stopping' services via Layton, Poutlon and Kirkham & Wesham with 13 buses needed for this. BTS are also providing about 5 workings on the non stop Blackpool North to Preston workings alongside other operators.

Solo 293 is now withdrawn, the first of the 2007 batch delivered for Line 16. This suffered front end damaged recently and is not to be repaired. Currently the Solo fleet comprises:

  • 240-246 - the 7 bought for Line 2 in 2009
  • 247/8, 294-7 - the 6 bought in 2008 for Lines 2 (247), 5 (248) or 3
  • 253 - the sole survivor of the 12 bought in 2004 for Lines 3 and 5
  • 286 to 292 - 7 of the 8 bought for the 16 in 2007.

Tram Enabling Works - Town Centre Diversions

Two significant junctions on the bus network will be closed from 13 November, requiring significant diversions. The Talbot Square junction (Promenade/Talbot Road) and the Talbot Road/Dickson Road junctions are closed. This is for enabling work for the new tram route to Blackpool North Station involving diversion of utilities under the road surface.

Most significant impact is on Promenade service 1. This is split into two services. The northern section will commence on Queen Street outside the Library and run via Dickson Road and Pleasant Street where it will pick up its normal route. Buses from Fleetwood will turn off the Prom at Springfield Road then onto Abingdon Street and Queen Street. This will run every 30 minutes.

The southern section is reduced to an hourly service running from Starr Gate to Adelaide Street terminating at the 20 terminus. The bus then returns via Bank Hey Street, Central Drive and Chapel Street to the Promenade.

The 2, 2C, 18 and 19 (plus school route 12) will now use Abingdon Street as a terminus instead of Corporation Street. They will approach the terminus from Church Street via St. Johns's Square and won't serve Topping Street. Outward journeys will turn left onto Talbot Road, left onto Clifton Street, right onto Abingdon Street and back through St John's Square, Caunce Street, Grosvenor Street and Church Street. While St John's Square has been used by services in the inward direction during the Illuminations this is the first time it has been used bidirectionally since it was pedestrianised.

The 3 and 4 northbound have a simple diversion, at Topping Street they turn right into Deansgate, Cookson Street, Talbot Road, High Street and Springfield Road with a new stop before turning onto Dickson Road as normal. Southbound is much more complex as the route will not serve Gynn Square either. At Warbreck Drive, the routes turn left onto Warbreck Hill Road then Links Road and Warley Road to rejoin the normal route at Westminster Road. From Pleasant Street, the buses cross onto the Promenade, then Springfield Road, Abingdon Street, Queen Street, Dickson Road, Springfield Road, High Street, Talbot Road, Buchanan Street, George Street, Grosvenor Street and as normal to Mereside. Stops will be on Abingdon Street outside the library and Springfield Road opposite Funny Girls.

The 5, 6 and 7 northbound from Central Drive follow Albert Road, with a stop near McDonalds, Regent Road, Church Street, Topping Street (main town centre stop), then Deansgate, Cookson Street and Talbot Road with the 6 then via Buchanan Street, George Street, Grosvenor Street. Southbound Market Street is accessible until 1900, so the 5/7 run via Buchanan Street, George Street, Grosvenor Street where the 6 joins and all run through St Johns Square, Abingdon Street, Talbot Road to Market Street and as normal. After 1900 they turn off Church St onto South King Street, Adelaide Street, Coronation Street, Reads Avenue to Central Drive. Neither Market Street or Bank Hey Street will be served with stops on Church Street and Coronation Street instead.

The 9 and 14 will terminate on Clifton Street. They will approach via Buchanan Street, Grosvenor Street and St Johns Square, returning via St Johns Square, Caunce Street and Cookson Street

The 11 and 17 will terminate at Market Street as normal until 1900, but will access via Church Street and Corporation Street. After 1900 they will terminate on Bank Hey Street, returning via Central Drive and, for the 11, Chapel Street.

Map link here

Thursday 2 November 2017

Trident disposal update

A post today by Mike Sandham on the Blackpool's Trams and Buses Facebook group has shown former 336 with Dews Coaches of Somersham. This had been rumored to be with Selby, Stockdale - but this is clearly not the case.

So far only six withdrawn Tridents have gone for further use - the younger long wheel base examples:

  • 333 with Mortons Travel of Basingstoke, refurbished and reseated with 94 coach seats still PN52XKF presently, but expected to be re-registered
  • 334 with Selby, Stockdale
  • 335 with Mortons as 333 and now registered (E13BUS)
  • 336 with Dews, Somersham
  • 337 with Selby, Stockdale
  • 342 with UK Coachways/Vision Bus, Bolton
The ex Blue Triangle (338-341) and ex Bus Vannin (343-348) Tridents remain in store.