Monday 26 February 2018

Service Changes - back on Squires Gate, gone from Commonside

Blackpool Transport has confirmed that services 7 and 11 will revert to their established routes on Squires Gate Lane from 25 March. They will retain their current frequencies (20 mins and 15 mins resp). As a result the 18 will be diverted to run via Bond Street, Clifton Drive, Squires Gate Lane and Lytham Road between Royal Oak and Highfield Road. However the frequency will reduce from half hourly to hourly. Additionally service 17 will be retimed and revert to a 3 bus 90 minute round trip, due to the lower traffic levels once Squires Gate bridge reopens. Overall 4 buses will be saved. 

Service 20 (Marton Mere to Blackpool) will resume for its summer season from 25th March, working weekends and school holiday weekdays. For 2018 the timetable runs without the previous mid day break with trips 0900-1800 from Marton Mere and 0915-1745 from Town Centre using 3 buses. 

Stagecoach will also be changing the 68 from 26 March. This will also revert to running via Squires Gate Lane, but will also change route in Ansdell, matching Blackpool's 11 route via Blackpool Road and Albany Road rather than Commonside. This will bring an end to this section of the pioneer local bus route in Lytham St. Annes. It first started in 1923, and apart from a suspension from 1926 to 1928 it has been served continuously since the start of 1929. Sadly this seems another 'triumph' for car parking v accessibility for local buses. The 11 stop on Blackpool Road near the Blossoms Pub is far less convenient for most facilities than the Commonside stop. Presently college sevrice 853 (St. Annes to Myrescough by Preston Bus) and 916 (St. Annes Queens Manor to Lytham St Bedes by Bank View) also serve Commonside

Saturday 24 February 2018

570 marks 30 years since the end of the Swifts

AEC Swift 570 heads south on service 21 to St. Annes at Bispham (Brian Turner)
The last week of February 1988 saw the final working of Blackpool Transport's AEC Swifts. Recently reactivated preserved 570 worked on Catch 22 Bus service 21 from Cleveleys to St. Annes today to mark the occasion. This is its third such duty this month - as a heritage bus it has exemption from accessibility rules providing it is not used on local service work for more than 20 days.

570 is part of the Fylde Transport Trust collection - this being the new name for the Lancastrian Transport Trust announced last week. Their new website and Facebook page are linked from the blog home page.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

February News Round-Up

Catch 22 Bus has acquired a further Dennis Dart from Cardiff Bus in the form of Y388GAX, which replaces Y386GAX which is now withdrawn. A timetable change from 7 April 2018 sees the withdrawal of the Sunday only Poulton to Knott End section of service 24. This was a credible attempt to maintain a commercial Sunday service to this community following the withdrawal of LCC support back in April 2016. Ironically one of the contributing factors is an abstraction of daytime passengers by service 75 since it was diverted via Cleveleys in December.  

Former Blackpool Swift 570 worked service 21 again on Saturday 10th February, one week after its first appearance. It is advertised again operating on 24th February on the following times:

  • From Cleveleys Bus Station at 1000, 1130, 1330, 1500 and 1630 (last trip to Pleasure Beach only)
  • From St. Annes Square at 1045, 1215, 1415 and 1545 
Blackpool and Stagecoach services change in Blackpool Town Centre from 19th February as Talbot Road is closed between Abingdon St and Dickson Road. The main changes are:

  • 2, 2C, 18 and 19 will terminate at Topping Street not Abingdon Street (in via Church St, onto Topping Street then return via Topping Street, right onto Talbot Road and as usual outbound route.
  • 5, 6 and 7 north will run as normal to Talbot Square then Clifton St, Abingdon St, St John Square, Topping Street and Talbot Road then as normal. 
  • Soutbound 5, 6 and 7 will run as normal to Talbot Road (Wilkos) then pick up at Market Street, presumably via Dickson Road, Springfield Road, Promenade and Talbot Square (note the 6 won't serve Topping Street)
  • The 9 and 14 still terminate at Queen Street and 3/4 southbound still use Abingdon St outside Library.
  • Stagecoach 42 and 61 will terminate at Talbot Road outside Wilkos. 

Not previously reported was the 3 and 4 regaining their northbound stop on Dickson Road from 5 Feb and also the addition of the stop outside Wilko on Talbot Road for outbound 9 and 14s because Dickson Road reopened and High Street closed.

Monday 5 February 2018

350 in Reading

Ex Blackpool Trident 350 at Reading Buses depot in base blue for a Reading Football Club livery (Reading Buses)

Saturday 3 February 2018

Tridents to Reading

Trident 349 is one of four heading to Reading. Here it passes the former Lytham tram waiting room in 2013  (Brian Turner)

Recently withdrawn new to Isle of Man Dennis Tridents 349 to 352 (E16BTS to E19BTS) have been sold to Reading Buses. 350 left on 25 January, with 349 leaving on 31 January and are being repainted at a contractor before delivery to Reading. They are expected to be used on football extras.

These are the latest buses to flow between Reading and Blackpool. This started in the 1996/7s. In 1994 a new local operator, Reading Mainline, introduced competing services using ex London Routemasters. Their fleet grew to around 40 buses and they acquired Blackpool's redundant Routemasters in 1997. 521 to 531/3 became Mainline 33 to 44, albeit not in order. Two (522/9) were not used, but the rest entered service in their red and cream livery - applied by BTS. 

Reading Buses responded with additional minibuses. This included five City Pacers purchased from Blackpool in late 1996. Pioneer 560 became 222, 556 to 558 became 223/19/21 and 566 became 218. This ran until late 1998 (except 556 which was withdrawn earlier). 

Reading Buses purchased Mainline in 1998 and progressively withdrew its inherited Routemasters, closing the unit on 22 July 2000. Ex Blackpool 526 became the last to operate.

Moving forward to 2008, Reading Buses was disposing its fleet of 64 Optare Excels after around 8 to 10 years service. 932 to 936 were sold to Blackpool Transport becoming 222 to 226. 225 became Blackpool's last Excel in 2016 and is now back in the home area with Morton's Travel of Basingstoke. 

Most recently Blackpool Solos 251/2/4/6/8/60 were sold to Newbury and District in West Berkshire.

A Swift Returns after 30 Years

570 awaits departure on the 1500 to St. Annes at Cleveleys Bus Station (Paul Turner)
Catch 22 Bus operated LTT's Blackpool AEC Swift 570 on its service 21 today. 570 has recently passed its first MOT for over ten years after mechanical attention and thus became the first native Blackpool Swift to run on a local bus service in the town for 30 years. Two ex Great Yarmouth Swifts ran for Easyway in 1988, giving a brief taste of Swift operation again.

55 Swifts were purchased between 1969 and 1975, 570 made its debut in April 1974 - one of the final batch of 30 purchased. Blackpool's Swifts had a relatively short life, though not untypical for Blackpool buses at that time with some PD3s and early Atlanteans also operating for 12/13 years. 19 Swifts remained in use at deregulation (October 1986) but these were whittled down during 1987 and a batch of second hand Leyland Nationals replaced the remainder with the last, 590, operating on 29 February 1988. 570 was laid up in December 1987. Wealden Omnibuses - a Kent dealer - acquired most of the last survivors including 570 which was sold onto Blue Saloon of Guildford where it ran from 1988 to 1992. It was purchased by Graham Oliver for preservation and returned to its second livery of green and off-white. It passed to LTT in 2003 and was repainted again in 2005, but was stored for most of the intervening years until overhauled and MOT'd this winter. 

It was nice to see a green and cream Swift back in use again - hopefully it can be repeated a few more times. Non accessible buses can be used up to 20 days each per year on local bus work and its on this basis that 570 ran today.

In other Catch 22 Bus news, Versa YJ61JHH has been reported on service 24 after a lengthy period out of service. Restoration is also progressing on LTT owned Blackpool PD2 346 (PFR346) - ironically the type replaced by Swifts in 1974/5 - with a new platform frameworked welded in. 

570 climbs Anchorsholme Lane - it would have regularly passed here on routes 25A and later 3/3A in its service life. (Paul Turner)