Friday, 2 July 2021

100 years old

On Saturday 2nd July 1921 a Tilling Stevens single decker left Cleveleys Beach for Thornton Station and Blackpool Corporation became a bus operator. The Corporation itself first became a transport operator in 1892, when it took over the tram company and is believed to be the oldest council owned transport operation in Europe, if not the World.

Like the trams, bus operations tended to be started by private operators - indeed William Smith, a Blackpool councillor, had started Blackpool's first motor bus route from Layton tram terminus to Bispham in June 1920 and later added routes to Poulton and Staining plus local routes in South Shore and Fleetwood. In 1926/7 Smith's business was absorbed into the Corporation network which had expanded with its first Blackpool area route from Adelaide Place to Devonshire Road via Caunce Street in December 1922.

Starting with a route outside its boundary was unusual, but it was a product of an agreement which prevented the LMS from opening a branch from Thornton to Cleveleys. This also included a coal train service on the tramway from Thornton Gate to Fleetwood. The bus service linked the tramway at Cleveleys with Thornton Station and tended to use one bus at a time, sometimes with a second bus at peak times. 

It continued, with a brief extension to Burn Naze in 1927 until 1931. By this time Ribble had established a strong presence in the Fleetwood, Cleveleys and Thornton area and the Corporation had built up larger network centred on Blackpool. Route numbers had been allocated in 1927 and the pioneer service was given the somewhat dismissive number 13. It had grown to a 15 minute frequency by 1930 but ended on 20th December 1931, with Ribble taking over and integrating into its own network. Today the main link is provided by Coastliner buses 24 - though with a few diversions through residential areas that didn't exist in the 20s - and Blackpool's 75 which sticks to the main Victoria Road like the 13 did.