Tuesday 26 December 2023

'Reimagined Routes'

 This blog has ground to a halt simply because there is little worthy of reporting on however its worth a post to record a curious network change to Blackpool Transport's services from Sunday 7th January.

Why curious? Well the change is being promoted as "Your Routes Reimagined" and there is both lots changing, yet little changing at the same time. After over 20 years of a simple straightforward network with little variation, the change introduces several suffices and route variations. 

In an exercise representative of an ill-fated change in Bournemouth many routes are renumbered without change and corridors grouped, sometimes having to change numbers midway to complete this. Sometimes the groupings are tenuous - eg the 5C having little in common with the 5, 5A, 5B and the 11B likewise with 11/11A.  The 5 gets different suffixes for different termini, the 6 gets three southern termini but no suffixes!  Long standing routes 2 and 9 disappear, not for the first time. 

Changes are summarised by existing route number:

1 (Fleetwood to Blackpool) minor route cut back to North Pier rather than Tower. Presumably this means it can turn via Market Street rather than Central Drive/Chapel Street. It will run hourly daily with 2 buses. During the summer extra hourly buses will run from Cleveleys to St. Annes Square as they did this year but will be numbered 1A. This makes a 30 minute Cleveleys to North Pier service. Oddly this appears in the new timetables as starting 7th January but the accompanying news item says its summer only.

2 (Poulton to Blackpool). This is withdrawn and replaced by an extended 5 between Hospital and Poulton. Route 5C (the current 2C) will be the only BTS service along Newton Drive from Devonshire Square to Hospital with one bus every 40 minutes, rather than four per hour as present. On school days an "X2" bus will run over the current 2 route at 8am from Abingdon Street and 3pm from Poulton.

2C (Knott End to Blackpool). Renumbered 5C and cut down to every 40 minutes from every 30 minutes. PVR=4. The renumbering is to "group" the service with the 5s, with a selling point that any 5 goes to the Hospital from Blackpool. All well and good, but from the Hospitals, 5s could take you in multiple directions! The logic of grouping the 5C with the 5/A/B is flimsy as there is no route section in common - it takes a different route Blackpool to Hospital and Hospital to Poulton. There is no hope of co-ordination of the 40 minute with the 15 minute 5/A/B.

3 and 4 (Cleveleys to Mereside). The 4 is renumbered 3A, despite having very little commonality with the 3. The Cleveleys to Cleveleys Park loop switches from the 3 to 3A. Only Bispham Hotel to Gynn Square and the last few stops at Mereside are common yet the pair of half hourly services are timed such as they leave Bispham with alternate 10/20 minute intervals! The 3 loses its evening services, though the 3A keeps it. That means there is no service on Park Road in the evening, despite Whitegate Drive also having Stagecoach's 61 operating. 10 buses are required. An 11th bus works a 3A at 809 Bispham to Mereside and 324pm back from the Saddle to Cleveleys Park. 

5 (Halfway House to Hospital). A rare good news is the increase of the 5 to every 15 minutes between Halfway House and Victoria Hospital from every 20 minutes. However the simplicity of this service - a 2001 Metro creation, then every 10 minutes is eroded by the creation of sub routes 5A and 5B. The 5 itself will extend over the current 2 route every 30 minutes (Mon-Sat daytime) and hourly (Sunday daytimes). Curiously it runs every 30 minutes through to Poulton on weekday evenings, meaning this section gets a better Sunday evening service than in the day. The 5A runs hourly Mon-Sat daytime only replacing the 15 to Staining, while the new 5B, with shades of the prederegulation 23/23A runs hourly beyond the Hospital to the Zoo hourly every day - daytime only.

Collectively 9 buses are needed.

6 (Grange Park to Mereside) happily this gains an increase from the remarkably poor half hourly service this one high frequency service currently endures. It runs every 20 mins from 9am to 6pm, remaining half hourly in the morning peak - though there is an extra 730am Mereside to Aspire Academy bus with a 1508 return. 

It is half hourly on Sundays, hourly in the evening. Not previously noted here is that from sometime in 2022 evening buses were routed via Devonshire Road and Church Street rather than the section of Caunce Street between Devonshire Road and the Town Centre. 

The daytime service pattern sees 2bph extend from Tesco to Peel Park and the other extends to Whitehills Park. All buses show 6 regardless of which of the three Marton termini they serve.

7 (Cleveleys to Lytham). The 7 is split cosmetically with the Cleveleys to Blackpool section continuing as the 7 every 30 minutes (hourly evenings/Sundays). The southern section is renumbered 11A and extends beyond St. Annes over the same route as the 11 to Lytham Hospital.

9 (Cleveleys to Blackpool). Despite having little in common with the 7, the 9 turns into the 7A. It runs every 15 minutes at peaks, 20 minutes off peak and hourly evenings/Sundays. 5 buses run through the day, 2 extra in the peak. Evenings there is some interworking at Cleveleys with the 7.

11 (Blackpool to Lytham). A mixed pattern here - the current 11 reduces from 20 minutes to 30 minutes - certainly the worst (covid lockdown excluded) service ever along the length of Lytham Road). The 'reimagined 7' becomes the 11A but runs along St. Annes Road and extends to Lytham. It makes an almost 15 minute service from Starr Gate through to Lytham Hospital but not quite with 12/18 minute gaps the main pattern. Even Sundays end up 20/40 minutes appart.

The main pattern is for an 11 Blackpool to Lytham, 11A Lytham to Blackpool, 7 Blackpool to Cleveleys then the reverse back.11 buses are needed. A 12th works an 11 at 715 from Lytham to Blackpool Sixth college, returning at 415pm

12 (Blackpool to Poulton schools) no change - one bus runs mornings, 2 afternoons. 

14 (Blackpool to Fleetwood) a basic 7 PVR 20 minute service is provided reducing to half hourly evenings/Sundays and hourly after 9pm. Peak services increase to 15 minutes using 2 extra buses.

15 (Blackpool to Staining) replaced by 5A.

17 (Blackpool to Lytham Saltcotes). Renumbered 11B, despite little in common with either the 11 and 11A and a longer journey time. Frequency drops to every 40 minutes with 4 PVR. Sundays is hourly with the 5C and 11B interworking.

18 (Blackpool to Mereside) minor timing changes.

There are no changes to the 74/75. Total core PVR is still 75 on top of which are seven school extras determined from the timetables and the two buses used on Myrescough contract work. Looking back PVR was 97 in summer 2018. The July 2010 network reductions saw a PVR reduction from 113 to 104.

Current fleet is 102 buses, 49 E400s, 26 long and 22 short E200s and 5 Citaros. The much vaunted electric bus project has reduces from 115 to 90 buses given the reduced network currently provided. Little progress seems to have been realised on this, with recent stakeholder board meeting minutes suggesting it is still far from clear cut and awaits tender results for buses and infrastructure before a final decision is taken. Planning permission was granted which involved demolishing the bus depot and bus/tram workshops, but these plans appear now dropped for economy reasons.

Since our last post, Citaros 552 and 553 have left the fleet with 552 now at Howards Travel, Warrington and 553 at Baileys of Southsea used as a Shuttle Bus for Portsmouth International Port. Long term stored accident damaged Centro 532 has finally gone for scrap as has the last Trident ex trainer 973 which left in May.