Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Survivors Update

Former Blackpool Trident 351 (E18BTS) is now Reading Buses 535 (X401KBV). Yesterday it was one of two ex Blackpool Tridents used on the first day of Reading's service 7 between Reading and Fleet, which has been taken over from Stagecoach. It is seen here in Hartley Wintney (Steve Foster - see his Flickr for more)
A number of former Blackpool Buses have changed hands, or appearance, recently. These are tracked on the Survivors page on this blog. The four Tridents sold to Reading have now entered service as seen above. 

Solo 284 has passed to The Eden, West Auckland where it has replaced older sister 282 which is now with Huw's Coaches in Caernarfon. Some of the original 15 Solos of early 2000 are still in use. Yorkshire Tiger sold its last two for scrap last year (262/4) but Blackpool Council still uses 267 for the tramway track gang, while Halton retains two of the six it bought (272 and 276). 273 is understood to still be with Star of Aylesbury and 269 with John's Blaenau.

Chepstow Classic Buses has repainted former PD3 518 (HFR518E) in original livery - its first repaint since Blackpool Transport painted it in 1989 on disposal to its first private owner. Pics on their Facebook page here. 518 joins fellow PD3s 512 and 529 as repainted in the six months.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Not quite 'in the jungle' but Lion 44 slumbers awaiting a new home 14th April 2018 (Philip Higgs)

An 81 year old relic of the Fylde's transport past has been thrust into the limelight thanks to a Facebook 'market place' advert. Between 1935 and 1937 Lytham St. Annes Corporation bought 25 Gearless Leylands, 11 Lions to replace its older Guys on local services and 14 Titans to replace the Lytham trams. 44 (BTF24) was the last of Lions. It arrived at Squires Gate Depot in late March 1937 - its date of registration was the 25th. The 11 Lions were made up of four Burlingham bodied examples, 29-31 of 1935 and 32 of 1936- all these became open toppers in 1946. The rest were Leyland bodied - 33, 34 and 40 of 1936 and 41 to 44 in 1937.

Withdrawals of the Leyland bodied Gearless Lions commenced in 1956 with 44 the last to operate around August 1962, having soldiered on alone after 43 was retired in 1959. An ex Lancaster Leyland Tiger replaced it. Two Gearless Lions survived into preservation, 34 (BTB928) and 44. 34 started off with the West of England Transport Collection at Winkleigh. After a few further owners it was acquired by Fylde in 1988 and restored - returning to use in early 1992. It passed with the business to Blackpool Transport who continued to use it for a few more years. It fell into disuse and passed to LTT (now Fylde Transport Trust) in 2008. Re-restoration was completed last year - but an engine knock has sidelined it.

44 was stored for a while by Lytham, passing through a dealers hands to Pyatt and Steele, Cheadle for preservation - it appeared at a rally at Stanford Hall on 10 September 1967. In 1971 it was purchased by Terry Robinson for the Three Counties Historic Vehicle Society and moved to Haxey near Doncaster and was rallied again. Next owner in the late 1970s was Dennis Bonsall of Long Bennington (Lincs) but in 1983 was noted with Reigate Coaches in a green based livery at an LT depot open day. Reigate Coaches was owned by Les Burchell, who continues to own Blackpool Leyland Tiger 7 today.

44 on arrival at Haxey following purchase by Terry Robinson (Brian Maguire)
44's final tax disc expired in November 1985 and it went into store. In 1997 it was purchased by Allan Haynes of Hingham and was stored at Attleborough for a while. In 1999 it was purchased by Rexquote - a Somerset heritage operator now known as Quantock Motors. From there it passed to Phil James of Cardigan - who was involved in the restoration of Lytham's non Gearless Lion 24 (TJ6760). From there it was purchased by its current owners - the Higgins family of Cheshire.

They owned a Rawtenstall Tiger - originally Gearless but by now manual; and a Ribble converted tow wagon. Sadly 44 hasn't been restored and has now been offered for sale. At least one offer has been made to secure the bus for possible future restoration - and hopefully we can report on its future here soon.

Looking rather careworn - the interior of 44 (Philip Higgs)

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

New and Old

Modernisation of the Blackpool bus fleet continues. Sunday saw Enivro 400s operating on seasonal service 20 - once home to the oldest Atlanteans or Olympians (Paul Turner)

The first of the new Enviro 200s has been inspected by BTS this week, with delivery of the batch planned for the 2nd and 3rd weeks in May. Assuming they replace all 21 Solos - then they will bring to an end 31 years of Optare bus operation by Blackpool Transport. In that time 165 new Optare buses and 14 second hand ones have been operated.

Recent press coverage has focused on the proposed relocation of the bus fleet from the 1920s bus depot to a new site possibly at Blackpool Airport. This is one of a number of points discussed at a recent council meeting (reports linked here). Of interest is a trial of park and ride- though this is understood to be an illuminations period one form Squires Gate - as tried a few years ago.

Three redundant buses have left the fleet. Solo 255 has passed to a local buyer for parts then scrap, while Trident 338 and fire damaged DAF 366 have gone for scrap to Parton's of Barnsley - 338 on 3 April and 366 on 10th.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Road Works Road Works Road Works

Tuesday 3rd April sees another change in the location of the tram extension enabling roadworks presently afflicting Blackpool town centre. This removes access to Clifton Street, and also blocks Corporation Street. Flow through St John's Square will be reversed. Buses 2, 2C, 18 and 19 will now run through St John's Square to terminate at Abingdon Street (rather than Topping Street) then return via Talbot Road and as present. The 5, 6 and 7 northbound will now pick up on the Promenade (at West Street) rather than Clifton Street.

This should last until 9 May when Clifton Street reopens, but Corporation Street will remain closed until 2 July. Cookson Street will be closed from Cookson Street to George Street and also Caunce Street will be closed between King Street and Cookson Street from 9 May to 1 June. This should have little impact on services.

However Market Street will be closed between Talbot Road and West Street from 22nd May to 2 June - this will prevent the 5, 6 and 7 from accessing Market Street - but presumably terminating 11, 17 and 68 will be able to turn via Church St, Corporation Street and West Street.

Finally - at least for now - Talbot Road is to be closed between the Stand and Abingdon Street from 21 May until August. Assuming Clifton Street is accessible this suggests northbound buses will use Clifton St/Abingdon Street and Southbound ones Springfield Road as present. 

Enviro 200s

The new Enviro 200s will be similar to demonstrator YX17NXA used in May 2017. It is seen here on service 4 at Mereside (Brian Turner)
Blackpool Transport has confirmed the planned arrival of 18 new Enviro 200s in May. These are to replace the remaining 21 Optare Solos and will mainly operate on services 3 and 4. These will complement the 55 Enviro 400 double deckers recently added to the fleet. This is significantly earlier than the October date planned last summer when the fleet plan was presented to Blackpool Council. It is understood that the 4 Enviros planned for delivery in March 2018 are no longer required and that 103 vehicles are to be purchased from 2016-2020 rather than 107 as previously reported. A further 30 vehicles are expected in 2019/2020 to replace the remaining Dennis Tridents.

Beach Bus 26

Saturday 5th May will see the start of 'Beach Bus 26' a new service provided by Catch 22 Bus from Marton Mere Caravan Park. Marton Mere had understood that a daily service would operate into Blackpool this summer, despite the withdrawal of services 15/16 and advertised this accordingly in their 2018 marketing. However with BTS only providing a weekend and local school holiday service on the 20, other operators were approached to see if they could fill the gap. Two operators submitted proposals and that of Catch 22 Bus was accepted. 

Beach Bus 26 will run hourly from Saturday 5 May until the end of the Illuminations. It will be a limited stop service from Marton Mere to Blackpool Tower, then all stops along the Promenade to Pleasure Beach, then back to Marton Mere via Yeadon Way in a one way loop. An evening service will be provided during the summer school holidays and on Illuminations Saturdays. Dennis Trident 833 is to be the dedicated bus.

thanks to Catch 22 Bus for the above background information.

Catch 22 Darts 186 (X186CTG) and 386 (Y386GAX) have left the fleet for scrap. This completes the disposal of the MPD Darts, except for 147 (T147DAX) which its retained as a towing bus. Ex First B6 813 (W813PFB) has also left. 

The associated Manchester Sightseeing Tours is expanding with new tours in Birmingham and Leeds during 2018. Two more open toppers Dennis Trident V168MEV has joined the fleet from Golden Tours and Volvo Olympian P534EFL has joined from Stagecoach North West. The 'Sightseeing Manchester' tour has been using three Dennis Tridents V362OWC and V158MEV (both ex Golden Tours) and W501RBB (ex Yorkshire Tiger). 501 put an unexpected appearance on Catch 22 service 21 on 27 February as an emergency cover for a failed bus.

Monday, 26 March 2018

March Round Up

Rail Replacement
Network Rail missed the 26th March deadline for reopening the Blackpool North line and this is now delayed until 16th April. BTS are continuing to provide rail replacement duties. They are also providing buses for weekend rail replacement between Wigan and Manchester.

New Driver Trainer
Withdrawn Dennis Trident 339 has been repainted into grey recently and is understood to be joining sister buses 973/4 (ex 303/4) as driver trainers. It seems likely that DAF 971 would be replaced, indeed it is already on 'SORN'.

Sold Tridents
The four Tridents sold to Reading Buses, 349 to 352 have been re-registered X399/393/401/398XBV resp ex E16 to E19BTS. They are numbered 534, 532, 535 and 532 resp in the Reading fleet. 532, ex 350, is seen in this flickr photo.

Blackpool Transport Bank Holiday Services
Unusually Blackpool Transport has advertised special bank holiday timetables for some of its services, rather than the usual Sunday service. 2, 3, 4, 5, 17, 18, 19 and 20 will run on their Sunday service, with special timetables on the 1, 2C, 6, 7, 9, 11 and 14. The 2C will extend to Knott End as it did last year on Bank Holidays, the 1, 6, 7 and 9 will run every 20 minutes instead of every 30 minutes, the 11 and 14 will retain their Sunday frequencies (30 and 20 mins resp) but at different times. Unusually this means the 1 has a higher frequency on bank holidays than for the rest of the spring period. It runs every 30 minutes on a daily basis otherwise.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Back on Squires Gate Bridge

The rebuilt Squires Gate Bridge is reopening early this evening and Blackpool Transport will be re-routing the 7, 11 and 18 on Saturday - eight days early. This means they will operate to their current timetables, but their revised route in the interim. This will lead to some hanging around - as the 7 gets 23 minutes from St. Annes to Halfway House v 10 on the new timetable!  

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Olympian and Tiger catch up

Former Blackpool 401 in Nottinghamshire under restoration to original condition as Trent 701 (Mark Scott)
The sole survivor of the 10 ex Trent Olympians, 401, is now under restoration back in its native Nottinghamshire. It ran with Blackpool from 1997 to 2010 before passing to Catch 22 Bus in early 2012. It was sold on from them to its
current owner in 2015. Thanks to Jono Niblock for tracking this one down!

Confirmation has also been received that one of 5 new to Shearings Plaxton bodied Tigers acquired from Fylde with the Seagull Coaches business survives. 23 (F703ENE) was the first of the five to be withdrawn in 1998, replaced by the shortlived new Javelin 27 (R927TFR). 23 was exported to Ireland (as was the Javelin a year later!) but returned to Wealden - the Kent based dealer in 2001. It remains in their hands 17 years later as seen in this 2016 picture.

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. It is assumed the usual morning and afternoon 1/2 hourly service will run 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)