Saturday, 15 July 2017

From the Archives: Service 14 - happy 90th Birthday

PD3 540 heads down Lord Street tram tracks on another run to Blackpool. PD3s were associated with the 14 from the mid 1960s to 1988 (Brian Turner)
The 14 is one of Blackpool's longest established bus service still running under the same number. It has provided unbroken service between Blackpool, Carleton and Thornton since 15th July 1927 and to Broadwater and Fleetwood since August 1929.
The 14 serves Carleton and crossed the railway line at 'Carleton Crossing' this could delay buses but the running time had an allowance built in (Brian Turner)
The route first ran between Talbot Mews (site of the later Talbot Road Bus Station) via Layton, Carleton, the Castle Gardens, Four Lane Ends to Crabtree Road at Burn Naze. Two buses were used on a 40 minute frequency. In August 1929 it was extended via Fleetwood Road, Queens Hotel, Poulton Road and Lord Street to Pharos Street. This incorporated route 11 which ran from Fleetwood Pharos Street to the Shakespeare Road Cemetery and had been started by William Smith in November 1924, and taken over by Blackpool Corporation in 1926.

The extended 14 ran every 30 minutes and needed four buses - usually 1928 built Leyland or English Electric bodied Leyland Lions 55 to 64. By 1930 an intermediate service was operated as far as Thornton Social Club (now the Bourne Poacher) and this showed number 14A. An off road reversing area was later provided here. The running time was later reduced to 39 minutes and three buses now provided the basic half hourly service and the newest single deckers tended to be allocated. It was not until 1939 that the route was upgraded to double deck operation.

Transport in the Fleetwood had polarised into two camps. Blackpool Corporation had purchased the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad in 1920 and Smith's local bus route in 1924, whereas Ribble had bought other local businesses and provided town services, routes to Cleveleys, Poulton and beyond. LMS Railway partly owned Ribble in those days and they also ran a Fleetwood to Blackpool railway service. Ribble perceived Blackpool's outer borough operation to be outside its remit and several battles ensued over the years. At one stage in 1937 a licensing irregularity with the 14 nearly saw Ribble step in with a replacement service but eventually the traffic commissioners found in favour of Blackpool.
PD3 529 in preservation parks on the former reversing area at Thornton Social Club - this was removed during a recent housing development (Paul Turner)
The argument led to route 14 being artificially restricted to a half hourly service for decades. Loadings justified more, but Blackpool was bound by a co-ordination agreement with Ribble buses between Castle Gardens and Fleetwood and could therefore not increase frequency. To address this most journeys on route 14 were duplicated and pairs of buses were used to provide the necessary capacity. The 14A also helped on the less contentious Thornton to Blackpool section and route 1 from Poulton provided further capacity from Castle Gardens to Blackpool.
Ribble and Blackpool - often in conflict - alongside each other in Talbot Road Bus Station. 503 is on the 14 stand which was in the centre of the Bus Station - note the hose on the pillar for topping up radiators! (Brian Turner)

The other end of the route - 538 is about to set off from Queens Terrace terminus (Brian Turner)
During World War II the 14 was curtailed to run hourly but the half hourly timetable was reinstated in December 1945. Earlier that year the Pharos Street terminus was replaced by Queens Terrace - just round the corner. The 14 settled down to routine stability. Centre Entrance PD2s replaced the pre-war examples used until the early 1950s, followed by rear entrance PD2s and later PD3s.
Atlantean 304 turns towards Blackpool at the Castle Gardens in Carleton (Brian Turner)
With the last PD3s arriving in 1968, attention then focused on buying one person operated single deckers for quieter routes and the 14's status as a prime route for new buses ended. It was a strong hold for PD3s until the late 1970s when Atlanteans started to run alongside. The odd Routemaster appeared from 1986 onwards. One person operation appeared on Sundays - certainly by deregulation but possibly earlier.

In 1975 agreement was reached to increase the frequency of the 14 and additional journeys started from 1115 to 1815 making a 10/20 minute interval with Ribble filling the gap to make a 10 minute service at the Fleetwood end. The 14A continued but was progressively reduced in operating period with the limited Sunday service first to go by 1973. In 1976 it ran from 1000 to 1800 every 30 minutes with one extra evening journey. 1977 saw the service dropped as a regular route, but the number remained for a few short journeys on the 14. 1980 saw a few extra journeys introduced in the morning peak to replace those provided by route 1 between Castle Gardens and Blackpool. One of the early evening journeys from Fleetwood was re-routed via Poulton, Grange Park and Victoria Hospital to arrive there at visiting time (1900) with Ribble route 183 providing the reverse working at 2000. Blackpool's journey showed number 29.

Sister 308  at Queens Terrace terminus (Brian Turner)
In June 1983 the 14 was retimed so that the 10/20 minute headway was replaced by a 15 minute one after 1100. Six buses were needed, reducing to three evenings and Sundays.

Deregulation (October 1986) saw no major changes to Blackpool's timetable, but new local operator Easyway started a peak hour and Saturday competing service using two buses on an uneven headway. This lasted a matter of weeks as some unusual behaviours saw Easyway lose its right to run bus services. Fylde later introduced a competing service from May 1988 operating every 30 minutes to Thornton (Monday to Friday) and onto Fleetwood (Saturdays/ Sundays). The weekday service ended in November 1988 and the Saturday/ Sunday service in April 1989. If this was not enough, North Western Road Car ran in competition between Blackpool and Thornton during summer 1988 (27 July to 3 Sept) using buses which ran into Blackpool on day trip services. Follow this link for a picture of North Western's 527 (FBV512W) laying over in Blackpool with displays for the 14.
Route Map, as drawn in 2011

Surprisingly in November 1987 Blackpool reduced the 14 to half hourly with the 14A reinstated to make a 15 minute service to Thorton, terminating at Trunnah Road. This used OPO Atlanteans with crew double deckers remaining on the 14. The Atlantean and PD3 mix remained until the end of PD3 operation in autumn 1988 though evening duties were now OPO. Blackpool responded to competition in two manners. Oddly it chose to duplicate Fylde's Sunday service (itself five minutes ahead of Blackpool's) with minibuses meaning a Fylde minibus, a Blackpool minibus and a Blackpool Atlantean departing within a five minute spell on a Sunday daytime. Minibuses also ran some positioning journeys for evening contracted services. Blackpool also duplicated North Western's weekday service to Trunnah Road.

In August 1988 the 14A was extended to the Social Club turning via West Drive, Amounderness Way and Bourne Way - rather than using the reversing point. Peak journeys were extended to Ash Street Fleetwood and showed 14B. The last return journey form Ash Street reinstated the 29 Hospital working which had ceased in November 1987 though it no longer served Poulton. 3 OPO double deckers were used, reducing to two off peak.

For 1989 the service settled back to normal with the competition over with a half hourly 14 supplemented by the 14A (off peak) and 14B (peak). Single deck operation returned to the 14 in October 1991 when Optare Deltas took over evening and Sunday workings. The 29 working ceased in March 1992.

November 1994 saw the introduction of a consolidated network following the takeover of Fylde. Route 14 saw its first extension since 1929 as it was merged with route 11C to St. Annes via Ansdell Road and Spring Gardens. Route 14A was absorbed with all journeys now running form Fleetwood through to St. Annes every 15 minutes (days) 30 minutes (evenings/Sundays). In St. Annes alternate buses ran via Headroomgate Road as 14 or St Davids Road North as 14A. 11 crew operated Atlanteans ran Monday to Saturday with 6 OPO buses evenings/Sundays - evening buses generally ran off route 22/22A at St. Annes and were initially Deltas but later Atlanteans or Olympians. In July 1995 the daytime service after 9am was extended from Queens Terrace to the new Freeport complex at Fleetwood using one extra bus on weekdays, though the Sunday service retained existing resources.

The five coach seated former Fylde Atlanteans ran on service 14/14A after Squires Gate Depot closed. This is 442. (James Millington)
In April 1998 the evening and Sunday service was increased to run every 15 minutes between Fleetwood and Blackpool with the short workings extending to Rigby Road Depot. Every evening 9 buses were used (six double deckers and three single deckers) as the long and short journeys interworked at Fleetwood Ferry. On Sunday daytimes, 6 double deckers provided the St. Annes to Fleetwood Freeport workings and 4 minibuses the Rigby Road to Freeport journeys. City Pacers were initially used but Metroriders soon took-over with Solos appearing in 2000.
Atlantean 358 on the 14 in May 2003 shortly before the second batch of Tridents entered service (Brian Turner)
Saturday March 25 2000 saw Atlantean 360 provide the final crew bus working as the 1850 14A from Fleetwood to St. Annes from where it ran empty to depot. Monday 27th saw the introduction of a 100% OPO timetable and the standardisation of buses on the 14A route via Heeley Road/St. Davids Road North under the 14 number. Rigby Road short workings now displayed 14A. Reliability problems saw some duplication and timetable changes saw extra running time allocated. The evening short journeys were withdrawn in August 2000 but the Sunday daytime ones remained.
Metro Line 14 branding on a dark green base (Brian Turner)

Trident 302 has arrived in St. Annes and will shortly turn to the photographer's left to start the terminal manoeuvre read to head back to Fleetwood (Brian Turner)
30 April 2001 saw the new Metro network debut. The 14 was revised to run every 10 minutes from Fleetwood to Blackpool and every 20 minutes to St. Annes. Evening/Sunday journeys ran every 30 minutes to St. Annes while on Sunday daytimes an extra 30 minute service ran from Tower to Fleetwood. 16 buses were needed on weekdays, five in the evening and 10 on Sunday daytimes. Atlateans 355-360/3/4 and Olympians 374-9 formed a dedicated pool. The Sunday Tower journeys were later cut back to Corporation Street matching the daytime shorts. From May 2004 they once again continued to Rigby Road.

Pool liveried Trident 317 heads out of Fleetwood on a short working to Blackpool (Brian Turner)
 From 9 Tridents were introduced normally on the St. Annes workings and from May 2003 a second batch allowed a 100% low floor guarantee to be introduced and Tridents were supported by Excels as required. A small diversion took buses further along Leach Lane in St. Annes to avoid the Tridents making the tight turns in and out of Dawson Road. February 2010 saw the withdrawal of the evening service between St. Annes and Blackpool.

Excel 222 standing in for a Trident arriving in Blackpool before heading back to Freeport (Brian Turner)
 The major network changes from 26 July 2010 saw route 14 diverted at Daggers Hall Lane to run to Mereside, replacing service 6. All buses ran Fleetwood to Mereside every 10 minutes weekday daytimes (17 buses), every 20 Sunday daytimes (8 buses) and every 30 minutes evenings (5 buses). The low floor guarantee was dropped and five Deltas were allocated along with 12 Tridents despite the near 100% low floor operation since 2003. The Deltas were withdrawn later in the year and Volvo B7s and the occasional Excel supplement Tridents and Olympians. From November 2010 the service has terminated at Queens Terrace once more with route 1 now serving Freeport instead.
Delta 125 stands at Freeport on the first day of the revised service to Mereside and the end of guaranteed low floor provision (Paul Turner)
From 2nd April 2013 the 14 was extended from Mereside Tesco to Peel Park DWP offices on Monday to Fridays, with every journey at peak times and alternate ones in between. This was funded by DWP for a three year period. In April 2016, on expiry of the funding the service was reduced to just four journeys.
Trident 346 at the Peel Park terminus on the first day (Brian Turner)
Route 14 entered the 'Palladium' era on 24 July 2016 when the Sunday service was converted using the first batch of new Enviro double deckers. November 2016 saw the frequency drop to every 12 minutes for the winter, with extra running time due to the increased traffic in the Layton and Norcross areas due to the closure of the Plymouth Road Bridge. 25 more double deckers arrived in spring 2017 and the new buses began to appear on the 14. A major network change saw the Mereside section detached and replaced by route 6 again. After 23 years of cross town operation, the 14 was back to running from Blackpool to Fleetwood only and once again had a fleet of brand new buses - its first since 2002/3. Its town centre termini were Corporation Street in Blackpool and Bold Street on Fleetwood - quite close to the original Talbot Mews to Queens Terrace route. Journey time is now 56/58 minutes - a significant increase to the 39 minute daytime journey time which lasted from the 1930s through to the end of crew buses in 2000.