Rebranded BTS buses now on the 7 Service in Lytham last week
Deservedly so in the local media today. Whilst Blackpool's tramway is a frequent feature in Gazette coverage; whether the light rail extension, or encounters with errant drivers or heritage tram tour operation: the bus side of the system is rarely in the news. This is very unfortunate given that BTS buses are the main carriers of passengers on the Fylde coast, and there are far more of them than trams.
However today the Gazette carries a feature story on how BTS management are striving to recast the image and quality of Blackpool's buses with some notable success. Arrival last year of the Mercedes single deck buses in the more subdued grey and silver fleet branding was the first intimation of change. Ten of the smart vehicles were assigned to Service 5 running to Victoria Hospital and can now be seen (and ridden) on the 9 and 7 services from time to time. The arrival of ten more new buses, this time double deckers to a startling design built by Alexander Dennis Lts (ADL) in Falkirk now underlines BTS's objectives to upgrade the bus operations overall.
Little more has been heard of the possible relocation of the bus operation from Rigby Road - perhaps reflecting savage financial constraints imposed on Blackpool Council by central Government cuts over the past years, and with more imposed reductions pending. Blackpool Transport is one of only ten urban transport systems still in public ownership (albeit through an arms length structure). It is one of two Authorities operating both buses and trams. The other one being Lothian Region which covers Edinburgh with its own new light rail operation.
Blackpool is by far the smallest urban centre in the UK with a light rail system and it is to the Council's credit, and the staff of BTS, that the eleven mile service delivers a fast and efficient (and friendly) tramway. One which varies greatly year round in terms of ridership fluctuation, from peak summer season and Bank Holiday Weekends, to the winter hours from November to March.
Extension of the trams up to the Blackpool North Railway Station and new urban centre at Bickerstaffe Square - has attracted its fair share of comment and criticism from some circles. However the logic of running trams to the town's principal railway station dealing with inflows (and outflows) of luggage carrying visitors heading to the seafront and innumerable guest houses and hotels - is self evident. Only taxi drivers concerned with competitive transport options (and less expensive ones) are voicing their opposition to this important new connection.
Formal delivery of the second tranche of ten new buses in the striking 'Palladium' branding colours is set for 21 July with their entry into service shortly thereafter on the 9 Service. The ADL design and specifications have so far been unique to the Capital - Blackpool Transport will be the first operator outside of London to add these buses to their fleet. Well done BTS - more please....