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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool's buses - back to the future

The longevity of Rigby Road's association with Blackpool's transport operation has been focussed on the trams for which the town is rightfully famous. From 1923 the 'Car Works' was responsible for building new trams, and recycling old ones, right up to the millenium. Even today this especial and now unique (in Britain) role still continues, albeit on a far reduced scale.

However whilst the trams are the object of intense fascination for the enthusiasts making their pilgrimage to the Fylde coast from around the world, Blackpool's buses have had their own share of attention from a wider audience over the years. The entry into service in the past weeks of the striking new double deck models built by ADL and suggestions these are to become the new generation of standard bus across many services in years to come - is the latest chapter in an extending history of Blackpool's public owned bus operation going back to 1921.

Many of the vehicles transporting us along the Fylde coast have been of designs unique to Blackpool over the years. Indeed Rigby Road built, albeit briefly, its own buses in the 1920s - but quickly dropped this foray into the rubber tyre version of tramcars - for that is what they loosely resembled at the time. And while the trams are a source of great affection from traditionalists in the transport field with many now conserved both locally and afar, Blackpool's early buses lamentably have passed into the history books. Now a new title is on its way to mark the launch of the latest design entering service complete with a remarkable new fleet colour scheme of distinction. 'Tilling Stevens to Alexander Dennis Ltd. Blackpool's buses from 1921 to 2017' and a celebration of Blackpool Transport.

A remarkable line up of successive generations of Blackpool double deck buses with which many (not all of course) are familiar with - posed for the camera at Rigby Road on 5 August. Image : Copyright John Woodman

Together with 'Municipal Transport Heyday - Blackpool's transport in the 1950s' the new titles from Rigby Road Publications will record both a remarkable era when new trams, buses and management grappled with changing times and trends, and

the evolution in bus designs, from the first years of motor bus service by Blackpool Corporation up to 2017. A special display of double deck buses recording both fleet livery and style and vehicles we were and will be accustomed to around the Fylde coast was arranged by Blackpool Transport last week. This took advantage of the imminent demise of the classic design introduced by BTS in 1994, the first new double deck vehicles purchased by the company since it inception in 1986 as an arms-length enterprise wholly owned (thankfully) by Blackpool Council. Thus our local transport system remains in local control as a significant employer, with headquarters still sited at Rigby Road. Its successive fleet liveries from the once familiar green and cream, to the MetroCoastlines colours and yellow with 'swoop' branding of the past five years - are being overtaken by the Company's 'Palladium' theme and upmarket styling. A great Blackpool continuum.

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