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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Lets Hear It for the Bus drivers

In addition to the startling reincarnation of Number 524 in a new version of Blackpool's famous green and cream transport livery this week (see earlier blog) the town was flooded with a virtual rally of the very best in British urban bus design. The 50th Bus Driver of the Year Competition which is an annual if lesser known transport event in Blackpool taking place on the promenade and Middle Walk the first Sunday in September. Independently managed by the UK Bus Driver of the Year Council it has found an established venue in Blackpool with a special driving test course of two miles and a host hotel able to provide a conference and annual dinner event over the weekend.

Bus Stop Number One in the Bus Driver of the Year circuit on Blackpool Promenade. An Alexander Dennis Enviro200 entry is measured by the Marshals to determine its distance away from the kerbside. The stop was next to the Blackpool Hilton which hosted the organisers and conference event. Bright sunny skies followed a miserable sodden Saturday - so this year's 50th Anniversary of the Competition was held in delightful weather. Blackpool Transport has been a participant in many of the competitions over the years, and like other participating operators, fields its latest and brightest bus (and drivers) for a very detailed testing circuit and of course standard of appearance. This year both one of the new ADL double deck buses and a rebranded Volvo Plaxton single decker represented the host town. The contrasting styles and 'branding' involved some of the remaining municipally owned -arms length operators including Lothian Regional Transport which was represented by a new Wright bodied double decker superbly presented in that region's traditional 'madder' and white colours. The bus promoted both bus and tram services in Edinburgh - the only other such system in the UK outside of Blackpool with the same prestige. I managed a short ride on this vehicle (see images) and was just as impressed with the very high quality interior finish in subdued light browns and distinctive textured moquette seating. See next Blog.

Stagecoach Manchester drew attention with its 'Happy New Year' in chinese script among other external signage - which for a moment suggested this was one of the Hong Kong double deck buses awaiting export. Alas not so. Bound for Droylsden or Cheetham Hill possibly! But very impressive and creative touch.

In fact there were many notable designs side front and rear on the double deck entries all proudly promoting both the services and the locality. More to follow.

Reading Transport Ltd. - another Council owned company showed off its latest Wright bodied double decker in a route branded bright orange serving Woodley. Here too is could be equally at home branded for Blackpool FC (but the run of play at Bloomfield Road at the moment is a major deterrent). Ipswich Transport were hoping to send one of their new Citaro buses but the new management would not approve the journey to Blackpool from East Anglia - their drivers visiting the event in Blackpool were none too happy. Ipswich Transport too is one of that special breed of Council owned local bus companies left in the UK.

Reading's orange (not tangerine) branded routes - shades of Blackpool's former Metro Coastlines styling. I am stuck in between the doors it seems.....

Naturally London's buses were represented with an entry fielded by the Paris RATP group which operates the Sovereign franchise services in London. A Borismaster lookalike but without the rear platform entrance/exit was a distinctive vehicle in that familiar London Transport bus red livery. A nice touch was the LT roundel in chromed metal affixed on the front.

A capital bus by the seaside - making an interesting comparison with Blackpool. The cleaner air decal is a notable feature, but you can't get cleaner air than sea breezes on the Promenade ......

See Part Two of Bus Driver of the Year in the next Blog on Tramtalk.

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