As posted last month Blackpool Transport Services Ltd. have announced plans to take delivery of further new buses to replenish their current fleet. Blackpool Council have approved a ten year loan to the Company (Council Owned) of £16M. This will cover the purchase of 72 buses over the next three years, including the next tranche of ADL Enviro double deckers arriving imminently. These are planned to provide rail replacement services from Blackpool to Preston Station on closure of the railway line between the two towns (and stations inbetween). This includes the South Fylde single track line from Kirkham as far as Blackpool South. Below : Blackpool buses in profile at Hoo Hill on the 9 and 14 Services.
Their delivery will be to the same type already familiar to Blackpool residents but provision is being made for extra luggage space and racking on the lower deck reducing seating capacity on an interim basis until railway service is restored - expected Easter 2018. The mix of the new orders beyond the 2017 delivery is unknown but likely to include single deck vehicles to replace Blackpool's 'SOLO' fleet which has served the town well over the past decade. BTS have tested a further Alexander Dennis single deck model in recent weeks indicating the possibility this will form part of the phasing in of the fleet renewal to completion in 2020.
Blackpool Council have previously provided a £7.7M loan to the company covering the acquisition of Alexander Dennis vehicles during the past two years. The company is faced with the probability of capital expenditure of relocating its existing operations at Rigby Road to a site on the Squires Gate Enterprise Zone. Consultants have now been called in to examine location options, costs and technical aspects of the move which will free up an extensive site, home to Blackpool's transport operations since the early 1920s. The tram depot structure is similarly being inspected to judge the implications of a retained Council owned structure needing rebuilding or remodelling if it is to continue to host the fleet of heritage trams long term. Ongoing housing development now expanding over Blundell Street to Tyldesley Road is already impacting on the operation of a busy bus depot now amid new residential schemes fronting Rigby Road.
Now what about a Council loan to replace and radically improve on the disgraceful street furniture provided for bus travellers? A drive around Blackpool's bus routes quickly provides evidence of the degrading of the upmarket image of BTS on which considerable marketing effort is being expended. Cross over north and east to Wyre and Fylde Council and the difference in bus shelter quality and cleanliness offers lessons not yet evident in this Unitary Authority in 2017.