The sight of the nimble bright yellow branded single deck 'Solo' buses wending their way around North Shore and Cleveleys - as well as through the town to Mereside on services 3 and 4 is coming to an end. From June 25th a new generation of Blackpool single deck buses will take over these services a special launch is planned by BTS with details at BTS information offices and online.
Another journey to Mereside with a Solo negotiating the left hand turn on to Warbreck Hill Road and then to Gynn Square. A familiar journey for residents in North Shore. The distinctive black and yellow branding was introduced by the previous BTS MD, Trevor Roberts, who took an immediate dislike to the 'Metro Coastlines' styling of his predecessor Steve Burd. We've moved on considerably since Trevor's days and now have the grey and silver tones of the 'Palladium' brand - a very upmarket and refined taste for Blackpool.
Blackpool Transport's association with Yorkshire 'Optare' was formed in the early days of both companies when BTS were on the lookout for low cost easily accessible single deck buses to replace the bulky double deck fleet which Blackpool had acquired up to the mid 1980s. In fact Blackpool was averse to single deck buses, unless they were open designs specifically for seasonal use to Stanley Park and on special services.
At one point Blackpool had just one bus service operated by single deck buses (actually one bus on an hourly service to Midgeland Road and Boundary Road) which ran from a usually windswept bus stop on Adelaide Street directly facing the promenade. It became the trial route for driver only operation with front doors inserted in the bodywork on the nearside - and the former centre entrance being blocked off on the three pre-war Leyland buses assigned (not all at once) to the 18 Service from 1955.
Pre-Solo days. Leyland TS8 of 1940s vintage trundles down Central drive in the late 1950s en route to terminus of Service 18 just off Hounds Hill. Lack of traffic and people is noticeable so this must be very much an off-season month. The pre-cast concrete lamp standards are very typical of the 1950s era. Image : John Woodman Archive.
Now many of the town's bus routes are handled by either Solos or the newer 'Palladium' branded Mercedes Citaros single deck vehicles. The latest generation of single deckers will begin the process of removing the Solos from service entirely after a creditable working life in the resort. More news on all of this after the 25th.