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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool's Buses

Blackpool has an illustrious history of municipal transport going back to the 1890s' and one which continues into the present day through Blackpool Transport Services Ltd (BTS); an arms length company in ownership of the town council (and Corporation). It remains as one of a very small select band of urban transport systems still in public hands, as opposed to being subsumed into the miasma of corporate fleets which dominate the UK's bus operations.

Whilst the trams have rightly gained the limelight in terms of attention and coverage by the media and publishers large and small (including my modest local enterprise) the bus services provided under Corporation/Council/BTS tutelage for nearly a century have attracted only modest attention. Possibly most noteworthy (up until the current operation) were the years of Walter Luff's management when a distinctive fleet of centre entrance buses, almost all locally built by the firm of HV Burlingham, dominated the Fylde coast in elaborate cream and green municipal colours.

The earliest Corporation buses from 1921 up to 1933 adopted the then Tramways Department red and white livery until a rebranding ordained by Mr Luff shortly after his arrival from Wakefield. Subsequently this 'Blackpool house brand' was retained by his successors for the most part until 2000 when a radical change was ordained by Steve Burd who had become the new Managing Director of BTS. The bus fleet then underwent a very colourful metamorphis with each routes (known as 'Lines') was given an individual livery colour - bringing the town a kaleidescope of different hues with each passing bus.

All this came to an abrupt end with arrival of Trevor Roberts in 2009 who took an immediate dislike to the paint shop expenditures and multiples of different coloured vehicles lined up on Rigby Road's bus park. A radical reorientation by the Paint Shop was instituted with black and yellow becoming the fleet livery. Afast dwindling number of survivors from this era remain in service for the time being and all the more noticeable today.

A further change of management by 2012 brought yet another rebranding of the bus fleet under the direction of MD Jane Cole with introduction of radically different high quality vehicles produced by Alexander Dennis Ltd. The 'Palladium' brand was in fact introduced by her interim predecessor with arrival of some very smart single deck vehicles brought into use on the 5 Service to Victoria Hospital. A series of deliveries of both double deck and single deck buses - all built in the UK by Alexander Dennis Ltd. (ADL) have since transformed the Fylde coast's transport image and destined to continue in the years ahead with superior all electric vehicles under consideration.

'Tilling Stevens to Alexander Dennis - Blackpool's Buses in Transition 1921 - 2020' is the next title in our rolling coverage of the Fylde coast's urban transport history. It will bring this side of the town's transport story to the onset a further radical new era when Blackpool's publicly owned transport operation can again boast of being at the forefront of vehicle design and technology. Just as it was all those years ago when Walter Luff oversaw transformation of a traditional fleet of buses and trams within the space of a few short years from 1933 into an incomparable and stylish municipal showcase.

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