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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool's Bus Story

The resort's tram system has justifiably been the focus of historians and enthusiasts through generations. Blackpool's bus system and its evolution from the commencement in 1921 has fared less well in terms of print coverage. However its history is no less fascinating given the individual styling of its vehicles through successive decades. Whereas the trams were once the mainstay of the municipal operation, their role diminished quickly at the onset of the 1960s with successive route closures and run down of the fleet.

Now confined to the long coastal route the trams have diminished further in both numbers while limited to a single type ordained by the upgrade to light rail standards in 2011. The idiosyncracies of a once fascinating operation have morphed into a standardised modular offer of an 'off the shelf' type by a foreign builder.

Conversely Blackpool's buses have morphed into a uniquely branded system with several types both single and double deck holding down expanding services. Holdovers from the previous generation of double deckers still can be seen in sharply contrasting yellow and black colours that may confuse visitors, especially so with the local independent operating along the Promenade in a variety of paint tones.

The Old Guard. 2003 Delivery Trident from East Lancashire Coachbuilders 315 now showing their age in 2019.

Having phased in a wholly new branding just five years ago with the 'Palladium' colours on smart energy efficient vehicles - the town's own transport operator is edging towards a further era of all electric buses. In tune with increased awareness of global environmental challenges dominating headlines and strategic planning - at all levels, BTS is at the forefront of Blackpool's aims to minimise its carbon footprint. Ironically the resort has always been a market leader in this regard having determined to hang on to its electric tram service in an era when diesel buses where regarded as the be all and end all of urban transport in Britain.

When every other British town and city rid themselves of remaining trams and trolleybus services embracing the seemingly benefit of diesel fuel for their public transport - Blackpool stood alone in the UK against the odds to keep its core coastal tram route.

The New Guard - Second Tranche of EDL models from Alexander Dennis - Blackpool Buses for the immediate future. Note the classic shelter still in good condition at Bispham Library (formerly).

That this did not extend further southwards to St Annes and south Fylde communities - was only through blinkered parochial attitude of local politicians protective of shallow mindsets. Not that too much has changed in this regard. However there are organised and independent minded interests taking an active role in bringing about a tram or light rail link from Starr Gate and south Promenade to the good citizens of south Fylde. In a time of forced change now pressing down on the status quo of Britain's ossified political structure - we are seeing imminent breaks away from Westminster's top down governance of this country. The North South Divide is real and growing - transport and railways being but one sector bleedingly obvious to everyone needing to travel distances for their livelihood.

At least one transport operator in the north is grasping change and making the difference for its communities. The story of how Blackpool's buses have served the Fylde coast over a century is one worth telling - 'Blackpool's Bus Centenary' is now a title in preparation for 2020 - details will follow. This replaces 'Tilling Stevens to Alexander Dennis' previously listed in our Shop.

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