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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Lets Hear It For Blackpool's Buses

John Woodman

As Blackpool's bus operation approaches its centenary in June this year it is worth a quick look back at the evolving vehicles and designs, as well as liveries, which have been all too familiar over several generations. Culminating in the present 'Palladium' scheme which was first introduced with delivery of a batch of Mercedes 'Citaro' class single deck buses prior to the present BTS MD taking office. With the tram operation limited to eighteen articulated cars plus a reserve number of double deck trams rebuilt to allow low platform operation with extended centre entrance doors, the charm and character of the tram system has sadly diminished.

A final outing for 375. And Below : BTS 30th Anniversary with two contrasting classic vehicles in successive liveries. Both Photos : John Woodman

The much larger BTS bus fleet however manages to exude its own individuality through a menage of varying types, many now originating from the Alexander Dennis Ltd. factory in Falkirk, At one time that Scottish town also had a tramway with its own pecularities. Not the least of which were the originating tram fleet built by a French company until replaced by British versions and subsequently with an entirely new fleet of single deck trams produced by the Brush Engineering Company in Loughorough. The Falkirk tramway ended up being a complete circle (much like the one at Beamish) circumnavigating the town's commercial central area. It would succumb to a certain assertive Scottish bus company during the 1930s.

Blackpool's buses up to 1958 were mostly locally built by HV Burlingham which started off in Marton and then built an expanded factory facing on to Preston New Road in the 1930s. It was renowned for the quality of its interior finish and craftsmanship during an era when most buses and coaches had wooden framework. Blackpool's keynote style was centre entrance models both double and single deck: with its modernised tram fleet similarly adopting the same format. Its buses adopted full front bodywork from 1936 all the way up to 1965. The system was late to adopt front entrance driver only operation, long after most other UK urban systems had switched over to what was a far more economic format.

Determined to retain public ownership of its transport system, Blackpool Council created an arms length private company, Blackpool Transport Services Ltd. when deregulation of the public transport sector morphed into consolidation of former municipal (and efficiently run) enterprises. by a small cabal of corporate firms. Blackpool's own stand alone policy has stood it in good stead since the 1980s.

From the initial single motor bus service in 1921 to the present day Blackpool Transport in its various forms has dominated the Fylde coast with operations based then, as now, from the same site at Rigby Road. This permanence is set to continue as plans are prepared to adjust the current Bus Garage and Workshops ahead of the introduction of all-electric during the next few years. A marvellous one hundred years of municipal transport history is thus uniquely set to continue.

Note : Readers with interest in Blackpool's bus operation will be disappointed to know that plans to publish a Centenary book on Blackpool Buses has had to be deferred from this coming June - due to the problems caused by Covid. It is a work in progress for completion end of 2021 or first quarter 2022.


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