X Marks The Bus
Blackpool's bus services are enlivened now by the appearance of route numbers with the letter suffix 'X'.
This denotes buses exclusively assigned to school travel for students only - the aim being to seperate all other travellers from young passengers en route to and from school. Thus minimising any viral infections as a component of government guidelines.
Whilst Blackpool Corporation buses were given letter suffixes on several services for example the 9 which managed to attract A B and C suffixes in the 1950s and 1960s - with the 9A running to Cleveleys from Bispham using Devonshire Road; whilst the 9B took the back road on All Hallows passing Bispham Parish Church before joining Devonshire Road further north. The 9C was used for short running journeys from Talbot Road Bus Station as far as Bispham Roundabout (or 'Clinic') as this point was unhelpfully termed. Having attended my initial schooling days at the Bispham Endowed School whose playground faced on to this roundabout and its several road junctions I became very familiar with the services in this locale from an early age.
Ribble White Lady ready to depart from Talbot Road Bus Station in the early 1950s on the X42 for Morecambe. Image : John Woodman Archive
Similarly other bus routes were noteworthy for their differentiating suffix letters. Buses heading south from Talbot Road Bus Station with joint running by Lytham St Annes Corporation managed to use A and C to mark their different journeys, as did the the 15s and 3s. Drivers were kept busy turning indicator handles manually whilst peering through narrow apertures in the cab ceiling to gain the correct assigned number before the start of each journey. Of course such manual dexterity is a thing of the past today with a simple press of a button (or two) to gain the right electronic display.
Number 235 en route to Bloomfield Road on a 'Football Special' passing Moorpark Avenue on Bispham Road with notable lack of road traffic other than a motorbike and sidecar pursuing. Image : John Woodman
School Specials were noteworthy for simply displaying this in their destination aperture - along with Football Special on Home Match Days at Bloomfield Road. The latter being a familiar sight on buses supplementing regular schedules that passed along Central Drive. The only X designations could be seen on Ribble's Express services into and out of Blackpool. I was particularly familiar with the 'X42' which ran between Talbot Road Bus Station and Morecambe's seafront station passing through Garstang and Lancaster en route. Express services from the eastern towns of Lancashire and Manchester to Blackpool such as the X60 similarly gained 'X' notations and were very popular during Bank Holiday weekends and peak summer months. All types of buses and coaches being assigned to duties from whatever was available.
On the subject of bus routes and destinations it is worth mentioning the expanding reach of Blackpool Transport which has taken over scheduled service from Fleetwood to Preston - an important step in becoming the 'All Fylde' bus (and tram) operator.