Blackpool operator reinstates express bus link between Manchester and Blackpool
Without fanfare or the semblance of a mock funeral, or a suitable wake, the 29 January 2012 saw the loss of the X61 service, Manchester’s bus link with Blackpool. In its twilight years, the service then operated by Stagecoach North West was reduced to a handful of journeys and curtailed to Preston. This was in stark contrast to ten years ago when the X61 had a hourly service and an extension to Fleetwood. It was light years away from the 15 minute frequency it enjoyed in 1968, or about every five minutes in the late 1940s.
At present, a trip to the UK’s Number One seaside resort from Manchester means an arduous trek on three buses via Bolton and Preston. Or a more expensive and often crowded train journey. From the 04 October (next Friday), this is set to change.
Classic Bus North West is set to reinstate Manchester’s bus link with Blackpool. Entitled the RedRocket Express, it aims offer a cheaper and cheerful way to the Golden Mile with only one intermediate stop at each end. The new bus service will depart from Chorlton Street [stop TA] with a second stop outside Albert Square. At Blackpool, it will stop outside the Pleasure Beach before terminating at the Blackpool Coach Station close to Coral Island amusement arcade. Some journeys will call at The Trafford Centre’s bus station.
At Blackpool coach station, the service will operate every 90 minutes from 0900 to 1800, with an extra weekday journey leaving at 0715 and a Friday and Saturday journey departing at 2000. From Manchester [Chorlton Street, stop TA], the first RedRocket will depart at 0900 with the last bus departing at 2000. From The Trafford Centre, journeys from Blackpool will depart at 1000, 1130, 1300 and 1430. Northbound journeys will depart at 1520, 1655, 1825 and 2020.
The journey time of 75 – 90 minutes to Blackpool compares well with Northern Rail’s stopping service from Manchester Victoria, and the express service from Manchester Piccadilly. If you take into account walking distances from Blackpool North railway station to the North Pier or The Tower, the Red Rocket Express will be a quicker alternative.
Though less frequent than Transpennine Express’ and Northern Rail’s alternative mode, it will offer a cheaper option. Standard fares start from £8.00 single with day returns available for £10.00. Period Returns are £12.00 and offer return travel up to three months after your outward journey. There is a £2.00 reduction for aged persons and students aged 16 – 19 years of age, though no information on reduced fares for disabled persons’ concessionary pass holders. Plus there’s none of this book ahead frippery; just a case of pay the driver on entry, like the X60 and X61 since the 1970s.
The RedRocket Express will be operated with Mercedes Citaros in the red livery of Classic Bus North West. In recent times, Classic Bus North West has also operated a rival seafront service to Blackpool Transport’s route using older buses. They also have a number of preserved vehicles, which have made appearances at transport festivals throughout the North West of England.
As well as the RedRocket Express, they are set to make further inroads into stage carriage operation in Preston. On winning a Lancashire County Council contract to operate the tendered 80/81 services to Fleetwood, Classic Bus North West will extend the Preston – Fleetwood service to Blackpool. This will take effect in December of this year.
We hope Classic Bus North West succeed with the RedRocket Express. Some people may find the train too claustrophobic or expensive, so a cheaper alternative is welcome – one long overdue following the loss of the X61 service in early 2012.
For further information on the RedRocket Express, why not visit Classic Bus North West’s dedicated website to the new route. If you require further information on Classic Bus North West themselves, their weblog is worth a read.
S.V., 26 September 2013.