Blackpool Buses Set to Return to Manchester

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.

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9 thoughts on “Blackpool Buses Set to Return to Manchester

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  1. Lets hope they keep with it till August at least, because that’s going to be a slow burner over the winter.

    (In fact that’s something all companies need to do, give the new routes time to grow. Looking at you, suddenly gone i’malittegem

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    1. Hi Connaire,

      I hope they do. Thankfully their proposed launch date dovetails neatly with the last month of the Blackpool Illuminations, so it is possible on a Friday or Saturday to have a trip to Blackpool for the lights and catch the 2000 journey back to Manchester. Plus they’ve also advertised the Manchester Christmas Market on their website, so they could get custom in a southbound direction for that.

      I always believe in the idea that a completely new bus route needs a year to bed in. This not only true of the 61 as we’ve found out this week, but also the long defunct Bradford – Trafford Centre service from 2004, and the short lived extension of the 419 route from Ashton-under-Lyne to Stalybridge in October 2007 (withdrawn January 2008, though an inadequate timetable actually stymied progress within that section).

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  2. The holders of the ENCTS passes were able to travel on the X61 from Shudehill bus station for free when that service was running. As you know, the Manchester Metrolink provides a very useful link to that bus station, with its adjacent tram stop.

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    1. Hi Paul,

      That’s very true, because the X61 – like Transdev’s routes from Manchester to Blackburn, Burnley and Nelson – was a limited stop stage carriage route on a VOSA stage carriage licence.

      As free travel isn’t available for holders of ENCTS permits, I would assume Classic Bus North West registered the route as a coach service. Very much in the same way as National Express’ routes are registered.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  3. Great news Stuart!

    Does seem strange introducing this service in Autumn after the Summertime period. Would it have been better to introduce it in the Spring with a blaze of publicity? Or it this a tactic to get people used to it being there in time for next Summer? And, as you say, there’s the Illuminulations.

    It will hopefully gain some of the patronage of the old X61, plus with the journey times they are stating (I wonder if they’ll be able to keep to them on sunny bank holiday weekends!) they could gain extra patronage in either direction from younger people and families willing to try a fast cheap alternative to the packed train.

    It will be interesting to see the service develop, if it stays. Will the Trafford Centre link remain? What will the frequency be like in a couple of years?

    I am also hoping that the seats on the Red Rocket Citaros are much more comfortable than those on First Manchester’s!

    Best of luck to Classic Bus NW.

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    1. Hi Mark,

      It may seem a little strange launching it in autumn, but I can see two reasons why. Not only the last month of the illuminations but also the Christmas Market from mid November. Being as its second Manchester stop will be Albert Square, it would offer Blackpudlians a better link with the market. Like outside the main stalls rather than a walk from Manchester Oxford Road or Salford Central railway stations to any of the stalls (or even Manchester Victoria to the Corn Exchange stalls).

      I agree that it could a suitable and more economic option for some families. The question is: will they sacrifice a comfier train seat (if they can get one!) for a cheaper way, and bus seats? In the glory days of the X60, X61 routes, it wasn’t uncommon to see standard service buses, as well as dual purpose ones along that route. Till the early 1970s, it used to attract a lot of duplicates from other operators; sometimes, another corporation’s bus would be drafted in to augment North Western’s, Lancashire United’s and Ribble’s buses (who jointly operated the X60).

      In relation to the Citaro seats, I’ve never had a problem with First Greater Manchester’s seats, even if they’re a little on the hard side. I should imagine Classic Bus North West’s seat will be plusher owing to the longer journey times (that in comparison with the 408 service by the way rather than its competition).

      I’d lovingly try the RedRocket Express. As always, a matter of finding the time to make that journey.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  4. I think advertising wise they’ve hit a snag, I didn’t know this until today but their’s a train service running hourly what takes around 70 mins give or take, I wonder if they’ve taken this service into account when they say they’ll be faster than the train? As you’ve said the walk from Blackpool North could make all the difference, they’ve just got to emphasise this fact otherwise it looks like false advertising.

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    1. Hi Leeds,

      I’ve known that for some time, there also being a faster Blackpool North train as well as the local services. Therefore they should emphasis the difference in walking distance from Blackpool North to The Tower compared with the walk from RRE to The Tower.

      With respect to journey times, RedRocket Express would take 80 minutes from the Blackpool Coach Station (near Coral Island) to Albert Square, Manchester. Using the faster train as example (and Bonny Street Market as a comparable starting point to RedRocket Express’ route):

      • 15 – 20 minutes walk to Blackpool North;
      • 68 minutes to Manchester Oxford Road;
      • 10 – 15 minutes walk to Albert Square.

      Therefore, RedRocket Express would be faster than Transpennine Express’ route using the same points. Or of minimal difference if he or she excludes the driving time to Blackpool North railway station. It also offers better interchange if for example you board a tram at Cleveleys, or the 14 bus from Fleetwood, as the transfer between modes will be shorter.

      That might be worth reminding them, if for instance the ASA take note. Then again, British Airways’ shuttle from Heathrow could claim to be a fast way to Manchester, but the rail transfers to each centre and check-ins make rail or road more attractive in terms of overall journey time.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

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