Red Rocket Express Grounded Till Easter?

The X70’s unscheduled touchdown

Almost three months after its maiden voyage, the X70 from Manchester to Blackpool, also known as the Red Rocket Express service will be grounded till Easter 2014.

Its operator, Classic Bus North West has ceased trading today. As well as the X70, this also affects the Lancashire County Council funded 80 service from Preston to Blackpool via Great Eccleston. The Blackpool based operator gave less than the statutory 12 weeks notice to LCC and the required 56 days notice to the North Western Traffic Commissioners.

Lancashire County Council will explore the matter further to see if Classic Bus North West are entering administration, or have already called in administrators. Whether a new operator wishes to take over the Red Rocket Express or Classic Bus North West remains to be seen.

Another operator may be called in to run the 80 service by means of an emergency tender. For passengers wishing to use the 80 for last minute Christmas shopping, this couldn’t have come at a worse time.

S.V., 20 December 2013.


7 thoughts on “Red Rocket Express Grounded Till Easter?

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  1. It’s all a bit messy and indeed weird, how it came to this is beyond belief when things were going seemingly so well, no warning signs were out there except for poor customer numbers on the 12 and poor numbers of passengers from the Manchester end of the X70, if they felt these 2 services couldn’t work and were loosing money on them, you’d have thought they’d have withdrawn them before things got this messed up and put the driver/vehicle resources (except the bendi’s of course) into beefing up the frequency of the 22, the work they’ve just taken on with the 80 gave out a message of a company not struggling,in fact Classic Buses on their blog page seemed up beat about the bendi breakdowns with their positive message on such a negative subject, what I don’t get is how the X70 will be re-launched in Easter when the company has gone bust! Will it be ran by sister company Oakwood Travel or are they just planning to re-launch the company?


    1. Hi Leeds,

      My thoughts exactly as I haven’t seen any of the usual characteristics of an ailing operator (such as older vehicles replacing newer vehicles, battered bodywork and reduced maintenance).

      It would be interesting to see if Red Rocket Express appears in Easter 2014. In the long term, train and private car seems to have won the argument for transportation between Manchester to Blackpool.

      A real strategy for a cheap, cheerful, bus based option from Manchester to Blackpool is needed. This could form part of a long term plan to improve local cross-boundary bus services from Greater Manchester. If that fails, with Blackpool – Manchester buses, we need to look at increasing capacity (both passenger and rolling stock movements) between Blackpool North and South, Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly railway stations.

      Bye for now,



  2. Theirs a statement about the situation on the Classic Bus Blog, it’s a big cash flow problem. To summarise they’ve had a lot of money owed to them, they’ve been unable to fulfill pay roll obligations as well as making losses in the refurbishment side of the business. With regard to the Rocket restarting at Easter, they say they were planning to put the rocket on hold after Xmas. Pity they didn’t reflect this in the timetable! Although businesses can struggle with cash flow, I don’t think Classic Bus have handled the situation well at all, I think they’ve hoped far too much that a cash cow will come along in the form of a successful Rocket/12 and haven’t pushed for the monies owed earlier than this, or at least controlled the losses the refurbishment side of the business made before it turned into a mess.


    1. Hello again Leeds,

      I have read the statement on the Classic Bus North West blog and it doesn’t seem too good. Though the 22 service comes under the Oakwood licence, why couldn’t they have done the same with the 80?

      It would have been better if they mentioned seasonal operation in their [Red Rocket Express] publicity material. Perhaps the 90 minute frequency wasn’t as marketable enough compared with an hourly one. Wouldn’t a seasonal service be less marketable if passengers want a decent rail alternative? Probably. Could the fares have done with being cheaper? Definitely, as I have noticed how minimal the savings were compared with off-peak rail fares from Manchester to Blackpool.

      I do agree the whole affair could have been handled better. Cashflow as well as PR too. I hope somebody steps in to save the preserved vehicles, the business and ultimately, sort out the drivers’ financial problems. In the more immediate future, I hope somebody sorts out the 80 service first and foremost.

      Bye for now,



  3. Hello again Leeds,

    I have just deleted your comment from the Free Schools post you commented on. Instead, I shall quote the comment within this thread as you intended, which is as follows:

    “The 80 (ex Classic Bus) will be taken on by Archway on a commercial basis for 3 months initially according to the Blackpool Gazette.”




  4. Hi Adam,

    According to their website, it is down as ‘taking off again soon’. However, it has said that for the last three months, so it seems like it is dead in the water. Furthermore, there seems to be no activity on Twitter and Facebook, so the Red Rocket Express is definitely dead.

    Bye for now,



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