If I Never Catch Another Bus: Blackpool By Bus and Tram

A Now You Know What I Did This Summer Special Edition

Modern Blackpool Tram (South Shore)
The Modern Face of Blackpool’s tramways: the Bombardier trams which see regular service from Starr Gate to Fleetwood Ferry.

If you enjoyed this year’s Now You Know What I Did This Summer which focused on the buses, trains, and ferries in Falmouth, we have a special treat for you. Yours truly, along with his old man (thanks to my old woman failing a fitness test), spent a longish weekend in Britain’s fun capital. Needless to say, the sighting of a Mr. Longthorne inspired the title of our special.

Instrumental to seeing Joe Longthorne MBE‘s gig at Viva! Blackpool, and three tribute artistes at Kings and Queen the day before, was Blackpool’s bus and tram network. With the weekend dogged by rain, they were an absolute godsend.

Blackpool’s Buses and Trams

Whereas most of Greater Manchester’s and all of Falmouth’s buses are ran by private sector companies, most of Blackpool’s are operated by Blackpool Transport Services. They are among that rarest of beasties on these shores: a publicly-owned bus company. An arms-length limited company owned by Blackpool Borough Council. They also own the trams, having served the resort since 1885. Which is something to cherish.

The municipal enterprise’s most frequent corridor is between Starr Gate and Fleetwood, where the 1 service parallels the tramway (though with more stops). There is also some competition with Catch22Bus Ltd’s 21 service from Cleveleys to St. Annes-on-the-Sea. Catch22Bus Ltd has its roots in Classic Bus North West (whom East of the M60 have covered in relation to the Red Rocket Express route). Heritage buses may be seen on some of its journeys, but my observations included Dennis Dart SLFs bodied by Plaxton (in the previous owner’s livery).

Before the start of the summer season, Stagecoach was a good second to Blackpool Transport. April’s closure of their Fleetwood depot saw the Perth giant pull out of the fishing town. This followed the loss and discontinuation of Lancashire County Council tendered services. One of them being the 84 service from Poulton-le-Fylde to Cleveleys via Pheasants Wood estate. To compensate for this, Catch22Bus Ltd registered services 23 and 24, taking the place of the 74, 75, and 87 services as well as the 84.

The 23 service, known as Cleveleys Connect, is a short distance service that is handy for linking passengers between Cleveleys town centre (for the trams and the 1 service to Blackpool and Fleetwood). At its other end, Pheasants Wood estate and Burn Naze (with links to local shops and the 14 service to Fleetwood).

As well as retaining socially necessary services, Blackpool’s buses include the glitzy Palladium services. Two routes operate under their premium brand. One is the 5 service from Victoria Hospital to Halfway House, via the town centre. They use sleek Mercedes Citaro single deckers with buses every twelve minutes. Its sister routes are the 9/9a from Cleveleys to Blackpool (Clifton Street). Buses leave every ten minutes with state-of-the-art Enviro400s. For both routes, the Sunday and Bank Holiday services are every half hour.

Like the Vantage V1/V2 bus routes on the Leigh Guided Busway, or any of Lancashire United’s and Burnley and Pendle’s express routes, comfortable e-leather seating with free WiFi are the norm on Palladium-branded routes. As well as new vehicles, some of its older vehicles are being refurbished to Palladium standards. That of e-leather seats, free WiFi, audible announcements, and LED information displays inside the bus (detailing each stop).

Blackpool Transport aims to roll the Palladium brand out to more routes. My experience on the 7 service from St. Annes-on-the-Sea (where some Palladium buses have been seen in operation) was amazing. It made my recent trip on the 409 seem hideously dated.

Compared with, say five years ago (let alone twenty years ago), Stagecoach’s presence on the Fylde peninsula has diminished. Only three routes leave Blackpool: the 42, 61, and 68. Till recently, the 42 service used to terminate at Morecambe (The Battery). Instead, it only terminates at Morecambe as part of positioning journeys from the Salt Ayre depot near Lancaster. It has a basic hourly on Monday to Saturday daytimes with a limited number of journeys on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Stagecoach’s main routes out of Blackpool are the 61 and 68 services. The 61 service takes a more direct route into Preston, running every half hourly on daytimes (hourly on Sundays). Taking in St. Annes-on-the-Sea and Lytham en route to Preston, the 68 runs every fifteen minutes in the daytime, offering a more frequent link for passengers brandishing Explorer passes.

Bus and Tram Routes

Blackpool Transport Services routes

  • 1: Fleetwood – Cleveleys – Blackpool – Starr Gate (via North Pier and Blackpool Tower).
  • 2C: Blackpool (Corporation Street) – Poulton-le-Fylde – Knott End.
  • 3: Cleveleys (Park) – Bispham – Blackpool (Abington Street) – Mereside (Tesco superstore).
  • 4: Cleveleys (Town Centre) – Bispham – Blackpool (Abington Street) – Mereside (Tesco superstore).
  • 5 (Palladium): Victoria Hospital – Blackpool (Market Street) – Halfway House.
  • 7: Lytham (Saltcotes Road) – St. Annes-on-the-Sea – Blackpool (Market Street) – Bispham – Cleveleys (Bus Station).
  • 9/9a (Palladium): Cleveleys (Bus Station) – Bispham Village – Victoria Hospital – Blackpool (Clifton Street).
  • 10: Poulton-le-Fylde – Blackpool (Market Street) – St. Annes-on-the-Sea.
  • 11: Lytham – St. Annes-on-the-Sea – Blackpool (Clifton Street) – Layton – Grange Park.
  • 14: Peel Park – Blackpool (Market Street) – Carleton – Thornton – Fleetwood (Ferry).
  • 15/16: Blackpool (Corporation Street) – Marton Mere (Blackpool South Circular).
  • 17: Poulton-le-Fylde – Blackpool (Market Street) – St. Annes-on-the-Sea.
  • 20: Blackpool (Adelaide Street) – Marton Mere – Blackpool Zoo (Circular).
  • Tram: Fleetwood (Ferry) – Cleveleys – Bispham – Cabin – Tower – Pleasure Beach – Starr Gate (limited stop).

Other routes

  • 21 (Coastliner): Cleveleys – Bispham – Gynn Square – Tower – Pleasure Beach – St. Annes-on-the-Sea (Catch22Bus Ltd).
  • 22: Blackpool (Clifton Street) – Cleveleys – Fleetwood (Catch22Bus Ltd).
  • 23 (Cleveleys Connect): Cleveleys (Bus Station) – Thornton-Cleveleys – Pheasant Wood Circular (Catch22Bus Ltd).
  • 24: Cleveleys (Bus Station) – Thornton – Poulton-le-Fylde – (Victoria Hospital) (Catch22Bus Ltd).
  • 42: Blackpool (Market Street) – Garstang, then Garstang – Lancaster – (Morecambe, Homfrey Avenue) (Stagecoach).
  • 61: Preston – Kirkham – Blackpool (Market Street) (Stagecoach).
  • 68: Preston – Warton – Lytham – St. Annes-on-the-Sea – Blackpool (Market Street) (Stagecoach).

Unlike towns of similar size, Blackpool lacks a central bus station. The Talbot Square facility was ditched by Blackpool Transport’s services with Market Street and Corporation Street favoured stopping points. Though a central bus station could be a good idea, the town’s bus and tram passenger flows are mainly north to south, from Fleetwood to Lytham. Its most significant east to west passenger flows are by train (from Blackpool North and South stations) or by private car and coach along the M55 motorway.

On the site of Blackpool Central station, close to Bonny Street Market, is the town’s Coach Station. This is used by National Express journeys. It is used by the Red Rocket service to the intu Trafford Centre and Manchester city centre. Further south, the former trackbed – turned into a bypass three decades ago – is a popular parking spot for excursion coaches. There used to be two purpose-built coach stations: Lonsdale Road, and the Coliseum Coach Station – both between South Shore and Central Pier.

Trams, Old and New

No mention of Blackpool’s public transport is complete without its tramways. Whilst everybody else dismantled their tramways wholesale, Blackpool kept theirs along the promenade. For anyone who hasn’t been to Blackpool for a while, you will be surprised with the present rolling stock.

The Bombardier Flexity 2 trams are a low floor cousin of the Flexity Swifts seen on the Metrolink system. They come in five articulated sections with a central one used for housing the pantograph. They first entered service in 2012 with the municipal enterprise being the world’s first operators of the Flexity 2.

Today’s trams are kept in a purpose-built depot at Starr Gate, with the buses staying at Rigby Road. Trams operate every ten minutes along the full length at daytimes, with journeys every half hour at late evenings till the small hours. There is also part route journeys, starting at Cabin and Bispham.

Lovers of the older Balloon trams and Brush railcoaches are placated. Alongside the scheduled services are seasonal Heritage Tram Tours. The standard Heritage Tram Tour timetable operates between Pleasure Beach Blackpool and Cabin, with an intermediate stop at North Pier. On special event days, the Enhanced Timetable has a heritage trams from Pleasure Beach Blackpool to Fleetwood. North of the Cabin stop, additional stops are made at Bispham and Cleveleys.

Tickets

Blackpool Transport

One thing you cannot fault with Blackpool Transport is the company’s easy-to-remember fares: just four single fares on the buses and the usual mix of season tickets and day rovers. Top whack is £2.60 with subsequent single fares in descending order being £2.10, £1.60, and £1.20. Dogs can travel for 50p. The lowest fare on trams is £1.60. As you should expect, the tickets are also valid on standard tram services (Heritage Tram Tours are not included).

Dogs are catered for too (one up on the Metrolink!): you can also get a Doggy Day Saver for a £1.00 (yes, you can hound around for a pound – literally!).

  • Daysaver (Blackpool1):
    • Family: £10.00 (three adults or two adults and three children);
    • Adult: £5.00 (£4.50 bought online);
    • Young Person: £3.00;
    • Child: £2.50 (£2.00 bought online).
  • 24 Hour Ticket (Blackpool1):
    • Adult24, Child24, Group24: prices as bought on the bus or tram Daysaver ticket prices.
    • YP24: £3.00;
    • Rover24: £1.00 (from Chihuahua to Great Dane – accompanied with paying passenger).
  • 3 Day (Blackpool1):
    • Adult: £11.00;
    • Child: £6.00.
  • 7 Day (Blackpool1):
    • Adult: £14.00 (£13.50 bought online);
    • Young Person: £11.00;
    • Child: £7.00.
  • Monthly (Blackpool1):
    • Adult: £50.00;
    • Young Person: £40.00;
    • Child: £25.00.

Stagecoach

  • Fylde Coast Dayrider:
    • Adult: £3.80 (unlimited travel on the 61 and 68 services);
    • Child/Young Person: £2.00 (more of the same, though slightly more than half fare).
  • Lancashire Dayrider:
    • Adult: £7.40 (all Stagecoach buses in Lancashire);
    • Child/Young Person: £4.00;
    • Family: £12.00 (2 adults and 3 children; or 1 adult and 4 children).
  • North West 1 Day Explorer:
    • Adult: £10.80 (all Stagecoach buses in the North West, outside Greater Manchester);
    • Child: £7.70;
    • Family: £25.00 (2 adults and 3 children; or 1 adult and 4 children).
  • North West 3 Day Explorer:
    • Adult: £24.00 (all Stagecoach buses in the North West, outside Greater Manchester).
  • Fylde Coast Megarider:
    • Adult: £14.00 (weekly), £45.00 (recurring 28-day ticket – Direct Debit plus smart card), £50.00 (28-day – only available online with smart card).

Catch22Bus Ltd

Children can travel on any single journey for a pound. With a Blackpool and Fylde College card, the discount is extended to persons up to eighteen years old. Like Blackpool Transport, adult single fares are very straightforward: £1.20, £1.50, £2.00, £2.50, and £3.00.

  • Catch22 Day Tickets:
    • Adult: £4.00;
    • Child/Young Person: £2.00;
    • Group: £6.00.
  • Catch22 Weekly Tickets:
    • Adult: £10.00;
    • Young Person: £7.00.
  • Catch22 Monthly Tickets:
    • Adult: £30.00;
    • Young Person: £25.00.

Useful Tips

  1. Having the right amount of change for the conductor or driver is an absolute must. Especially as the fares are easy to understand in Blackpool.
  2. Sadly, there is no multi-operator ticket for the Fylde peninsula’s bus and tram routes. Fear not: as Blackpool Transport run most of the routes, purchasing any of their rover tickets or season tickets offers the best value for money.
  3. Please note that holders of ENCTS passes administered outside Blackpool Borough and Wyre Borough Council boundaries have to pay to use the tram (thank goodness for the fact there’s only three single fares).
  4. If you’re travelling to Morecambe from Blackpool, you will need to change at Lancaster.
  5. To save on boarding times, consider buying your day saver tickets online.
  6. The nearest Wetherspoons to many of Blackpool’s bus routes is The Layton Rakes on Market Street. Stands for northbound and southbound routes are a short amble away. For the 20 service to Blackpool Zoo, it is (appropriately) a few yards from The Albert and the Lion – as are the Tower bus and tram stops.
  7. Why not have a circular tour from Blackpool to Knott End? Take the 2C service to Knott End, board the Knott End ferry to Fleetwood, then return on the 1 bus or the tram back to Blackpool.
  8. What about Blackpool to Manchester by bus? As well as the Red Rocket Express, the most adventurous could take the 8 to Bolton (First Greater Manchester), followed by Stagecoach Gold’s 125 service to Preston. The last leg, via the 61 to Blackpool (the most direct route) or the 68 (via St. Annes-on-the-Sea). Definitely a take some butties job!

For the bus and tram enthusiast, Blackpool does have something for everyone. If you’re going to see Barbara Windsor switching on the Blackpool Illuminations, their illuminated trams are a joy to behold.

Oh, and Joe Longthorne was brilliant at Sunday’s gig at Viva! Blackpool doing a 95 minute set. The MC was funny, as was supporting comedian, Carl Schofield. Mr Schofield had the audience laughing with only three mild profanities in his act. He is also worth seeing, being the resident comedian at the Lyndene Hotel – with bookings till the end of this year.

Stuart Vallantine went to Blackpool on Northern Rail’s services from Ashton-under-Lyne to Blackpool North. Had there been a beautiful X61 bus at Chorlton Street, this may have been his preferred mode of transport (The tight-fisted *** – Ed). Instead, his journey included a bus replacement service to Manchester Victoria and two 2-car Class 150 Sprinter units. One of which starting at Blackpool North and continuing to Ashton on the return leg (yay!).

S.V., 25 August 2016.

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4 thoughts on “If I Never Catch Another Bus: Blackpool By Bus and Tram

Add yours

  1. Health and weather permitting, I might nip up to Blackpool for the BDOY next Saturday. I’m a little confused over the reference to the Red Rocket Express in the present tense, though.I know they “threatened” to come back last Winter, AFAIK they never ran. Moreover, since then, TFGM have taken over management of the Trafford Centre Bus Station, so as well as having to register the service with the TCs (Trafford Centre to central Manchester being less than 25km/15 miles), they would need to agree slots at the Trafford Centre, and of course get permission from the City Council to stop in the city, before lodging the aforementioned Service Registration.

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    1. Hi Phil,

      Unless you are driving to Blackpool, I’m afraid there are still rail replacement buses between Bolton and Leyland on Saturday. As a consequence, the direct trains are via Bolton and Wigan, avoiding Chorley.

      I would say the Red Rocket Express is probably AWOL. Unless anybody else knows different.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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      1. Thanks, Stuart. On paper at least my health would have permitted (good news from blood tests), but not the weather – well it is a Saturday. Still, its the Trans-Lancs on Sunday…..

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Back in the 60s, when I was a boy, a bus trip from Manchester to Blackpool was one of life’s highlights. To me, it was a great adventure and I recall stopping at a place called the ‘half-way house’ for a bottle of pop and a sandwich. I used to love sitting on top of the double decker cream and green trams that ran along the prom from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, where we stayed, to the Pleasure Beach, always stopping for fish and chips on the way back. It’s been many years since I was there but I can still remember the sound of the trams and the smells of cockles, mussels, candyfloss, and my dad’s pipe as he sat fishing on the pier.

    Liked by 1 person

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