Blazefield Buys in East Lancashire
Stagecoach Ribble had acquired the East Lancashire depots with Burnley Queensgate, Blackburn Manor Sutton Street (George Street), Bolton Goodwin Street and a depot in Clitheroe, during expansion of its services in the North West. But during the late 1990’s the relationship between the company and staff was certainly strained, especially in Burnley. The situation was about to change, when out of the blue Stagecoach announced it was selling the East Lancashire depots and services. This brought Blazefield into the picture, but with the sale complete, Stagecoach cascaded unwanted vehicles from its South and Ribble operational units.
The deal was finialised and completed by the initial stages of 2001, with the mixed bag of vehicles working the services within Burnley. 951 a former Stagecoach South Plaxton bodied Dennis Javalin coach is depicted above working the 21 service to Padiham, typical of the vehicles on offer. Leyland Atlanteans, Lynxes, Olympians, Volvo Citibuses, B6BLEs and B10Ms were all allocated to Burnley. No sooner had the ink dried on the deal, Blazefield had place on order 25 new Volvo B10BLE saloons with Wrightbus Renown bodywork and 16 new Volvo B7TL double decker with Plaxton bodywork all delivered between June and August 2001.
The Mainline fresh look
The new Volvo B10BLE/Wrightbus saloons were amongst the final examples of the low floor chassis purchased by Blazefield, as Volvo were planning to update their saloon chassis for 2003. 1042-1072 Y142-172HRN arrived during June 2001, with a new red and cream livery upswept towards the rear. The roof coving panels also had large route branding for the Mainline services, which also extended to Accrington, Keighley and Skipton with route numbers from 20-29. The investment allowed the Plaxton/Dennis coaches to be cascaded to Harrogate for the new school term in September 2002, all painted into the overall yellow scheme. For neatness, the other Volvo B10BLE/Wrightbus saloons 1073-1078 Y173-178HRN and 1079-1096 PO51MT/MU/MV with 1097-1111 PO02HV/HW were allocated across at Lancashire United. 1042 is illustrated above seen when fresh into service in June 2001.
As the Mainline grew, so did the service frequency from every ten minutes to every seven/eight minutes, as more new vehicles were ordered for early 2009 delivery. These were nineteen Volvo B7RLE with Wrightbus Eclipse with MKII version front end style dash and windows. 1853-1871 arrived in February 2009 with 1867 arriving in March 2009 with an 09 plate. Above 1090 is illustrated entering Red Lion Street in Burnley working the 28 to Barnoldswick. While below is new 1854 pausing in Burnley town centre, picking up passengers for the 21 service to Trawden.
MAINLINE the class of 09
Not only did 1853-1871 feature a brand new fresh livery, but also had multi-coloured destination displays, with a lower scrolling via screens. The new Volvo B7BLEs saw a selection of older B10Bs being displaced across the Transdev/Blazefield fleet. The remaining Volvo B10BLEs were also repainted into the new improved Mainline livery. Below 1867 is seen in central Burnley in April 2015 working the 23 to Accrington, in the 2009 livery.
For the next few years the Mainline service continued to offer the best value for local customers, and those who travelled beyond Burnley. Additional vehicles from cascaded Blackburn based Volvo B7RLE/Wright saloons from the 1834, 1838 & 1839 were pressed into service, even gaining the 09 livery, during 2013. It was in early 2014 that a former Witch Way twin deck 2750 was repainted and placed into service, becoming a regular on the 29 to Skipton section of the Mainline.
Two examples of the 09 Mainline livery on other vehicle types, Above 2750 is seen in Skipton turning into Cargrave Road while working the 29 service back to Burnley on April 11th 2016. With 1074 below working the 28 service along Broughton Road again heading back to Burnley on April 8th 2016.
M for Mainline
From May 1st, 2016, the Mainline underwent a new re-numbering of the services, with M1-M4 and the extension of the X43 through to Skipton, with the service revision. The M1 Padiham, Burnley to Barnoldswick replaced the 28 & 29 which did serve Skipton. The M2 Clitheroe, Burnley and Colne replaces the 22, 24, 26 & 27 numbers, while the M3 Trawden, Nelson, Burnley and Accrington takes over from the 21 & 23. Finally, the M4 which serves Burnley, Nelson, Colne and Keighley replaces the 25.
As 2017 continues, the Mainline is also being updated and the current vehicles are to be withdrawn, as the Volvo B10BLEs no doubt will be used as possible low floor school transport for the whole Transdev fleets. While the 1853-1871 batch of Volvo B7RLEs will be cascaded around the Transdev depots, with a timely ‘Revitialised’ refresh, for a few more years’ service. The Volvo B10BLEs are reaching sixteen years of age, which is good going for a very useful workhorse for both Blazefield and Transdev. Were as the B7RLEs have reach eight years of service, these are due a midlife overhaul/refurbishment or as Transdev/Blazefield CEO Alex Hornby says ‘Revitalised’. This will allow areas like Harrogate, Keighley and Blackburn to gain standard specification vehicles with several modern additions, USB power sockets, free Wi-Fi, next stop announcements, new improved cloth seating and visual stop information.
Make my Mainline the class of 17
Towards the end of 2016 the Mainline was the subject of a possible change of vehicle, leading to a very inspired choice of manufacture to do the deal requested. The initial details were announced in early February 2017. Blackburn acquired a batch of Optare Versa saloons for use on the spot-on services in the town in 2008, six were dispatched across to Yorkshire and the York Fulford depot for a new 844 service to combat First’s X64 route. Harrogate then acquired eight examples of the restyled Versa for delivery in May 2012, to replace the 12-year-old Volvo B6BLE/Wrightbus Crusader midibuses. With two going to Burnley for the local routes. Then Blackburn gained 18 brand spanking new Versa saloons to work the 6&7 Accrington services in 2016.
Optare have been entrusted with the task to build thirty new vehicles for the Mainline services, and the public of Burnley were encouraged to participate in designing the new fleet. The Burnley web pages announced the idea in December 2016, as CEO Alex Hornby and the Transdev team were interested in what people wanted on their bus route. The ideas came in thick and fast, with one unusual request of having coffee making facilities on board, along with better leg room, USB Power sockets, free Wi-Fi, improved seating with more standard features which would be included on the vehicles. Buggy and wheelchair zones, seating in the low floor area, next stop audio/visual information and possibly some extra features added into the new buses. Judging by the high standard finish to the 36 Riding Redefined and Coastliner Country double deckers, along with the recent ‘revitailsed’ saloons on the Knaresborough Road Volvo saloons. We as customers can expected the unexpected, for the new look to the Mainline.
For the distinctive touch Transdev are offering a member of the public to become the voice of the Mainline, by entering a competition (ending 8th May 2017). The entries are to be sent via you tube or twitter and last around 30 seconds, this will give that attention to detail which has become the Transdev standard.
Here are my personal views on bus activity in my area and beyond