New fresh look for the 6&7 Accrington & Blackburn services
The Hyndburn Circular service
The 6&7 Hyndburn circular service has seen an interesting mix across the years, as Transdev took over the former East Lancashire depots from Stagecoach in 2001, taking over the Manor Sutton Street depot in Blackburn. The route has stayed the same across the years, with many a variation to the theme, as Blazefield sort after updating the Blackburn and Burnley fleets with more modern vehicles, which included over 30 Volvo B10BLEs with Wrights bodies for the mainline services in Burnley and the Volvo B7TL/Plaxton double deckers for the X43 Manchester service. Blackburn gained its B10BLEs during 2002, with most replacing the former Stagecoach Darts on the Hyndburn Circular services.
By 2007 Transdev has purchased the Blazefield operations in Lancashire & Yorkshire, later the acquisition of the Blackburn Transport was also secured. This resulted in the revamping of all the Blackburn services with the ‘Spot-On’ Brand. The red & Black ‘Lancashire Way’ X41 Blackburn to Manchester was kept, as it was already an identifiable brand.
The first real change to the Blackburn fleet under Blazefield control was a new livery, which looked better then the stripes of the former Stagecoach fleet. Above:- 210 an Alexander ALX200 bodied Volvo B6 is departing the old Blackburn Bus Station, with full Hyndburn Circular branding. The Alexander Darts were kept by Blazefield as they were youngest buses in the fleet at the time.
Blazefield then undertook a programme of vehicle replacement, as most of the buses inherited from the former Stagecoach operation were becoming time expired. An order for over 30 Volvo B10BLEs with Wrights Renown bodywork was placed, most were based at Burnley. Around a third of these new buses were dispatched to Mannor Sutton Street, for use on the Hyndburn Circular route and the 225 Bolton to Clitheroe service. 1085 pauses at the exit of the former Acrrington Bus Station, bound for Blackburn.
New liveries and new vehicles
The 6 and 7 could go either via Great Harwood the long way round to Accrington or go via Oswaldtwisle, which was the quicker way round. The 6A & 7A were an extension of the service, which would venture between Intack and Oswaldtwistle via Stanhill. However towards the end of 2012 the Blackburn fleet were being repainted into the new yellow and blue livery, with additional brand for the 6&7, 152 and the Lancashire way X41 services. This happened after several vehicles had gained the new ‘Spot-On’ grey and purple livery.
Transdev had successfully purchased the Blazefield operations of Lancashire and Yorkshire in late 2006, with the new identity being applied to vehicles in early 2007. Then in an unexpected move Transdev purchased the operations of Blackburn Transport and quickly established the 'Spot-On' branding. 1825 a Wrights Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLE is depicted departing Blackburn during May 2009, while on 7 duty to Accrington via Great Harwood
Transdev decided to introduce a corporate identity to livery application and thus came up with various ideas, which were an improvement on some of the liveries. The best of the bunch was the improved livery for the 'Spot-On' routes, as shown above by 573 a former Keighley Volvo B10BLE/Wrights Renown saloon.
The new 6&7 Hyndburn Connect branded was appearing on various types of Blackburn based saloons, Volvo/Wrights, Optare Tempo & Versa. However there were plan drawn up for 2016 within the Transdev group of a new local identity and new livery for each depot served. Blackburn were to become two tone blue with new branding and brand new Optare Versa saloons, all of which would be in serve around June/July 2016. This new local livery would also be accompanied by two new identities for the X41 now the ‘Red Express’ and the recent updated 152 Preston to Burnley via Blackburn service, ‘Hotline’ using a two tone purple livery.
Transdev brought in the new blue and yellow livery from early 2012, for the whole Blackburn fleet, which included the 'Lancashire Way' X41 Blackburn to Manchester service. 203 another Wrights bodied Volvo B10BLE, which was new to Ambassador travel. Is seen entering the temporary Blackburn Bus station, in full Hyndburn Connect branding.
A day in Blackburn on the new Optare Versa saloons
Transdev brought in the new two tone blue livery on 18 brand new Optare Versa saloon, which arrived during late August 2016. These new buses were exclusively used on the rebranded 6&7 Accrington service. Above:- 224 departs Thwaites Road bound for Blackburn, in full 6&7 branding.
By early September 2016 your author decided to venture across to Blackburn to sample the new Optare Versa saloon on the 6&7 service. My first journey was on 224 on the 7 to Accrington via Oswaldtwistle, going along Thwaites road. Then dropping into Accrington via Stanhill Lane and into the newly revamped bus station. After a short stay in Accrington, your author returned back to Blackburn on the 7A which went via Windsor Road and Stanhill. Which offers some very nice areas for photography. After some lunch it was back onto the buses, this time using a 6 to get to Thwaites Road for some shots along the road and at both ends.
The new standard Transdev interiors, which offer wood effect floors, very comfortable seats, USB power sockets and 4G Wi-Fi with a light, bright and airy feel all adding to the passenger experience. The Optare Versa with a Euro VI Cummins 6.7 litre engine coupled to a Voith gearbox, deliver a smooth and comfortable journey. The new buses are also rattle free and allow good all round vision for the passenger.
For the final part of the day, your author ventured towards Windsor road for some shots of the Versa arriving and depart the road, before heading into Stanhill and getting some scenic shots of the new fleet, before venturing home.
The Blackburn Bus Company livery and logo are shown here to good effect by 234, exiting Windsor Road while on 6A service to Blackburn. These new Optare saloons are very impressive vehicles, with the latest in passenger comfort and easy low floor access and dedicated buggy and wheelchair zones.
The Blackburn Bus Company brand new livery looks very smart on the new Versa saloons, as demonstrated here by 236 on 6A duty. The bus is seen heading along Stanhill Lane just near the bridge which has the main M65 running underneath.
From Keighley & District to DalesWay
The 66 formerly the 68 service between Skipton and Keighley has been a staple part of the network since West Yorkshire Road Car took over the Keighley Corporation operation in 1932. The Skipton area had many services into the bus station, with the 70, 70A & 70M from Silsden. The 71 from Buckden, the 72 & 76 from Hebden, both via Grassington. With the 666, 667 and 668 routes from the Metro/National re-numbering of 1978, as the 68 was continued by Keighley and is now the 66. This route as remained unchanged, with services visiting Cross Hills and Sutton in Craven. During the West Yorkshire days the service would have used various Bristol/ECW saloons on the service with classic Bristol Ls, REs, and Leyland Nationals.
By the time the new look Keighley & District division arrived in 1987, there were still many former West Yorkshire vehicles in stock. But soon the new Volvo chassis were ordered and arrived with the Volvo B6B and Volvo B10B versions. By 2008 the older B10Bs were withdrawn and some examples were used as schools buses, as newer Volvo B7RLE/Wrights saloons arrived into revenue service.
Vehicles used on the service
Above:- Volvo B6B with Alexander Dash bodywork 224, is collecting its passengers for another trip into Keighley. This particular vehicle was a Volvo demonstrator, which led to Blazefield ordering 13 vehicles for 1993 delivery, Ten for Harrogate and three for Keighley.
Above:- Volvo B10B with Wrights Endurance bodywork 566 pauses at the Old Skipton Bus Station arrival point, at 13:40 according to the clock. This was the second batch of buses which were low floor buses for the Keighley & District fleet.
Above:- Volvo B7RLE/Wrights enters Skipton Bus Station on the 66 service, after the bus station was rebuilt during 2010. The light blue and white livery soon gave way to the new Transdev style of blue and green for the whole fleet, introduced by Transdev from 2010.
Above:- Volvo 1848 is seen entering the bus station at Skipton on very wet weather during October 2011, the new green & blue livery had been applied to most of the fleet at this stage.
All change for the 66
The route still had a 30 minute frequency during the daytime, with an hourly evening and Sunday service. Which seemed to work well with this rural service, however several Keighley routes were under revision during 2013/14, which led to some services being operated by TLC Travel of Bradford.
Keighley held on to many of its services, including the 66, which saw a change in frequency during 2015. From August 30th, the 66 had a new 20 minute frequency 08:05 until 19:10 from Skipton and from Keighley at 08:00 until 18:30, then hourly from both locations. This arrangement would last until September 4th 2016, when the next phase of rebranding would be unveiled. Transdev and Optare entered into a tender bid for the new look vehicles to be used on the rebranded 66, which would become ‘Dales Way 66’. CEO Alex Hornby and the Keighley team examined a demonstrator Optare Versa during early 2016, to evaluated the products latest features, Euro VI engine, gearbox options and seating arrangements to suit Transdev’s needs. This was also tied in with Best Impressions, who have recently engaged with Transdev on many new liveries used with in the Yorkshire and Lancashire operations.
By the middle of August 2016 the three Optare Versa intended for use on the Dales Way 66, were entered into service, this was to ensure that any teething troubles could be ironed out before the actual launch of the Dales way brand, which would be on September 3rd 2016. On August 10th 2016 the overdue Optare Versa saloon for the rebranded ‘The Keighley Bus Company’ had been entered into revenue service on the former 717 Oakworth route, now the new K7.
238 above is seen with its branding during the day on September 3rd 2016, as the bus approaches Skipton. By this time the weather had set in for the rest of the day, a damp start to the new look service.
Welcome to Dales Way 66
Transdev announced via their Twitter and website pages that the new look for the 66 service would be unveiled on September 3rd 2016 at Skipton town hall from 10:00 until 16:00. So the date and time were set, all that was needed now was some last minute touches to the three versa saloons. The external and internal brand was applied during Friday evening on September 2nd in order to have Optare Versa 241 ready for its big day being displayed at Skipton.
From Keighley Colin, Dale and Phil were on duty for the day’s activities, while Ben and Matt were on hand to assist with the day. It all set off very well that morning on September 3rd, the sun was out and the weather was fine. However the real spanner was the intended forecast of persistent rain from mid-morning.
As Team Transdev arrived, 241 was paused outside the weekly Saturday Market, opposite the town hall. Driver Dale then brought the bus into the tightest gap for an Optare Versa directly outside the town hall forecourt. Then everyone began setting up the display, with flags and a table for information leaflets and the Dales Way branded merchandise. The Twitter photos were taken and all was set for a reasonable day of promotion.
241 is seen working its way around towards Skipton town hall on the driest part of September 3rd 2016, the early bit.
Then it started, slowly at first, but with the timing set the forecast rain had arrived right on cue, it was the fine drizzle, which later led to heavier rain. The Keighley team were quick to put the table display into the town hall entrance, as Matt and Phil were looking for some gazebo for keeping stuff dry. Even with the best wills in the world the Keighley team ploughed on to ensure the local Skipton public knew about the new Dales Way look. By 12:30 the team decided to get the hell out of dodge and try for some drier conditions, namely Keighley Bus Station.!
At this time your author was already taking advantage of the final day of the 20 minute frequency of the 66, as from Sunday the new timetable would be in full effect. 238 and 240 were in full branding and out along the route, so with camera in hand a few shots were taken of both buses at Sutton in Craven.
Above:- Optare Versa 238 turns on the corner of Holme lane/Sutton Lane in Sutton, during what can be best described as very wet conditions. In full Dales Way branding, which suits the lines of the Optare Versa well.
By 15:00 Matt and Phil were nearing the end of the day for the promotion of the new Dales Way service, which allowed 241 to enter into traffic for the remainder of the day. The bus was duly prepped for service and it took up the post for the 16:00 departure to Skipton.
Despite the weather taking a damp view of the day, the event was quiet a successful one, as most folk were happy with the new vehicles. Which featured the now standard Transdev interiors of wood effect floors, new high back seat with brand new moquette, at seat USB power sockets and the high speed free Wi-Fi all giving a bright and airy feel to the new buses.
For more details on the Dales Way service use the Keighley Bus Company web pages to download the timetable. You can tweet Keighley @keighleybus on twitter for up to date information regarding the service.