Blackpool 554 & 570
By the late 1960s traditional conductor operation of bus services was becoming too expensive, particularly on the less busy urban routes. In early 1960s 36ft (11m) long single deck buses had been legalised and could be operated by one person (OPO). From the mid 1960s many operators took advantage of the reduced operating costs such buses achieved. In 1968 the government introduced a grant scheme to pay 25% of the cost of OPO buses and Blackpool was one of the fleets to take advantage. It placed an order for 15 new single deckers and the cheapest bidder was AEC of Southall to provide 15 of its Swift chassis with bodies by Marshall of Cambridge. These were the first Blackpool buses not to be built by Leyland since the 1930s, albeit AEC and Leyland were under common ownership.
The batch (541-555) arrived in two parts, the first few entering service in December 1969. They broke the establish practise of putting new buses on the best performing routes as they replaced the first rear entrance PD2s on the quietest services. The downside of one person operation was the time taken for the driver to take fares at the stop and to try to reduce this, two doors were fitted, with a front entrance and centre exit, so that passengers could board and alight at the same time.
The first batch of Swifts was successful and ten more arrived in 1971 and another 30 in 1974, all of which had a higher driving position and fully automatic transmission, compared to the low position and semi automatic gears on the first batch. 570 was one of the third batch entering service on 1 April. These replaced most of the remaining PD2s, with the last few (including 346) surviving into 1975 to allow for the 1968 batch of PD3s to have their mid life overhaul.
New in all-over cream, a new green and ivory livery was applied to most Swifts from 1979. A few escaped treatment as the first withdrawals began in 1980 – at the age of just 10. The first batch was all gone by 1983, the later batches were withdrawn gradually until a purchase of second hand Leyland Nationals replace the last few in February 1988. 570 survived until December 1987.
The final survivors were sold to a dealer and No. 570 passed to Blue Saloon of Guildford before being acquired by member Graham Oliver for preservation. It returned to Blackpool for repainting in the green / off white livery in 1997. No. 570 joined the LTT collection in March 2003 and a further repaint was undertaken in October 2005.