Budgie Transport started life as Cyclepoint based at Lancaster railway station providing an alternative mode of transport integration for lancaster's snarled up road system. The aim was to reduce car milege by offering a green and enviromentally friendly bike hire scheme allowing customers to use what was the most comprehensive off road track and trails in the UK.
A pilot scheme involving pick up and drop retailers throughout the area was subsidised initially by the Department for Transport, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council. Our Local steam railtours proved very succesful using the tried and tested circle from Carnforth/Lancaster/Preston/Blackburn/Clitheroe/Hellifield/Carnforth route.
Following on from this pilot scheme the YHA asked for another pilot scheme to be implemented in Cumbria at Ambleside Youth Hostel. This scheme was extended to include most hostels in Cumbria and provided the opportunity for YHA members to travel into and out of Cumbria without the use of the car. The members can arrive by bus or train and pick up a bike under the meet and greet scheme (Windermere) or by bus to most youth hostels. Bikes can be hired at one youth hostel and dropped off at another. Back at Lancaster the Budgie scheme was well used by tourists and students but not by the locals. Our Local steam railtours proved very succesful using the tried and tested circle from Carnforth/Lancaster/Preston/Blackburn/Clitheroe/ Hellifield/ Carnforth route.
Having developed the YHA scheme in Cumbria a decision to extend the scheme nationwide was taken and new points were set up in Yorkshire, London, Middle England and Lee Valley. During the late months of 2004 discussions were taking place on introducing a Waterbus service on the Lancaster Canal and Budgie Transport with their rail and coach operating background were asked to manage a pilot scheme from Carnforth to Lancaster. This was grant aided and after many months of discussions the pilot scheme commenced in August. It proved very popular so much so that a contract was placed through the EU to select an operator to run the service. Our best railtour to date took us to Oban in which was a very long day out for most passengers especially those that joined us at Preston at 0430. This timing along with the West Coast route upgrade created havoc with the planning of our railtours.
The bike hire continued extending throughout the country. Budgie Transport (Budgie Bikes of Lancaster) meanwhile were selected as the successful operator and the three year contract to provide the Waterbus service commenced in June. Two boats were initially allocated to the scheme, "Swiftsure" from BWB and Budgie Transport's own "Swallow" (previously Thomas Telford from the Llangollen canal). "Swiftsure was allocated the Waterbus service from June until the end of October while "Swallow"an the special cruises and deputised for "Swiftsure" during maintenance periods. This season in addition to the normal Waterbus service an additional lunchtime cruise between Lancaster and the Lune Aqueduct was introduced. At the northern end of the canal a special thursdays only country cruise between Carnforth and Tewitfield was planned into the timetable during the summer peak. With a number of railtours cancelled because of poor timings it was felt that having ran the twice delayed Blaneau Ffestiniog special that it was time to let the route upgrade be completed before any other railtours were planned.
Major route problems were encountered by the Waterbus service when right at the commencement of service the Lune Aqueduct suffered major problems resulting in the closure of the route from April till July, this was followed by low water mainly due to the heatwave experienced during July. Once all the problems had been erased the Waterbus became very popular as did the Lune aqueduct cruises. The country cruises from Carnforth were extended to include thursdays and fridays. No railtours were planned during 2006 due to the West Coast route upgrade. During the early part of 2006, an opportunity to extend the boat portfolio was taken up by the company. Budgie Transport secured the lease for Garstang Marina dealing with Boat Sales, Craneage, Maintenance and boat repairs and other boat requirements. A little later an opportunity of new offices near to the Waterbus terminal in Lancaster resulted in leaving the rail station and relocating at Victoria Court. The new modern offices provide the ideal location to service the boats daily, being just across the road from the Waterbus terminal. All bike operations were transferred to Garstang with the Lancaster retailers serviced by the Garstang staff. In December our first Santa Cruises provided two days of two cruises to the Lune aqueduct, all fully booked.
The planned Waterbus service for 2007 was formally agreed and included the Carnforth to Lancaster Waterbus service running Monday to saturday whilst on Sunday the Waterbus ran from Carnforth to Tewitfield. Two sets of country cruises ran from Carnforth to Tewitfield on Fridays. On top of these additional specia cruises included: Garstang cruises, Mothers Day Cruises, Cream Tea Cruises and the highly popular Fish, Chips & Quiz cruises. The company branched off into marina management providing support and advise to a number of new marina developments. A new company was formed to sell new and used boats.
The waterbus timetable was re vamped for the 2008 season with the service starting and finishing at Lancaster. The popular Lune aqueduct cruise now complimented by a southern country cruise through deep cutting. The Carnforth Tewitfield return over the most northerly section of canal in England has now reverted back to its normal Thursday slot. A service called Coach Connections is one of the new initiatives for 2008 and a number of coach tour companies have booked their cruises on the Waterbus this season. National Holidays booked a full season of Lune Aqueduct cruises and this was followed by a number of other holiday tour companies. In April, the go ahead to build a new boat was given by the steering group and "Kingfisher" began its service in mid October. A joint venture with the new Barton Grange garden centre started in November when "Kingfisher" moved to its winter mooring. A successful christmas programme of santa specials and christmas cruises completed 2008.
The year started with national holidays booking the Lune Aqueduct cruises throughout the season on each sunday from April. Kingfisher is planned to work 7 days a week throughout the summer season. This she completed with ease and during the summer completed a weekly timetabled mileage of nearly 150 miles plus our special evening cruises and private party bookings taking it to an average of 175 miles per week. Our narrow boat "Swallow" was refuirbished during the summer and returned to use in November. A very successful season for the cruises with a number of fish and chip cruises added due to the originals having been fully booked.
After a busy winter season with passenger figures up by 25% on last year we are finally on the cusp of welcoming the "Waterbus" service back to our canal which will commenced again in May with our Lune Aqueduct cruises going from strength to strength!! We were very proud to announce our "Fish, Chips & Quiz Cruises" were shortlisted for the 2010/11 "Best Tourism Experience" by the Lancashire and Blackpool Tourism Board and after lots of hard work and preparation we came runners up...just losing out to Go Ape! Now thats something to blow our horns about!!! We realized that "you" our passengers have a lot to answer for in this great achievement and it proves you have been talking us up and spreading the word about this fun, value for money evening of quality entertainment. Thanks to you all we really appreciate the support. 2010 saw te launch of our online booking system which goes from strength to strength each year!!
After returning to our offices after the Christmas break we were distraught to discover that a flood had destroyed our office!! We eventually located new premesis and managed to get ourselves up and running in temporary offices! The season started off a very busy one with more and more coach companies taking up the opportunity of a fantastic afternoons trip out to the stunning Lune Aqueduct. The Fish & Chips cruises proved yet again they were more and more popular with us even extending the schedule to Saturday nights to cope with the demand! We also introduced our first ever Little Italy food cruise which after reading the customer feedback card was incredibly popular and may well make a re-appearence in 2012!! Winter saw the Santa Special Cruises make a welcome return along with additional Magical Childrens Cruises which featured childrens entertainer Andy Magee!! All were incredibly popular and many dates were booked up within a few days, promting us to introduce extra dates again to cope with the demand!!
After moving into our permanent new offices at the old Barton Grange Garden Centre at Barton Grange Hotel, we were looking forward to a busy season on the Lancaster Canal! With the £2m renovation of the Lune Aqueduct completed bringing it up to a very high standard and a massive local advertising campaign, we saw a flurry of bookings for people all wanting to come and explore both the Lancaster Canal and the Lune Aqueduct. This also led us to test the market for our newest project which was our Lancashire Days Coach Tours, a full day for groups of 20 or more visiting a selection of attractions and incorporating a canal cruise to the Lune Aqueduct. Coach bookings also increased for us in 2012 doubling the amount of coach companies that were bringing visitors to us as part of their holidays. Our Fish & Chips cruises were re-launched with much more choice of cruises! Our Fish, Chips& Quiz Cruises went from strength to strength with us introducing Lancaster southbound cruises using the local award winning chippy “Hodgsons” We also re-launched our Barton Grange Fish, Chips & Entertainment Cruises with brand new artists including ABBA, Motown & Michael Buble tributes – which saw our bookings soar with most cruises getting fully booked as soon within weeks of us launching the dates!! Winter brought around our Santa Special Cruises and Magical Santa cruises which due to the growing popularity meant that yet again we had to add more dates & timings!!
Following on from the success of our Lancashire Days trials in 2012 we teamed up with more attractions around Lancashire to enable us to offer a fantastic selection of day trip options for groups and coaches, which all include and cruise on the Lancaster Canal as well as lunch and coach options if the groups required it, all this along with our On-Board host for the day saw bookings come flurrying in from various coach companies and groups that were looking for something different to do on a day out!! This year we also involved train services run by Transpennine and seamless transfer to the boat from Lancaster rail station on specific services. Bookings yet again for our Lune Aqueduct Cruises were increasing with more coach companies visiting us with their passengers! May saw us join Visit England and have our first ever inspection to which we were incredibly proud to achieve the highest grading of “EXCELLENT” August saw us visiting Carnforth with the timetable allowing passengers to take a 45 minute walking or Lunch break in the town centre if they wanted – we look forward to returning in 2014! Our Lancaster Fish & Chips Cruises went from strength to strength with us changing the route to sail Northbound across the Lune Aqueduct on to Hasty Brow offering some spectacular sunset views across Morecambe Bay! This lead to increased bookings and we had to add more dates to keep up with the demand! Our Entertainment Cruises proved a huge success with us adding live entertainment to our Mothers Day and Fathers Day cruises and increasing our evening entertainment cruises to every month!! We also introduced our “Quiffs” cruise – a fantastic live entertainment tribute to all the best “quiff” vocalists of the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s!! At the end of our summer season our passenger number were up by an incredible 23% on 2012 with the winter & santa cruises still to come!
November saw us become the proud winners of the Lancashire Tourism Small Visitor Attraction of the Year Award!! A very proud moment for all the management, staff and crew here at Lancaster Canal Boats!!