The London Bus Page In Exile

Thursday 20 December 2007

‘Roundabout’ roundabout

Filed under: Companies, Routes, Service Changes — londonbuspageinexile @ 10:29 pm

Metrobus Dennis Dart SLF 381 (LK51 JYL) at Orpington, 8.12.07From Metrobus the vehicle to Metrobus the company. On 8th December they acquired the entire First Orpington Buses network, buses and all. Demonstrating a number change at a bitterly cold Orpington Station forecourt that first afternoon is 10.1-metre Dart 381 (LK51 JYL), renumbered from DML 41412 and displaying both numbers.

Twelve years ago, the award of much of the Orpington-area network from Roundabout (latterly part of Stagecoach Selkent) to what was then CentreWest came as one hell of a surprise, but it demonstrated that the newly independent former subsidiaries of LBL didn’t have to be constricted by their geographic fate. With First selling off what remained of that network, maybe expanding far from their roots is not such a good idea after all.

Of course, tendering was what made it no longer viable; the loss of the T31 and T32 to Arriva London South not long ago and the 61 to Selkent before that weakened the St Mary Cray operation, with the inevitable result. It is a shame tendering has always failed to take into account local needs in that staff are likely to have ambitions and commitments lasting for longer than five to seven years. In this case, however, the staff, as much fixed assets as the buses, have been transferred themselves, ensuring a little more stability.

However, demonstrating the further lunacy of tendering (or at least the whims of whoever makes that decision – one we’ve never been allowed to see), Metrobus has now taken a hiding itself, losing three of its original routes!


  1. Why “lunacy of tendering”? As far as I’m aware, LBSL tendering is governed by the usual rules for public sector tendering of services to the private sector, ie each decision has to be made in the interests of value for money for the public purse, and is subject to scrutiny by the National Audit Office. Nothing more, nothing less. Why should the specific decisions be of any relevant interest to us, any more than who is awarded the contracts to operate cafes in our local hospitals, for example?

    Comment by Steve23589 — Friday 21 December 2007 @ 11:39 pm

  2. With the acquisition of the First London operation, Metrobus was in danger of having a complete monopoly in large parts of South East London and North Kent. The decision to award some of their contracts to Selkent and Arriva Kent Thameside was to avert this situation.
    The tendering system is in place to specifically avoid any one company having complete dominance in its chosen area, this being the whole premise of the privatised system, whether we agree with it (I don’t) or not.

    Comment by ejc — Saturday 22 December 2007 @ 12:18 pm

  3. Post 2. (EJC)

    Hi again ejc, what you said about metrobus is the same in East London. with most routes operated by East London & First & Arriva. This is why smaller companies go BUST……………. this is why Go-Ahead London had bought the Docklands & Blue Triangle companies to have a good foot hold in east london and give more compantision.

    Is this right or wrong?


    Comment by Richard — Saturday 22 December 2007 @ 5:42 pm

  4. Re #2. The suggestion, whether real or imagined, that Metrobus lost contracts to avoid the company having a complete monopoly warrants further comment. I always thought that tenders were won on best value for money, usually lowest price, or lowest price for a package of routes. How can tenders be awarded purely to avoid a company potentially becoming a monopoly: I don’t believe that this is a recognised basis for awarding contracts. I say potentially, since Selkent and Arriva already have a significant presence in the area. Why should Metrobus be arbitrarily restricted in the number of routes it operates if #2’s suggestion is correct? If you consider the Crawley operations, Metrobus only stepped in because Arriva couldn’t run the services with adequate margins, whereas Metrobus have made a success of it.

    Orpington has attracted a number of operators over the years – why should the future be any different? I would not have thought that many more buses could be squeezed into the Green Street Green premises, so any new route gains could involve significant extra premises costs which new entrants to the market would also experience. Or indeed, a new smaller oufit might in fact have lower overheads and could win tenders based on lower prices. What I am trying to say is that just because Metrobus currently run a large number of buses and routes, the market /tendering process being as it is, this could change over the years. If the quality of services provided by Metrobus declined, they could lose patronage and contracts. In fact the reverse is true: the last TfL stats on performance I saw showed Metrobus’s performance improving significantly over the last 6 months or so.

    So I would hope that tenders are awarded on best value or other published criteria to ensure open competition, and that one of those criteria is not to avoid a company having a monopoly (however that is determined).

    Comment by MT — Saturday 22 December 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  5. Re #4 – I think I see what your saying… It’s an outrage that such a high quality operator such as Metrobus should lose contracts to their larger (and probably more complaicant) counterparts. I used to use the 466 regularly and it was a mess under Arriva with old and unreliable vehicles used all the time. Metrobus bring it up to standard and then have it snatched away from them. I see that the contract is awarded with “Existing DDs”…. Are they going to be older than the scanias Metrobus use (Probably)… And there will be less seats too if Arriva’s usuals are used. How is this improvement I wonder?

    And then the 246, 354 and 356. All remnants of the only commercial network that survived for any notable period of time within London – A credit to Metrobus hard work (until London Transport effectively forced the purchase by outpricing them)… And now TfL see fit to award to a much less reliable operator to shake them up…

    It just goes to show that TfL are no longer interested in the comfort and ease of use of public transport in London but simply “Pounds and Pence”….

    Probably why I bought a car three months ago and have only boarded one bus since.

    Comment by Luke — Wednesday 26 December 2007 @ 10:50 am

  6. #5

    you are right about TfL, take waste pounds on things but worry about the pennies………….

    With TfL own company, East Thames Buses is ment to be the flagship operator of London Buses, ment to be showing our thing are done, they can’t get it right either. there buses what they got back in 2002 for the 150, 128, 129, 180 & 185 are now looking untidy, very dirty inside and you can smell the enigne inside the bus, this is not nice for passagers.



    Comment by Richard — Wednesday 26 December 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  7. Matt

    When contracts change hands, employee rights are protected under current TUPE legislation. As for their ‘ambitions’ I’d suggest that local (South East London) opportunities with First were both limited and diminishing!



    Comment by Michael Bennett — Thursday 27 December 2007 @ 11:24 pm

  8. However, Metrobus has won a route which is a LONG way from any of their garages (the 293 – Morden-Epsom). How can they operate that if it is down to ‘pounds and pence’ with all the dead mileage? (unless they are going to have a garage in Morden / Epsom, which seems stupid as London General could operate it from A or AL)

    Comment by ctrh136 — Friday 28 December 2007 @ 10:35 am

  9. #8 I assume that Metrobus will operate from their Croydon garage which is 4.5 miles away from Morden Station. This contrasts with 7 miles or so for the 181 and 284 routes in the Lewisham area operated from Green Street Green.

    In term of Go Ahead companies sharing or swapping routes to have garages near to their routes, I have often wondered why London Central and Metrobus do not swap the 51 with the 161.

    Comment by mt — Friday 28 December 2007 @ 1:06 pm

  10. #9

    I agree with you, this is what Go-Ahead already done with Blue Triangle & Docklands Buses, When route 474 went as a 24hour route, this was moved from Blue Triangle to Docklands in return they moved the 368 from Docklands to Blue Triangle.

    Companies can’t move there routes around and still keep to there contracts & cut out the dead mileage.

    Comment by Richard — Friday 28 December 2007 @ 4:48 pm

  11. #9 and #10, aren’t Docklands and Blue Triangle part of London general (ie they are the same), whilst Metrobus is not considered as part of Go-Ahead London (London General).

    Comment by ctrh136 — Sunday 30 December 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  12. #11, they are still part of the Go-Ahead group, the Blue Triangle & Docklands Buses operations were bought by the Go-Ahead group through there London General Company, you will see on the sencond batch of MCV’s for W19 (for Docklands) & the Enviro200 for 362 & 364 (Blue Triangle) have on the side logos saying ‘we’re part of the GO-AHEAD group.

    Going back to when Metrobus took over the 127 early from Centra, they used some buses which was loaned from London General, Which were later loaned to East Thames buses (LONDON BUS LTD.) Also when Docklands took over route W19, there new buses weren’t ready in time so they loaned some former Centra Pointer/Nimbus Darts from Dawsons Bus rentals and some Pointers from London Central.

    As the time we speak, Blue Triangle have some former London Central / General single & double deckers on routes 248 & 66 & 372.

    Hope this helps a bit more for you.


    Comment by Richard — Sunday 30 December 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  13. #12, I knew that – however, I think that Metrobus is considered as a separate company to london general and the rest, (ie. London General, Blue Triangle etc. share a website, whilst Metrobus is separate). They are all part of Go-Ahead.

    Comment by ctrh136 — Monday 31 December 2007 @ 4:17 pm

  14. #11, #12, #13 Metrobus and London General / Central are different companies under the umbrella of Go-Ahead, but there has been much co-operation over the years – buses have been sold / transferred between the companies, they help each other out on railway replacement services or other special services (e.g. Wimbledon tennis, Epsom derby day etc). If it made commercial sense, I am sure that they could have swapped routes. Routes have been transferred between companies in years gone by – I recall London & Country / Kentish Bus swapping the 320 route with Stagecoach in exchange for another route, so the fact that Metrobus and London General /Central are not the same company should not present difficulties.

    Comment by mt — Tuesday 1 January 2008 @ 6:16 pm

  15. If one considers the bus/train situation, all the way from South London to the south coast – surely the Go-ahead group are operating a near-monopoly aren’t they? Metrobus now operate 26(yes, TWENTY-SIX) routes out of Orpington alone. Does someone at Go-ahead have a “good mate” at TfL? I think we should be told….(!).

    Comment by I'm The Daddy Now..... — Wednesday 2 January 2008 @ 9:02 am

  16. Regarding the Metrobus – London General/Central situations, as has been said, they are separate companies in the Go-Ahead Group. Now this would (obviously) be recognised within Go-Ahead, allowing then to cooperate with things like rail replacement, whereas I doubt TfL will let (to them) two different companies swap routes.

    Comment by Arriva436 — Wednesday 2 January 2008 @ 2:08 pm

  17. Catching up on this theme, no doubt I will be corrected if I’m wrong but I thought that the 246 was an TFL introduction that replaced the Biggin Hill- Westerham part of the 320 and not a commercial Metrobus service and at the same time gave Keston an extra link into Bromley to supplement the 146 Downe service. As to the loss by Metrobus I do wonder if part of the problem has been that they seem to have used all sorts of buses on this ranging from DD Omideckers through to the standard SD Darts and only last week one of the ex first group buses that was branded in Tramlink colours! All I hope is that Selkent do a better job with the 246 than they(under their old ownership) did with the 320 which ran either to Biggin Hill Valley or Westerham and was one of the worse services in the area.

    With regard to the comments about the Ownership of Metrobus I seem to recall that when Go Ahead took them over they always planned to run it as a separate company to London Central/General rather than merge all the London operations into one.

    Comment by Bob — Tuesday 8 January 2008 @ 11:06 am

  18. #17 {Bob}

    Mebrobus, London General, Docklands Buses, London Central & Blue Triangle are all run by Go-ahead, but they all still run under there own name and management team but are all based at Go-Ahead London Head Office next to Merton Bus Garage.


    Comment by Richard — Tuesday 8 January 2008 @ 12:17 pm

  19. #18, no, Metrobus is based in Crawley.

    Comment by ctrh136 — Tuesday 8 January 2008 @ 6:13 pm





    Comment by Paul — Tuesday 8 January 2008 @ 9:47 pm

  21. #20 Metrobus are not controlled by Go Ahead London apart from anything else a large portion of their work is now outside London. They are part of the Go Ahead Group the same as Brighton & Hove.

    I’m also under the impression that the use of CAPITAL LETTERS in a blog such as this is shouting and therefore very rude!

    Comment by bob — Wednesday 9 January 2008 @ 8:37 am

  22. Bob, I was not shouting or being rude, I am sorry.

    Regards, Paul.

    Comment by Paul — Wednesday 9 January 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  23. As a former Metrobus driver, I HATE them… can we talk about something else now! Also, 26 routes at Orpington alone, is a monopoly in my book.

    Comment by I'm The Daddy Now..... — Wednesday 9 January 2008 @ 5:13 pm

  24. I work for Arriva Dartford. We have won the 233 tender and are due to take over in Feb. We won this on the price. Metrobus even sent a letter to all of it’s drivers explaining that they could not compete with us. I thought that was how tendering worked.



    Comment by Jasboi — Thursday 10 January 2008 @ 9:14 am

  25. Perhaps it’ll be better to see some more variety in that area – I don’t particularly like Metrobus as when I get the 409 / 411 it is always 10+mins late. (also their tridents have not been maintained properly as half the lights don’t work!)

    Comment by ctrh136 — Saturday 12 January 2008 @ 4:08 pm

  26. #24 – quite agree. No doubt TfL would have had some explaining to do to the NAO if they’d done otherwise without good reason.

    Comment by Steve23589 — Monday 14 January 2008 @ 8:17 pm

  27. Surely service has to come into it somewhere… Arriva LS, Arriva KT and Selkent all below average as a rule in current league tables where Metrobus in top 4… Are we about to give tenders away to substandard operators just to save a few pennies? Maybe TfL need to rethink their policies?

    Comment by Luke — Sunday 20 January 2008 @ 8:53 pm

  28. Regarding post 25, it was never intended that the Tridents remain in service this long. Scania/Olympus were due in November to replace these but were cancelled as Darwen were unable to deliver them in a reasonable time (their orders are currently running 3-4 months late). Two Scania Onmicity (apparently part of a larger order of 34 for the Go-Ahead Group) are now due in Spring and will allow the Tridents to be returned off lease.

    Comment by Julian — Monday 21 January 2008 @ 11:36 am

  29. RE 28. The reason that we was unable to take over the 233 this month was due to lack of vehicles. We have been promised them for the 23rd which is the offical change over date. We are waiting for baby Enviros. Hope they as good as the long version we have.

    I wait to see it.

    Comment by Jasboi — Tuesday 22 January 2008 @ 4:46 pm

  30. #27. Depends on your definition of sub-standard. Mine would be Connex, Centra, etc.

    Comment by Steve23589 — Thursday 24 January 2008 @ 11:20 am

  31. although not a tfl operator flighs hallmark there a joke !

    Comment by taz — Monday 11 February 2008 @ 9:33 pm

  32. Re route swaps………198 and 166 were contracted to selkent tb but were swapped for 320,227.

    re substandard…… the last batch of operator performance stats Metrobus (who have just been promoted to ” major operator” status)topped the table of Mojor bus operators in London for tfl.

    There is a policy within tfl that no one operating group can have more than a prescribed percentage of the total bus market…..Go ahead group are getting close to that glass ceiling.

    no one seens to have mentioned the fact that in order to accomodate the R routes from first Metrobus transfered the 119 from MB to Croydon (although the night 119 still runs out of orpington!)

    Re Trident lighting ….Because of problems of internal reflection on the windscreen it is quite possible that the driver has opted to switch off the nearside interior lights. This is a problem made worse on unlit stretches of road

    Comment by Peacefulplonker — Monday 11 February 2008 @ 9:39 pm

  33. re 32….. not to forget that the t32 transfered from first to metrobus croydon.

    Comment by Peacefulplonker — Monday 11 February 2008 @ 9:41 pm

  34. #32, is the lighting thing a general problem with ELC?

    Comment by ctrh136 — Thursday 14 February 2008 @ 11:17 am

  35. #32 – the latest set of league tables on the public website show that both Metrobus and AKT exceed their minimum standards for both EWT and On time, so I can’t see how anyone could justify calling either operator substandard. Beating one’s targets set by the tendering authority can’t be substandard by any stretch of the imagination, surely?

    Anyone, isn’t about time we had a new topic to get stuck into? How about those sleek restyled Citaros with aircon on the 453? 🙂

    Comment by Steve23589 — Tuesday 19 February 2008 @ 10:18 pm

  36. “How about those sleek restyled Citaros with aircon on the 453?”

    Shame they look crap without the yellow pencil line above the skirt!

    Comment by Arriva436 — Wednesday 20 February 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  37. Why have we been left in limbo?

    If you don’t intend to write anything more .. then a note would be welcome.. to save myself and probably others the trouble of clicking-on the link for nothing..

    Comment by IsarSteve — Tuesday 11 March 2008 @ 11:13 am

  38. #37

    There is no need to be like that towards a guy who has also a job to do outside of his hobby.


    Comment by Mark — Tuesday 11 March 2008 @ 12:10 pm

  39. Hey Mark I wasn’t being unfriendly..

    That you answered my comment so quickly proves how many people (like me) are still interested in this site.

    You don’t have to tell me what it’s like to run a blog.. I know..
    My point was and I repeat it, it would just be nice to know how things stand..

    to expect one line to be added since the last posting, when was it?, 20 December 2007 isn’t too much to ask.. is it?

    Comment by IsarSteve — Tuesday 11 March 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  40. # 39 I agree. I regularly check this site to if there have been any updates, and am slightly dissapointed that there haven’t been any since December
    What is happening????

    Comment by ejc — Tuesday 11 March 2008 @ 5:16 pm

  41. I know there as been changes to some routes, an intresting topic would be route 453, the first artic route to be lost……… What will the east london bus group going to do with the artics? will they have more put on the 25’s @ RM, I know that first took 4 of them and put on the 18 at WJ a couple of years ago.

    Who would agree on this topic.

    please vote.


    Comment by Richard — Tuesday 11 March 2008 @ 5:39 pm

  42. the old fleet numbers were 23001, 23002, 23003 & 23004.


    Comment by Richard — Tuesday 11 March 2008 @ 5:40 pm

  43. #41/42 I heard they were going to be used as float vehicles across London for IBUS conversions and frequency increases. After that one might assume Stagecoach will take the leftovers back for various operations around the country…

    Comment by ejc — Tuesday 11 March 2008 @ 5:59 pm

  44. #43 – I doubt Stagecoach have any claim over the vehicles anymore. Surely the leases were sold to the Australians when they bought Selkent/East London.

    Comment by Simon — Tuesday 11 March 2008 @ 10:32 pm

  45. re citaro bendybus made surplus. ALL citaros in london are going to have to have significant modifications done to their exit step heights as the never have complied with diptac or was is shedule x. Yhe were permitted to enter service by virtue of special dispensation which runs out quite soon. The new citaros are complient. the deposed oned will be provide a float for the remainder of the fleet to have their offending bits modified.

    Comment by Peacefulplonker — Friday 21 March 2008 @ 6:48 pm

  46. its a shame that london central failed in their bid for the 453….bendy scania omnicities would have been a nice change.

    Comment by Peacefulplonker — Friday 21 March 2008 @ 6:50 pm

  47. “Lunacy of tendering”??? Those who cannot stand the heat should get out of the kitchen. Having been served locally by 2 routes operated by First Group it was only the hope of retendering that kept us sane. They now operate neither.

    Comment by Morris Hickey of Chigwell, Essex — Saturday 26 April 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  48. “I used to use the 466 regularly and it was a mess under Arriva with old and unreliable vehicles used all the time.”

    Those old Ls would not be nice to travel on if you were unwell, but I actually miss them!

    Comment by JN — Sunday 4 May 2008 @ 3:00 am

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