Yes, the Metrobus is a London bus.
If it was new to London Transport, and that covers everything that was delivered up to 10th January 1995 (the date of the completion of South London’s sale to the Cowie group), it’s a London bus. (The Upton Park SLWs, delivered right across the cusp of their subsidiary’s privatisation, thus find themselves in two camps). Everything after is only half-valid – it’s a ‘bus in London’, in the way that Transport for London only obliquely counts as London Transport.
Found a picture of M 1353 (C353 BUV), that’s been talked about a fair bit; while Hammersmith Bridge was undergoing another protracted period of repair during 2000, a route numbered 509 was commissioned to take people from the station to the north side of the bridge. The fact that the route had to come seven miles from Hounslow just to take people a hundred and fifty yards was spectactularly wasteful, but it was worth photographing, so I have a few shots of the route. This one is at Hammersmith on 29th October 2000.
I remember M 1353 best as a Sidcup crew bus, allocated to convert the 21 from RM in November 1985 alongside the garage’s existing Ts (representing an extremely rare mixed-type operation that became more common as standards slipped). Once Ls came to replace the Ms, it was off to Stamford Brook and settled in what became London United territory, eventually working from Hounslow (as here), Fulwell and Hounslow Heath.
Would the pair of you that’s been arguing fit to burst over the merits of the Routemaster versus the Metrobus shut up a minute and pay attention? I thought of deleting your posts outright, because they’ve been getting on my nerves, but I can do better than that.
Having just finished and handed in The London Titan, the book I’ve written on the type to come out in April next year, I’ve since been given the nod for one on the Metrobus in the same style. So there goes another summer, spent sat in front of a computer…
Where my standpoint lies is pretty much exactly in between the old guard of solid open-platform fans and the younger generation that has felt, quite rightly, that its own favourite vehicles have been ignored or belittled. I had the best of both worlds in that there were still plenty of RMs around when I was getting into this crazy pastime, while the very last of the London Transport stuff was coming on stream – the Ts and Ms, both of which I was hugely fond of. Even the DMS, which I grew up taking to school and back, didn’t give me any trouble. They all deserve writing about, and now that I’ve done two RM books it’s given me a bit of credibility to pursue the newer stuff that just hasn’t been tackled – the Titan book is the first manifestation of that, and now I’m getting to do the M! So everyone wins.
I’m a fan neither of route branding (tacky, patronising, impractical) nor of the Enviro400 (dull, dull, dull), but this Stagecoach Cambus trio manage to make both look really good. The last set of schemes for the Cambridge Park & Ride was pretty decent as well, and Ray Stenning’s taken care to adapt the new version to the lines of the bus.
From left to right are 19298 (AE07 KYY), 19314 (AE07 KZR) and 19302 (AE07 KZC).
The next book is about halfway done – it’s called The London Titan and is what I hope will be the definitive history of the Leyland Titan’s operations with London Transport and its successors between entry into service (1978, including the two prototypes) and exit (2003, with reference to the later school routes).
Here is T 517 (KYV 517X), which spent its last eight years with Barking and thus fell under Stagecoach East London upon privatisation. It is seen on 24th March 2001, shortly before withdrawal, after which it became one of Blackburn Transport’s fleet (which also included T 1018, the last in service).
The book will come out in time for Cobham 2008, so I have to get it finished by October!
Two contract awards on 30th June placed the 406 and 418 with Epsom Buses, who trade as Quality Line. This brought them their first double-deckers, in the shape of ten Enviro400s (four each and one spare). Here at Kingston on the traffic-plagued first day are DD 04 (SK07 DZD, left), and DD 10 (SK07 DZL). Just visible behind the second bus is an example of the other contract change to take place on that day, the transfer of the 465 from Travel London (West) back to Arriva Guildford & West Surrey with six new Enviro200Darts.
The 7 duly passed from First to Metroline on Saturday 23rd June, but with its Scanias not ready yet, the real interest of the day lay in the route that supplied the 7’s temporary batch of TPs – the 297. This fellow Perivale-based route saw a mix of TALs and TNLs hired from First plus a couple of Metroline’s own TPLs pulled from the iBus float.
The sceptic in me would wonder if the fact that the 297’s service crumbled during the day swung public opinion against ‘First’, the name on the buses (and not removed, as is usually done during hires). The poor passenger tends to curse the operator without knowing the reason why the service is the way it is. It’s taken a long, long time for the blame to be heaped upon whoever runs the companies rather than ‘London Transport’, but the divide and rule thing didn’t work in 1986 and still doesn’t today. Companies are more and more willing to co-operate by hiring vehicles back and forth, like today, and the pettiness of refusing entry to ‘enemy’ garages as termini is falling away (though the 33’s withdrawal away from Fulwell garage when transferred to NCP severed an important link in that area), so there ought to be less objection to just doing the decent thing and reunifying what never should have been split asunder in the first place.
Poor old First have been battered in the tendering stakes as it is and the 7 is a severe loss, but Westbourne Park is bursting with buses and will appreciate the space. After helping out on the 297 (and perhaps the 460, though there wasn’t any evidence of that today), the TALs at least will be heading off to Glasgow, a city where the passengers mete out even more vicious treatment against their buses than London! And by next week the first few Scanias should be in service on the 7.
Covering the 297 are TNL 32905 (W905 VLN) at Wembley Park and TNA 32941 (W941 ULL) at Ealing Broadway, while inaugurating the 7 are TP 298 (LR02 BFJ) at East Acton and TPL 242 (LN51 KXV) at Marble Arch.
Change is afoot on the 7. Actually had a hard time finding any pictures of the route as it is now, as I only seem to have taken thirteen since its OPO conversion – that’s how little it matters any more.
At the moment it’s Trident-operated from Westbourne Park at First London (aided by Volvo B7TLs of varying bodywork and classification, like the 28 group’s VNW 32396 (LK04 HXE) in Oxford Street last 12th November, but on Saturday 23rd June Metroline take over with new East Lancs Olympus-bodied Scanias. Or will be once they’re delivered – the first few days will be accomplished with fleet TPLs while the First TNAs are hired and tucked away out of sight on the 297 and 460.
More on or shortly after Saturday’s changeover.
Like the DMS, the Merlin was another grand failure of its time that only now is starting to be appreciated as their rarity value grows. All buses, whatever their reputation, should have at least one example in preservation so that people of today can see what they were like.
MB 641 (AML 641H) has been in preservation for some years, after the typically short career spanning just seven years between 1969 and 1976. Though now immortalised as a Potters Bar bus, it never worked from there, seeing service at Bromley (routes 126 and 138), Merton (152), Walthamstow (275) and Cricklewood (268). The 84 did see MB operation for a spell, so the depiction is theoretically correct.
It was working shorts on the 84 during the Potters Bar running day of Sunday 20th May, and performed competently throughout. The seating capacity is impressive by comparison with today’s full-size buses (50 are seated in this single-door bus) and the Merlins in general were always attractive, with a clear physical lineage to the RFs of two decades earlier – except in conditions other than Red Arrow standee services, they didn’t work. Then and now, Londoners don’t like to be treated like automatons, and accordingly refused to get to grips with the automatic fare systems provided, and nor did they ever appreciate standing. Just like the modern incumbents on today’s Red Arrow routes, the Merlins worked there perfectly but nowhere else. At least back then the powers of the day knew when to admit they were wrong, and replaced the vehicles as soon as they could without feeling they had to save face. We’re still waiting for the same courtesy from today’s lot…
Very few Merlins (or Swifts, for that matter) are left at all, and MB 641 is the only one people can really ride on when the event warrants. Despite the spiteful and narrow-minded legislation that is the Low Emissions Zone, they just escape the ban and can still run into town. Thanks to Brian Nash for turning out MB 641 on the 84 that day, and to all who brought their buses to Potters Bar – it was a good day out!
The MM class has returned to Metroline – the last holders of this classification were two batches of Marshall-bodied MAN 11.220s inherited from MTL London. Now the chassis is longer and uprated, and known as 12.240, while Marshall rose from the ashes to become MCV, and is starting to pick up orders.
Eleven MCV Evolution-bodied MAN 12.240s have been taken, somewhat unexpectedly, by Metroline and are now in service on the 251 out of Edgware. They’re not that bad-looking buses in their red and blue colours. On Tuesday 8th May MM 779 (LK07 AYJ) swings out of Arnos Grove Station.
Another of the themed running days in the style of Hackney was held today, this time based on Carshalton. And what a perfect day to have it – wall-to-wall sunshine, all the better to see, photograph and ride on loads of classic buses.
Carshalton trolleybus depot closed in 1959, having operated just route 654; this became the 154 we know today, and with an accompanying extension of the 157 each successor route has been altered comparatively little. Accordingly, the main effort of the preserved buses was on the 154, with an extra as a 654 – this was RM 938 (WLT 938). It is seen reversing into Carshalton depot – intact and in the possession of Access Self Storage, who are to be thanked for permitting a small display on their premises.
At Wallington, Shotfield a number of routes turned around; here we see red and green in the personas of RT 604 (HLX 421) and RT 3871 (LLU 670). The former bus has been famous for thirty years as the last RT with London Country, and it shows that the little-loved NBC leaf green livery can actually look good when on a synpathetic host.
Finally for today, Sutton garage was also a hub for today’s widespread operations. RF 406 (MXX 294), a former Sutton bus itself, arrives on the 213, which was single-deck for longer than it needed to be until the lowering of Worcester Park station bridge permitted its double-decking.
Thanks to all concerned for putting on such a superb running day! Visit the Red RF homepage here.