The London Bus Page In Exile

Monday 20 August 2007

Titan Book Progress

Filed under: Book, Historical, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 8:27 pm

Stagecoach East London Leyland Titan T 517 (KYV 517X) at Barking, 24th March 2001The 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!


Sunday 29 July 2007

Double-Deckers for Epsom Buses

Filed under: Companies, Routes, Service Changes, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 5:42 pm

Epsom Buses Enviro400 DD 04 (SK07 DZD) at Kingston, Saturday 30th June 2007 Epsom Buses Enviro400 DD 10 (SK07 DZL) at Kingston, Saturday 30th June 2007
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.

Sunday 24 June 2007

7 Changes Hands, 297 Doesn’t

Filed under: Companies, Routes, Service Changes, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 12:03 pm

Metroline's hired First TNL 32905 (W905 VLN) at Wembley Park Metroline's hired First TAL 32941 (W941 ULL) at Ealing Broadway
Metroline TP 298 (LR02 BFJ) at East Acton Metroline TPL 242 (LN51 KXV) at Marble Arch

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.

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Change afoot on the 7

Filed under: Companies, Routes, Service Changes, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 6:41 pm

First London Volvo B7TL VNW 32296 (LK04 HXE) in Oxford Street, 12 November 2006 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.

Wednesday 13 June 2007


Filed under: Companies, Historical, Service Changes — londonbuspageinexile @ 8:58 pm

Arriva Croydon & North Surrey M 521 (GYE 521W) Southdown PSV 388 (X188 BNH) Metrobus 376 (Y376 HMY)
On 2nd June, after little more than a year of operation, Southdown PSV gave up two of their three Surrey routes, the 409 and 411. They went straight back to Metrobus, who had operated them before, and they of course derive from London Country and London Transport Country Area services south of the border towards Redhill and East Grinstead.
Blame the free travel for pensioners – or at least that offered by the parallel-running 405 operated as a TfL contract by Metrobus; the affected age group would pass the 409s and 411s by, as would the other segment of the population being funded, under-18s, with the result that the 405 became so overcrowded it had to be converted to double-deck, while the PSV routes withered. As they couldn’t hope to break even with this going on, they made a tough decision to get rid of the routes before the routes got rid of them. All they have left is the 410 operating further to the south, and the core business of bus sales is unaffected.
While I’m happy with free travel for pensioners (who’ve not only worked to secure a little relief, but are better-behaved), I’ve never been thrilled about that concession having been offered to under-18s; while not wishing to resort to any headline-grabbing, there is a palpable perception that it’s increased the level of rowdiness on buses. Certainly in London bus travel is often noisy and at times outright threatening. It seems a shame that this sort of official irresponsibility is driving away the very small firms that TfL have always said they wanted to invite to compete.
For now, here’s a line-up of three operators of recence on the 409, all taken in Croydon: Arriva Croydon & North Surrey Metrobus M 521 (GYE 521W) on 11th May 2000 (left), Southdown PSV Dennis Dart SLF 388 (X188 BNH) on 22nd April 2006 (centre) and lastly, Metrobus’s Caetano-bodied Dart SLF 376 (Y376 HMY) on 9th June 2007.

Monday 4 June 2007

Last of the Merlins

Filed under: Special Events, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 6:42 pm

Preserved AEC Merlin MB 641 (AML 641H) at London Colney, 20 May 2007 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!

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Random Routes – 273

Filed under: Companies, Equipment, Routes, Service Changes, Uncategorized — londonbuspageinexile @ 7:43 pm

Selkent Enviro200Dart 36004 (LX56 DZY) at grove Park, 11 May 2007
It’s an elusive sort of route, the 273, its most recent upgrade bringing it to only every twenty minutes rather than every thirty – but at one point it disappeared entirely for three years!

In the late 1980s a large number of second-echelon routes in south-east London went over to minibus operation, some being rerouted through isolated estates, and the 273 was introduced to capitalise on this trend, building on a Christmas-only route numbered L1. Commencing at Lewisham, it introduced buses to Manor Park near Hither Green and to the Horn Park Estate off the Burnt Ash Road south of Lee, terminating at Grove Park. SRs from Catford were used, later to be joined by the MWs that had taken over the 124 (plus new offshoot 284) at the very end of 1989. However, it was withdrawn in 1991, only to make a comeback in exactly the same form three years later. SRs were still going at Catford, though they were replaced in 1998 by three MBs – O.814 Varios with Plaxton Beaver 2 bodywork. In 2002 the contract was lost to First, whose Orpington Buses subsidiary had to run its DP-class Darts (and later DMS-class Dart SLFs) a considerable way from St Mary Cray to reach the 273 roads, and perhaps with an eye to this the routeing was amended to incorporate a long extension over the parts south of Chislehurst that never really worked as part of (successively) routes 161, 161A or 162. Thus the route now terminates at Petts Wood Station – just in time for the contract to change hands again and go back to Stagecoach Selkent at Catford. A dedicated fleet of Enviro200Darts is now in use, exemplified by 36004 (LX56 DZY) at Grove Park on 11th May.

Thursday 10 May 2007

MMs Return to Metroline

Filed under: Companies, Routes, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 10:13 am

Metroline MAN 12.240 MM 779 (LK07 AYJ) at Arnos Grove, 8th May 2007.jpgThe 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.

Sunday 29 April 2007


Filed under: Companies, Special Events, Travels — londonbuspageinexile @ 12:41 pm

Chase Bus Services Leyland Nationals LS 193 (THX 193S) and LS 209 (THX 209S) at Walsall bus station, 28th April 2007 Chase Bus Services Leyland National LS 382 (BYW 382V) near Walsall, 28th April 2007 Chase Bus Services Leyland National SNB 448 (YPL 448T) at Walsall, 28th April 2007
No, not Leeds – though anybody who knows me would sympathise with (or mock) my other affliction. To take my mind off the inevitable I made my way to Walsall to cover the last day of Chase Bus Services. This independent operator had made itself a name by continuing to operate a large fleet of Leyland Nationals into their thirties, proving that the type was worth its weight in gold after all.

With only comparatively minimal alterations (a new set of headlights here, a refurbished engine there, plus conversions to single-door carried out by previous owners and new seat cushions over the existing frames), the two dozen Nationals, most of which derived from London Transport, held together the handful of routes emanating from Walsall’s futuristic-appearing but terribly cramped bus station to points north like Brownhills and Bloxwich. Following the takeover by Arriva on 26th February, today was chosen to be the last day of the Nationals, as Arriva-liveried vehicles were to be seconded from other parts of the empire. Drivers had already settled into their Arriva uniforms, Arriva posters had gone up inside the vehicles and with the end of the Nationals, so would depart the Chase identity and the distinctive white, orange and brown livery.

However, a twist developed (don’t they always with ‘last’ days?) in that the adverts applied to several of the Nationals have yet to expire, so a half-measure has been taken by applying Arriva livery to the fronts of the buses affected, about six or seven of them. To show you what I mean, pictured top left is duplicate LS 193 (THX 193S) in the GM Buses-inspired livery (with rear ad) passing Arriva-fronted LS 209 (THX 209S) outside Walsall bus station. The duplicate followed Chase’s routes and then posed for photographers inside the Cannock depot. A special £5 commemorative ticket was offered, which gave travel on the company’s buses throughout the day.

Pictured middle is another of their ex-LT Nationals, LS 382 (BYW 382V) speeding towards Walsall from Brownhills via the Lichfield Road. And on the right, returning to the town centre is former London Country B-series National SNB 448 (YPL 448T).
Photographers from far and wide made the trip, and you can see their accounts of the day here (Omnibuses), here (Martin Ruthe), here (Dave Heath) here (Terry Wong Min) and here (Jimmy Sheng).

So just as Leeds may yet survive if we put ten past Derby and Hull lose (it may happen!) the Nationals live on a little longer. All are to be sold through auction on 19th May (Nationals, not Leeds players, though which will fetch more is open to opinion…). Thanks to Chase Arriva Midlands, as I must call them now, for putting on an enjoyable day.

Sunday 15 April 2007

Carshalton Running Day

Filed under: Special Events, Vehicles — londonbuspageinexile @ 8:55 pm

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 depot RT 604 and RT 3871 at Wallington RF 406 at Sutton garage

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.

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