Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Oddities of London Buses

This article will be about the more obscure moments of London Buses. The mainstream history of London Buses revolves around the red buses, so I have researched and compiled some of the histories that I've found.

The general public only knows the London Bus service as the red bus in London, but there are several oddities when taking a closer look at the history of London Buses.

Non-red London Buses
When London Regional Transport (LRT) privatised the bus routes to competitive tender it enabled private companies to compete for routes which saw the buses in London come out in different colours.

The private bus operators contracted to LRT were not required to have their buses carry LT Red livery, but they were required to carry a “London Transport Service” banner to signify a London Bus service.

I have written a separate article on this topic which you can read here.

What happened to the real ‘London Buses?'
If you believe that London Buses are fully owned by TfL then read on for the full story...

When London Regional Transport was formed in 1984, the Act required that London Buses become a subsidiary company which was formed in 1985 as London Buses Limited (LBL). Part of the Act requires bus services to be tendered off to private firms which required LBL to compete for routes against the private bus operating companies. The routes were awarded to the company who ran the best service at the most efficient price.

In April 1989, LBL was divided into 12 business units in preparation for selling off to private ownership. The iconic LT red was retained but added in the white relief and black/grey skirt. Also added in was the modified red and yellow roundel, with the name 'London Buses' in capitals.

Then in 1994, the government sold the business units of London Buses Limited to private companies, but the London Bus Routes continued to be regulated by London Regional Transport. Also, there were no changes to the LT fares, Travelcards and concessions, such as the free travel permits for disabled and elderly people provided by the London council.

In 1999, London Regional Transport formed East Thames Buses after the private bus company Harris Bus went into administration. East Thames Buses was formed because no bus operating company were in a position to take over operations from Harris Bus. East Thames Buses operated a small number of routes in London from Belvedere (BV) and Mandela Way (MA) garages, it represented 1.3% of the London Bus network. Then on 3rd October 2009, Transport for London sold East Thames Buses to Go Ahead London General as they believed it was ‘value for money’ transferring their operations entirely to the private sector.


Coaches rebuilt as double deck buses
During 1991, Grey Green won the tender for the route 141 service (from Wood Green to Moorgate). As Grey Green was moving from coach operations towards expanding their bus operations, they decided to rebuild sixteen of their luxury coaches (Volvo B10M-61) into buses. Seven were single-decks and nine were double decks. The fleet numbers for the rebuilt double decks were 163-168 and 170-172; you can view their histories on Ian’s Country Bus website. The liveries for the Grey Green buses were grey, green and orange stripe.

Here are the photos of Grey Green 866 (B866XYR)

Quick note: I linked to the Flickr pages instead of embedding them in this article due to the publisher’s copyright setting.


Nottingham, Ipswich and South Yorkshire buses operated London Bus routes
During the second half of 1988, when London Regional Transport tendered off route 188, Boro’line Maidstone won the tender. Boro’line hired Leyland Atlanteans from Ipswich Buses and Daimler Fleetlines from Nottingham City Transport because the new Alexander bodied Volvo Citybuses weren’t delivered on time for the start of the new contract.  The route operated all the way from Crayford (CR) garage.

Towards the end of 1990, London & Country won the tender to operate routes 78 and 176. As their order for East-Lancs bodied Volvo Citybus was delayed, this led to London & Country hiring Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines from South Yorkshire Transport of Sheffield until their new buses were delivered.

Nottingham City Transport is still owned by Nottingham City Council but 18% of the stake is owned by Transdev. Ipswich Buses are still owned by Ipswich Borough Council, and South Yorkshire Transport was sold to their employees; later it was sold to First group in 1995.

Photos of Nottingham City Transport buses in London

Photos of Ipswich buses in London

Photos of South Yorkshire Transport buses in London
Route 78
Route 176


A dual door ‘coach’ used to operate a London Bus route

In 1986, Scanbus (ScanCoaches) won the contract to operate route 283 with Scania K92 fitted with Jonckheere Trans-City bodywork. The length of the buses was 12 metres (39ft) as they were the first full sized buses bought for the London Regional Transport tendered bus service. Then in mid 1989, Scanbus lost their route 283 contract to London United, a London Buses subsidiary company.

Commercial Motor has written a review on the Scanbus service which you can read here.

Images of Scanbus coaches operating London Buses route 283


A double decker bus with 2 staircases
New Bus for London LT 230 (LTZ 1230) and  Ex-London Transport V3 (A103 SUU) showing a contrast of ages.

I briefly mentioned in one of my previous articles about the Volvo Alisa V3 (A103SUU). The bus has two staircases and two doors, one at the front and the other at the rear, its engine is right at the front, hence the reason the driver has his own cab door.

This bus first spent its time on Route 77A during the mid 1980’s, it was then confined to route 88. The problem is, the bus had to carry a conductor because there are blind spots at the rear door and staircase which the driver is unable to see when passengers alight the bus at the rear. The bus operated from Stockwell (SW) garage.

A couple of years later, the V3 was rebuilt with the rear door removed in favour of extra seats; the rear staircase was retained. The bus operated on routes from Potters Bar (PB) garage and received a new livery, retaining the red but with added white band and black skirt.

In 1992, the bus was involved in an accident when it turned over and impaled itself on a tree. Then in 2004, the bus was sold to Black Prince and it was rebuilt with plum and yellow livery. It saw operation on routes operated by Black Prince. When Black Prince was sold to First Leeds in 2005 it was retained for preservation and then transferred to a private owner in the West Midlands and then after that, in March 2006, to the owner of Blue Triangle.

The rear door was restored and it was painted back to their original London Buses livery, complete with SW garage code. It has since appeared at bus rallies and running days. When Blue Triangle was bought by Go Ahead, the bus was passed to London Bus Company under the same owner.

The Volvo Alisa V3 wasn’t the first double deck bus with two staircases; Walsall Corporation experimented with a Daimler Fleetline CRC6-36 with Northern Counties body which contained 2 staircases and a dual door at each end. The registration of the bus is XDH56G and you can read more about that bus here.


Prototype of the Oyster Card during the 1990’s
How time flies! Before the Oyster card was launched by TfL in 2003, London Regional Transport was testing the smartcard as part of their proposal, but it was never tested into passenger use back then.

Here’s a video of the demonstration of the smartcard, video is by CityTransportInfo
Link to video

Also, during the mid 1990’s, the United States government agency Federal Transit Administration published a report of the smartcard system proposal for London which you can read here.

Bendy bus trial under London Regional Transport
If you thought that the first bendy bus trial was on route 207 back in 2001 in the early years of TfL, then you were wrong.

During the spring of 1992, London Regional Transport leased a Leyland-DAB articulated bus (fleet code 2001, registration C101HDT) from South Yorkshire Transport of Sheffield. It operated on route 180 from Abbey Wood to Hither Green station under a short term trial. Selkent, a London Buses subsidiary company has an interior notice asking for passengers views about the articulated bus.

Below is the video of the Leyland-DAB articulated bus in service, uploaded by ‘Beulah23’.
Link to video


I think that covers most of the 'oddities' of London Buses. However, another oddity is the Capital Citybus’ Tri-Axle double deck bus which was trialed at the same time as the bendy bus. A short video can be viewed here.

If I missed out any oddities then let me know in the comments section and I'll research it and then update the article.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Google Plus which is @CLondoner92

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