Sunday, 11 May 2014

ANCIENT, MODERN & A COLOURFUL VARIETY IN LONDON

With the most recent strike on the London Underground for the 5th-8th May called off at the almost 12th hour (could it have got any closer than Bank Holiday Monday the 4th?), the planned additional buses for the bus network were stood down. An awful lot of work by those behind the scenes had gone into the preparation of these 'Extras', to provide increased capacity on the Transport for London (TfL) bus route network.
These extra buses as they were in the previous strikes, were intended to run as additional to the established peak vehicle requirements on sections of routes where it was deemed they would assist commuters the best. Ostensibly between the hours of 0600-1900 some were rostered to work through to 2100-hours.
However, over the two days 29th-30th in the previous week, somewhere in the region of well over 100 additional buses were employed, being a mixture of vehicles from the TfL contracted route companies and others from around the Home Counties. Although that said, a few came from further afield. However, probably the most interesting of the bunch, was the army of half-cab double-deckers that had previously provided sterling service in times long gone by. Some of these had indeed been around in London during the 1940s and 50s, but since then have been lovingly preserved, and once again were able to serve the travelling public. 

The 'Extra' buses were provided as follows

The half-cab 'vintage' double-deckers came from 

Ensignbus, Imperial Bus Company, London Bus Company, London Bus Museum, Red Routemaster.com, Routemaster South, Southern Transit and Xelabus.

The modern buses were provided by

Amber Coaches, Beestons, Buses etc, Cardinal Buses, Galleon, Independent Coach Lines, London Borough of Havering, New Adventure Travel, Regal Busways, SBC Leisure, Seaford & District, Southern Transit and Universitybus (with apologies to anyone who has been left out)

Parts of routes covered were

2      Brixton & Victoria
8      Liverpool Street Station & Bow Church
25    Stratford & Holborn
26    Hackney/Shoreditch & Waterloo
29    Trafalgar Square & Holloway (Nag's Head)
38    Victoria & Islington (Angel)
91    Holloway (Nag's Head) & Trafalgar Square
205  Baker Street & Mile End

RV1 Whole route Covent Garden & Tower Gateway Station 

Not since the early 2000s have we seen such a colourful and eclectic mix of vehicles in service on the TfL network of contracted bus routes. 



So what better way then to illustrate the return of some golden oldies to operation of the TfL bus network, than this fine example from the Ensignbus stable. Pre.war AEC Regent RT 8 commences a journey from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill on an extra short journey over route 15. Complete with wartime 1940s period advertisements (the famous Picture Post eyes and Wrigleys chewing gum), silver roof and white tipped mudguards the bus recalls the time when Londoners pulled together through the difficulties of wartime. Maybe a similar sort of spirit prevailed during the recent strikes, as the various bus companies did their level best to move as many additional passengers as possible over ground rather than under ground (Malcolm Conway)



Two images of post war RT 3251 are shown as it too negotiates Trafalgar Square. The nearside (upper), as it pulls away from the top end of Whitehall, the rear nearside open platform aspect (lower) as it turns onto the bottom side of the square. The bus is bound further east than RT 8, this time through the City and the inner East End to Blackwall. Again period advertisements have been applied to as many panels as are available, this time from the 1950s and 60s. Tea, flight and football pools all feature, along with a request on the lower rear panel to give the bus priority when pulling out into traffic (both Malcolm Conway)




As well as AEC products, London Transport also invested in chassis and mechanics from Leyland Motors. However, the RTL class all bore similarly designed bodies to the RTs as illustrated by RTL 453 (upper) at Aldgate East Station again on the 15 route out to Blackwall, and Imperial Bus Company's green country liveried RTL 1256 in the city on a shortened version of route 205 (upper Malcolm Conway lower Graham D.Smith). 



Two more green 'uns but this time back to AEC versions. Craven bodywork was applied to a batch of 120 RT type in the late 1940s early 50s (RT 1402 -1520), amongst which only two roadworthy examples remain (unless anyone knows otherwise), including RT 1499 (upper) on a shortened version of route 38 at Victoria. The Picture Post eyes and a rather clever period produced advertisement for the Ensignbus Company adorn the bus. Also in green RT 3232 but this time in the Green Line livery for the once vast limited stop network of cross city services that served many of the towns that surround Greater London (upper Gerard Butler lower Graham D.Smith)

With 4825 RT type AECs bodied by Craven, Leyland, Park Royal, Saunders and Weymann, 1631 RTL with bodies by Metro-Cammell and Park Royal and 500 RTW all Leyland type, London area travellers were well served by similar looking vehicles for many years.
The successor to the RT type and what has become something of an icon is the ubiquitous AEC Routemaster, not that there are many around with their original AEC engines in full working order. 2760 were built for London of varying length and style, and all but RML 3 and RMC 4 featured Park Royal bodywork. First launched in 1954, 2014 is their 60th year in operational London service. The last of the type were built in 1968.



The standard vehicle of which over 2,000 were built, is the 27'6" long 64-seater version, an example as shown below now owned and operated by Southern Transit (Malcolm Conway)


The other standard for London was the longer 30' 72-seated version, achieved by the insertion of a half-bay window. These were classified the RML class as illustrated by RML 2405 now in the Ensignbus fleet. During the late April strike days Ensignbus ran ten of their Routemasters over a shortened section of route 38 between Victoria and Angel (Islington) (Gerard Butler)


A similar vehicle in service, what was RML 2516 but here as DRM 2516 with the London General subsidiary of the Go-Ahead Group (Gerard Butler)

Then there is the coach version. Classified as RMC, 68 (RMC 1453-1520) were built and supplied during 1962, all initially operated on the cross London Green Line network of limited stop routes. After some while they were downgraded to standard stage service work in the 'country' area around London, but later still some were repainted red and returned to central London service.There was also a longer version, the same length as the RML produced for Green Line operations, and were classified as the RCL.



RMC 1461 operates as an extra on route 2 between Victoria and Brixton and is shown nearside (Gerard Butler) and offside (Malcolm Conway) as it passes through Vauxhall.



Where else could one find a green and a red RMC class Routemaster together? The answer is Victoria, where RMC 1461 from the London Bus Museum collection at Cobham, and Ensignbus owned RMC 1513, rested between duties on routes 2 and 38 respectively (Malcolm Conway)


Another 'shining' example from the Ensignbus stable is RMC 1485 here running a duty between Trafalgar Square and Blackwall (Graham D.Smith)

Production models of the Routemaster family were all delivered to London Transport (LT) between 1959 and 1967. Subsequently the 'green' country area of LT was sold off to the National Bus Company in the very late 1960s. Buses appeared in a variety of green liveries including that shown here on RML 2323. However, only a very limited number of the type had the livery applied, with probably this being the only example preserved. The bright livery of the bus is caught by the sun as it passes through the Vauxhall bus station bound for Brixton on route 2 (Malcolm Conway)


Replacement of the Routemaster at some stage was inevitable, they couldn't go on for ever, could they? In the early 1970s this came in the shape of the Daimler and later the Leyland Fleetline as the DM and DMS class within London Buses. 2646 of the type were built for LT between 1972 and 1978 and featured bodywork from Park Royal and MCW. The last one in the fleet received this colourful 'Shillibeer' livery in 1979 during celebrations of passenger transport in London. Now with Ensignbus in their heritage fleet it commences a journey from Trafalgar Square to Blackwall over the 15 route. Note the period advertisements for other Leyland products back in the 1970s, namely the Titan double-deck and the National single-deck (Malcolm Conway)



After the Fleetline it was the turn of the Leyland Titan, along with the MCW Metrobus to serve parts of London with their buses, supplied in the period 1978-84. Former T 961 in a sort of pseudo Green Line livery, is owned and operated by Cardinal Buses and provides a colourful alternative from the usual red livery it featured during its earlier life in London (Malcolm Conway)


After the Leyland Titan came a fleet of varied Olympians. Initially there were three Eastern Coachworks bodied versions that were used in an assessment programme alongside Dennis, MCW and Volvo models during 1984. Leyland won out and eventually 263 Olympian buses were supplied to London in 1986/7. The first of the ECW type is now owned by Southern Transit and preserved in its London condition and here used on a short section of route 205 (Malcolm Conway)


Some of the first Alexander Royale bodied Volvo Olympians were supplied to London United and used on the prestigious Airbus services. With coach seating and baggage areas these were seen regularly operating services between London and Heathrow Airport until the early 2000s. One made a welcome return with SBC Engineering of Southend and also worked a short section of route 205 (Malcolm Conway)


Another Volvo Olympian type used in the London fleets is the Northern Counties Palatine bodied version. Few still operate in London as all step-entrance buses have been removed from frontline service on the London bus route network. These are now generally found on private hire and other work, but with London General was pressed into service on normally low floor operated route 11 at Victoria  (Malcolm Conway)



Volvo went on to produce the B7TL low floor type and the Go-Ahead Group London subsidiaries London Central and London General acquired them in large numbers. Some of the earlier versions are rarely seen now on central London routes, but PVL 220 turns onto the south side of Trafalgar Square again on route 11 accompanied by a Routemaster on route 29 (Malcolm Conway)



Several models from the same batch though have been sold out of London service, but former PVL 217 now with Kent based Go Coach Hire, returned to operate a section of route 188 in south east London at Greenwich (Gerard Butler)





Whilst the majority of extra buses were double-decks, a small number of single-decks also turned out to assist. Route 388 operated by Hackney Community Transport (t/a CT Plus) with double-decks put out their ADL Enviro200 DA2 (upper) and East Lancs bodied version DE2 (lower) to provide additional capacity (both Malcolm Conway)



More single-deck variety was provided by Regal Busways of Essex with a MAN/Wrightbus and an Optare Tempo, the latter in a smart black 'Pullman' livery. Both were used on the inner London RV1 route, the MAN illustrated at Waterloo, the Optare at Aldwych (Gerard Butler)


Probably the brightest liveried single-decks though, are those provided by Ensignbus. Recently acquired is a variety of Plaxton Premiere bodied Volvo B10M in both rigid and articulated version. Here one of the former, 602 pauses at a bus stop in Wormwood Street in the City, whilst on route 8 bound for Bow (Malcolm Conway)




The nationwide corporate livery of Stagecoach is rarely seen in the London area, but several of their double-decks have recently been drafted in to provide extra capacity during the strikes. Route 205 operated by their Stagecoach East London operation is shown as host to Dennis Tridents 18512 at Aldgate Station (upper Malcolm Conway) and 18503 with a selection of other buses in the City (lower Graham D.Smith)

Many of the early Dennis Tridents placed into service by the various London bus companies have since been withdrawn and sold to other operators. However, the requirement for the extra buses on strike days has seen many of them return to service on the London streets. Three examples follow.






Former Stagecoach London Trident (upper) is now operated by New Adventure Travel of South Wales, and former Travel London (now Abellio) 9710 is now with Sussex based Seaford & District (middle). Both shown in Bishopsgate in the City alongside one of the many racks of 'Boris Bikes'.(both Malcolm Conway)
Not looking as though it never departed, another former Travel London Trident 9701 on the right (lower), is now operated by another Sussex based company Southern Transit, and retains a red London livery (Graham D.Smith)

And then there are non-London buses provided by other operators


Suffolk based Beestons of Hadleigh provided a couple of their fine blue liveried Scania OmniDekkas assigned to route 205 (Malcolm Conway)


Although obviously bearing Brighton & Hove livery complete with local celebrity's name on the front, this Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident was provided by the London Borough of Havering, another one for the route 205 contingent (Malcolm Conway)




Modern double-deckers were also provided by Travelmasters of Kent and Stephensons of Essex. One of the former's latest acquisitions (upper) an ADL Enviro400 bodied Scania lays over between duties on the 205. Then (lower) another Scania this time with Wrightbus bodywork operated by Travelmasters overtakes one of Stephensons Scanias with an East Lancs body, both on route 25 bound for Holborn (upper Gerard Butler lower Graham D.Smith)


The nearside of the Stephensons East Lancs bodied Scania, as it heads east out from the City towards Stratford (Graham D.Smith)


East Lancs bodywork is also featured on this Scania operated by Universitybus (trading as uno), based at Hatfield in Hertfordshire. Here their number SDM 207 departs from Northumberland Avenue at the southern end of route 91 on the lower side of Trafalgar Square (Malcolm Conway)


In contrast to the oldest bus 'on parade' (RT 8) during the strikes (unless someone knows otherwise), the newest 'Extra' must surely be this 14-plate ADL Enviro40D, one of three 10.9m long single-door versions recently added to the Commercial and private hire fleet of the London Go-Ahead operation (Malcolm Conway)




And finally. Back to where we came in with a rear nearside end view of RT 8 complete with a certain well known character within the industry, in conductor mode. Advertising on the back promoted a whisky and what appeared to be something to do with the war effort. Below that another wartime marking to alert motorists during blackouts, when the lights on vehicles were dimmed. Also just beyond the white painted highlighted platform another warning notice "Look out in the blackout" (Malcolm Conway)


A fitting way to close this feature of difficulties during a period of adversity.

Of course other websites are available and no doubt feature these and other buses in service during the strike days. Some of them will appear in other publications including those produced by the London Omnibus Traction Society, who provide first class information and illustrations in their newsletter The London Bus, the quarterly London Bus Magazine and their annual Review. Other associated publications are also available. Further details can be found here