Buses in London

Buses in London

:"This article is a general one on buses in London. For a specific article on the organization responsible for running most buses in London, see London Buses."The London Bus is one of London's principal icons, the archetypal red rear-entrance double-deck Routemaster being recognised world-wide.



Buses have been used on the streets of London since 1829, when George Shillibeer started operating his horse drawn "omnibus" service from Paddington to the city. In 1850 Thomas Tilling started horse bus services, [ [http://www.petergould.co.uk/local_transport_history/pioneers/people/tilling.htm Thomas Tilling by Peter Gould] ] and in 1855 the London General Omnibus Company or LGOC was founded to amalgamate and regulate the horse-drawn omnibus services then operating in London.cite web | title = From omnibus to ecobus, 1829-1850 | url = http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/learning/online_resources/ecobus_omnibus/pg/1829.htm | publisher = London's Transport Museum | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007 ]

LGOC began using motor omnibuses in 1902, and manufactured them itself from 1909. In 1904 Thomas Tilling started its first motor bus service. The last LGOC horse-drawn bus ran on 25 October 1911, although independent operators used them until 1914.cite web | title = From omnibus to ecobus, 1901-1913, 3rd page | url = http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/learning/online_resources/ecobus_omnibus/pg/1901b.htm | publisher = London's Transport Museum | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007 ]

In 1909 Thomas Tilling and LGOC entered into an agreement to pool their resources. The agreement restricted the expansion of Thomas Tilling in London, and allowed the LGOC to lead an amalgamation of most of London's bus services. However, also in 1909 Thomas Clarkson started the National Steam Car Company to run steam buses in London in competition with the LGOC. In 1919 the National company reached agreement with the LGOC to withdraw from bus operation in London, and steam bus services ceased later that year. [ [http://www.petergould.co.uk/local_transport_history/generalhistories/general/steambus.htm The Steam Bus 1833-1923 by Peter Gould] ]

In 1912 the "Underground Group", which at that time owned most of the London Underground, bought the LGOC. In 1933 the LGOC, along with the rest of the Underground Group, became part of the new London Passenger Transport Board. The name London General was replaced by London Transport, which became synonymous with the red London bus.cite web | title = From omnibus to ecobus, 1919-1938, 3rd page | url = http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/learning/online_resources/ecobus_omnibus/pg/1919aa.htm | publisher = London's Transport Museum | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007 ]

In the 1980s the government of Margaret Thatcher decided to privatise the bus operating industry in the United Kingdom, which at that time was dominated by London Transport in London, large municipally-owned operators in other major cities and the government-owned National Bus Company and Scottish Bus Group elsewhere. For largely political reasons the model followed in London was completely different from the rest of the country. In London a part of London Transport called London Buses was set up, with the remit to contract out the operation of services but to determine service levels and fares within the public sector.cite web | title = History | publisher = Transport for London | url = http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/modesoftransport/londonbuses/1554.aspx | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007 ]

This regime is still in place, although the ownership of London Buses moved from the central (UK) government-controlled London Regional Transport to the Mayor of London's transport organisation, Transport for London, in 2000, as part of the formation of the new Greater London Authority.cite web | title = History | publisher = Transport for London | url = http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/modesoftransport/londonbuses/1554.aspx | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007 ]


From the early days of motor bus operation by the LGOC in the 1900s until the 1960s London went its own way, designing its own vehicles specially for London use rather than using the bus manufacturers' standard products used elsewhere. The Associated Equipment Company (AEC) was created as a subsidiary of the LGOC in 1912 to build buses and other equipment for its parent company, and continued in the ownership of LGOC and its successors until 1962. Many of London's local service buses over this period were built by AEC, although other manufacturers also built buses to London designs, or modified their own designs for use in London.cite web | title = From omnibus to ecobus, 1901-1913, 3rd page | url = http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/learning/online_resources/ecobus_omnibus/pg/1901b.htm | publisher = London's Transport Museum | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007 ]

The last bus specifically designed for London was the AEC Routemaster, built between 1956 and 1968. Since then, buses built for London's local services have all been variants of models built for general use elsewhere, although bus manufacturers would routinely offer a 'London specification' to meet specific London requirements. Some manufacturers even went so far as to build new models with London in mind, such as the DMS class Daimler Fleetline, and the T class Leyland Titan (B15).

London did see the introduction of several of the newly emerging minibus and midibus models in the 1980s and 1990s, in a bid to up the frequency on routes, although the use of these buses dropped off to the level of niche operation on routes not suitable for full size buses.

With the move to tendered contracts for TfL routes, the 'London specification' was further enforced as being part of tender proposals, invariably specifying new buses. The major difference for London is the usage of dual doors on central routes.

London was one of the earliest major users of low-floor buses. From 2000, the mainstay of fleet, double-decker buses, were augmented with a fleet of articulated buses, rising to a peak fleet size of 393 Mercedes-Benz O530 CitarosBuses Magazine, August 2008 issue, page 5, Ian Allen Publishing] .

New Routemaster / Bendy bus withdrawal

In the 2008 London mayoral election campaign, prospective mayor Boris Johnson made several commitments to change the London Buses vehicle policy, namely to introduce a new Routemaster, and remove the bendy buses.

Following his election to office on 4 May 2008, on 4 July 2008 Transport for London announced the [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/corporate/projectsandschemes/technologyandequipment/anewbusforlondon/default.aspx New Bus for London Competition] , in which conceptual and detailed design proposals would be sought for a new hybrid Routemaster, with development of a design that could be put into production hoped for completion by 2012 (the expected date of the next mayoral election).

In August 2008, the London Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy announced that the withdrawal of the bendy buses would take place, starting in 2009. So as to reduce additional costs to TfL, the buses would be withdrawn as their 5 year operating contracts came up for renewal, with the replacement types being decided by operators. Options for replacement would not preclude such measures as tri-axle buses. However, research has indicated that removing articulated vehicles may not be without cost; London Travel Watch undertook a study in September 2008 which found that to replace articulated vehicles on three bus routes, and maintain overall route capacity, would cost an additional £12.6m per annum, due to the additional vehicles necessitated.cite web | title = Consultation on Articulated Bus Routes 38, 507 and 521 (sec. 4.8.1) | url = http://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/document/3526/get | publisher = London Travel Watch | accessdate = September 30 | accessyear = 2008 ]

The first buses to be withdrawn would be the Red Arrow fleet on route 507 and route 521 (although the latter route requires single deckers due to its running through the Strand Underpass), in May 2009, followed by the route 38 in July. Having received new buses in February, the last route to use articulated buses would be route 453, in 2013 (2015 if a two year contract extension is taken up).


Local buses

Most local buses within London form a network managed by London Buses, an arm of Transport for London, although most services are operated by private sector companies under contract to London Buses. With the introduction of the London congestion charge in central London and because at peak times the Underground is operating at maximum capacity, many bus service improvements have been undertaken, and central bus services are currently enjoying something of a resurgence.cite web | title = History | publisher = Transport for London | url = http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/modesoftransport/londonbuses/1554.aspx | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007 ]

Although the rear-entrance double-deck Routemaster is the archetypal London bus, their numbers have dwindled quite quickly owing to their age (the oldest are now more than 50 years old), their inability to accept wheelchairs or pushchairs, and their requirement for a two-person crew. As described below, Routemasters are now restricted to two heritage routes.cite web | title = End of the road for an icon | publisher = BBC | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast/3729115.stm | accessdate = July 4 | accessyear = 2007 ]

All other local bus services are now operated by modern low-floor buses, which may be single-deck or double-deck. Some of the single deck buses are articulated and locally known as "bendy buses". Bendy buses have three sets of doors, and passengers with season tickets or Oyster cards can board articulated buses using any set of doors. Most other buses operating in London have two sets of doors, and passengers board the bus using the front door and alight using the rear door, whilst some buses on less busy routes have only one door. All these buses conform to the Disability Discrimination Act, and can accept passengers in wheelchairs and other mobility impaired passengers.

Some local bus routes in the outer areas of London cross the London boundary. London Buses services that cross the boundary have standard red buses, and charge London fares, at least within the boundary. Buses from outside London that cross into London are in their operators' own colour schemes, and may not accept London fares even within the boundary.

Night buses

Night buses began running as early as 1913, and they form part of the London Buses network. Originally all the routes were distinguished by an N prefixed route number and had their own (premium) fare structure, in part because the routes are greatly extended from their daytime equivalents. For example, while the 9 travels from Aldwych to Hammersmith, the N9 continues on from Hammersmith to replace route 267 to Turnham Green, then route 237 to Hounslow, route 222 to Heathrow Airport North and furthermore runs to Terminal 5.

Many night bus services operate from a central London terminus in Trafalgar Square and run along the routes of tube or train lines which are not operational at night. More recently, under the influence of the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, night buses have adopted standard London bus fares. Some daytime bus routes have also started operating 24 hours a day, using the same (non-N prefixed) route number. All night buses (whether on N-prefixed routes or 24-hour routes) are standard red buses. London's night bus services have seen passenger numbers soar in recent years - by mid 2005, up by over 80% over levels at the start of the 21st century.

Heritage routes

Although the rear-entrance double-deck Routemaster has now been withdrawn from all regular service routes, they are still in use on two heritage routes in central London. The heritage routes are operated as part of the standard London Buses network, and issue and accept the same fares as the rest of that network. The two routes are heritage route 9 from the Royal Albert Hall to Aldwych, and heritage route 15 from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill.cite web | title = End of the road for an icon | publisher = BBC | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast/3729115.stm | accessdate = July 4 | accessyear = 2007 ] cite web | title = Heritage routes for Routemaster | publisher = BBC | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4229106.stm | accessdate = July 4 | accessyear = 2007 ] cite web | title = Travelling around London | publisher = Transport for London | url = http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/travel-around-London-DL-210906.pdf | accessdate = July 4 | accessyear = 2007 ]

Routemaster buses are not accessible to passengers in wheelchairs and other mobility impaired passengers. Because of this, each heritage route is operated as a short-working of a regular service route bearing the same route number, thus ensuring that passengers unable to board the heritage buses are offered equivalent alternative transport arrangements.cite web | title = Heritage routes for Routemaster | publisher = BBC | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4229106.stm | accessdate = July 4 | accessyear = 2007 ]

Tour buses

A common sight in central London are tour buses, the majority being open-top buses. These are double-decker buses with a fully or partially open upper deck, which provide tourist services with either live or recorded commentary. Most of these services allow passengers to embark and disembark at chosen stops along their route, continuing their journey on a later bus.

There are several competing operators of such services and, although at least one paints its buses in the same red as London's local buses, they do not form part of the London Buses network and do not issue or accept London Buses tickets. Fares are set by the operators and usually involve a flat fee for a day (or multiple days) usage; there is no need to pre-book and tickets can be bought from the driver and/or bus stop ticket sellers.

Other more formally organised tours use luxury coaches and generally need to be booked in advance through travel agents.

Long distance coaches

Long-distance coaches link London with the rest of the UK and with other cities in Europe. Most of these services are run by National Express and their European affiliate Eurolines. National Express's predominantly white vehicles are common on the roads of central London, on their way to and from their terminus at Victoria Coach Station.

Recently competition for long distance traffic has been introduced by Megabus, a subsidiary of the large UK bus operating company Stagecoach. This company operates cheap services aimed at students and the like, which must be booked in advance on the Internet.

Other coach services link London to medium-distance destinations, and unlike National Express or Megabus provide walk-on fares. Good examples of this are the Green Line services to the Home Counties, mainly operated by Arriva, the service to the city of Oxford, where Stagecoach's frequent Oxford Tube service competes with Go-Ahead's similar Oxford Espress service, and the many commuter services to medium-distance destinations operated by individual coach companies during peak times.

Airport buses

National Express is also the principal airport bus operator, serving Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted with its "National Express Airport" brand. Unlike their longer distance cousins, these are walk-on services, which serve stops throughout central London rather than running to Victoria Coach Station.

London City Airport used to provide express shuttle bus services to connect the airport to rail and underground stations at Canning Town, Canary Wharf and Liverpool Street. These operated at a premium fare (compared with the parallel but slower London Buses services) but did not survive the extension of the Docklands Light Railway to the airport in late 2005.

Terrorist incidents

* February 18, 1996: An improvised explosive device detonated prematurely on a bus travelling along Aldwych in central London, killing Edward O'Brien, the IRA volunteer transporting the device, and injuring eight others.cite web | title = 1996: Bomb blast destroys London bus | publisher = BBC | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/february/18/newsid_4165000/4165719.stm | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007]
* July 7, 2005: An explosion occurred as part of a coordinated attack on London at 09:47 on a No. 30 Hackney Wick to Marble Arch double-decker bus, operated by Stagecoach Group for Transport for London, in Tavistock Square. The bomb ripped the roof off the top deck and destroying the back of the bus, killing thirteen passengers and the suicide bomber.cite web | title = London Attacks - Tavistock Square | publisher = BBC | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/uk/05/london_blasts/html/tavistock.stm | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007]
* July 21, 2005: A suicide bomber attempted to explode a bomb as part of a second coordinated attack on London at 13:30 on a No. 26 Waterloo to Hackney Wick double-decker bus, operated by Stagecoach Group for Transport for London, on Hackney Road at the corner of Columbia Road in Shoreditch. The device failed to detonate properly and there were no injuries.cite web | title = 'Bus bomb bid' CCTV shown to jury | publisher = BBC | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6309783.stm | accessdate = July 3 | accessyear = 2007]

ee also

* Transport for London
* London Buses
* London Underground
* List of bus routes in London
* List of bus types used in London
* London articulated bus controversy
* The Big Bus Company


External links

* [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/buses/ London Bus - Transport for London]
* [http://www.londonbusesbyadam.fotopic.net - London Bus Photos]
* [http://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk - London Travel Watch]

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