This page created 5th January 2009
by Ian Smith
DAF DB250 double-deckersWhen MCW closed down in 1989 after production of the Metrobus ceased, it was not the end of the Metrobus saga, just a change of chapter. The design rights were bought by Optare and DAF. The upshot was the DB250 double-deck chassis, which took elements of the successful DB220 single-deck chassis (as used in the Optare Delta and DAF Ikarus buses), and combined it with a Metrobus drive-line and rear axle assembly.
DAF and Optare produced the double-deck Spectra, with a revolutionary body using the Alusuisse extruded aluminium sections and bolted assembly, with bonded glazing, to produce a rather different looking bus. It entered a slow market for double-deckers in 1992: the convulsions of deregulation in the industry as a whole, and the uncertainties aroused by inter-district competition in London were not conducive to the purchase of any new double-deckers, let alone an untried design. Midibuses were still the order of the day: cheap, short-lived but expendable in a shifting marketplace. Otherwise there were still plenty of cheap secondhand double-deckers available where large provincial fleets had divested themselves of responsibilities and consequent surplus fleets. Where new double-deckers were required, there was the tried and trusted Leyland Olympian, with hot competition between body-builders. So the Spectra had a slow start. London Buses took just twenty four. Then London Buses was sold off, and interest in new buses in London dwindled further, as the new companies tried to balance the books in the new hostile climate.
But the DB250 was not dead. Other body-builders were invited, and Northern Counties found that their Palatine II body fitted it nicely. This was a body coming into favour on new Volvo Olympians. Demonstrators were built and circulated in 1995: Metrobus of Orpington and Capital Citybus were suitable independent operators to try them on, and each had one for six months.
Leaside Buses, part of the same Cowie Empire as Hughes-DAF, took thirteen for service in 1995, followed by Arriva London & Country with thirteen in 1998. In the intervening period Harris Bus leased eight.
The London & Country DAFs were caught up in the industry turmoil, when their garage was closed by the owning property company for development. Twelve of them were leased to London United to maintain the service on the 85, whilst the thirteenth went to join its sisters at Leaside. The buses later returned off-lease to Arriva Southern Counties.
The Harris Buses were caught up in a different turmoil, when Harris Bus went under financially: London Buses picked up the mess, and took on the DAFs with its East Thames Buses company.
Meanwhile the DB250 chassis was undergoing a transformation, and subsequently emerged in a low-floor form, just ready to accept Wright double-decker bodies to form a substantial fleet for Arriva London and other companies, just as a change at the top produced an environment where bus re-equpment was deemed desirable - but that's another story for another time.