Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith, best on Netscape 800*600.
This page created 18th October 2002.
Part 7: London-Area Independents
Route 81 (Hounslow - Slough) was one put out to tender by London Regional Transport
(LRT) in 1985. The contract was won by Len Wright of Isleworth, trading as London Buslines,
who bought nine ex-London DM Fleetlines from Ensign for the service.
These were repainted a mustardy yellow with burnt chocolate skirts and band.
They went into service on the 81 in July 1985, but were less reliable than expected.
London Buslines bought another six for the 195 (Hanwell - Charville Lane Estate)
ready for April 1986.
Despite reliability problems which led to the purchase of new Lynxes in 1987
many of the ex-London Fleetlines continued in service into the 90's.
London Buslines continued their expansion, winning the tender for route 79 (Edgware Stn - Alperton Stn).
Five more Fleetlines were required, but this time they had to look to Manchester for them. Greater
Manchester Buses was disposing of much older stock in preparation for deregulation, and many operators
found their buses very acceptable, with their Manchester-standard Northern Counties bodywork.
London Buslines applied yellow with a dark chocolate skirt, and their new orange-brown fleetnames.
Cityrama had already been operating Fleetlines on its sightseeing business
before it won the tender for route 200 (Streatham - Raynes Park) in March 1986.
It bought more Fleetlines for the tendered route,
and painted them in dark blue with a broad white band.
They retained double doors, but had RCL-type destination displays and two-way radio.
The following February (1987) Cityrama won another LRT contract: the 196 (Norwood Junction - Brixton - Islington).
For this they required more Fleetlines, but the supply of ex-London DMs was drying up.
Instead they acquired twelve Fleetlines from South Yorkshire PTE, two of which were DMS-style
MCW-bodied Fleetlines from Sheffield. The other ten had ECW bodywork with smaller bays.
All retained dual doorways, and were painted in two-tone blue,
with offside ads for Italian Sun holidays, and the nearside for Caribbean Holidays.
They had three-track number blinds and two-roller destination-via pont blinds.
These service routes were plagued by unreliability,
despite the purchase of two new Olympians, and in December 1988 the 200 was surrendered,
followed by the 196 in October 1989. Cityrama pressed on with tour operations.
Sampsons of Hoddesdon, a long-time coach operator,
tendered for the 217B (Enfield - Waltham Cross - Upshire), starting in May 1986, and
acquired seven DM and one DMS. They were painted in powder blue and raspberry red.
Further tenders acquired in October stretched the bus-operating resources of the company,
and the company gave up the operation in July 1988.
In 1986 Metrobus of Orpington, which was then still a small company operating fringe routes on the edge of the LRT zone,
bid successfully for the 61 route (Bromley North - Bromley Common - Orpington - Chislehurst (- Eltham Station (Sundays))).
LRT accepted their bid based on second-hand DMS Fleetlines (rather than new Lynxes or new Olympians),
and Metrobus bought thirteen "standard" MCW-bodied Olympians from Ensign in July 1986.
The thirteen were: DMS1898, 1922, 1960, 2052, 2054, 2056, 2167, 2173, 2198, 2200, 2211, and 2243.
They were repainted in Metrobus' blue and yellow livery, and fitted with an extra upper-deck seat by Ensign.
They retained their dual-doorway layout, but had a modified destination blind layout, with just two boxes.
They were fitted with two-way radio too.
The blue and yellow buses began work on 16th August 1986,
and Metrobus soon gained a reputation for reliability,
despite Bromley's appalling traffic problems.
Extra route 361 (Bromley North - Bromley Common - Farnborough - Green Street Green)
was added at the last minute by LRT when Bromley Garage could not handle it.
When Metrobus added the 261 (Lewisham - Lee Green - Grove Park - Bromley - Bromley Common (Crown))
to their tendered operations portfolio in November 1987 they had too few Olympians for the Saturday service,
and some of the Fleetlines were used to complete the allocation. More Olympians arrived,
and displaced Fleetlines were used on the new 356
(Biggin Hill - Keston - Hayes - West Wickham - Shirley - Croydon) from March 1990.
They also became regular performers on the back-street 358
(Crystal Palace - Anerley - Penge - Beckenham - Elmers End - Bromley - Orpington ).
DMS 1960 is seen at work on the 261 in these two pictures,
taken in Bromley before buses were banished from the upper High Street,
and before the Glades landed.
In the left hand picture DMS1960 has acquired Roe Olympian-style front windows,
replacing the London version seen earlier on the right.
Photos, used with permission, by Mark Dale.
But the Fleetlines, although still reliable, were affecting the company's vehicle-age profile,
(ie they were getting old) and began to be replaced.
Two formed part of a swap-deal with Millers of Foxton in 1991,
the replacement Lynxes wanted for extensions to the 356.
Later in the year the 358 was given a major face-lift, with nine new 9.0m Dennis Darts,
and all but three of the DMSs were sold,
the remaining three (2198, 2200, 2243) finding Saturday employment on the 261, plus emergency cover.
Ensign Bus & Coach had been dealing with Fleetlines from London since the earliest sales.
After an initial period storing Fleetlines in the Royal Docks they obtained large premises in Purfleet.
They stored many of London's Fleetline, both before and after withdrawal,
and bought huge numbers of them. Many went for scrap after losing reclaimable items,
and Ensign sold whole fleets of them to operators round the country, large and small.
Ensignbus continued to operate a few contracts - after all, it had access to plenty of rolling stock.
The company had long operated a Port of London contract route.
In September 1984 it started into bus operation in a larger way when,
with London Pride, it took over Culture Bus sightseeing operations,
and simultaneously won the London Crusader sightseeing contract.
London Pride was taken over in October 1985.
Ensign was supplying Fleetlines for these operations
- silver-grey and blue for London Pride and silver-grey/yellow for CultureBus.
So no-one was really surprised when Ensignbus applied for an LRT stage-carriage service.
In June 1986 they won the 145 (Dagenham - Redbridge Station).
They dedicated a fleet of dual-doorway Fleetlines to it, in silver/blue livery
with blue blinds in two-part destination boxes.
In January 1987 another route was added to operations, the 62 (Gants Hill - Barking (Gascoigne Estate)) -
famous as the last RT route.
An opportunist contract take-up was for the N99 (Romford to Cranham), using buses returning to Purfleet, from March 1987.
September 1988 required further buses, as Ensign took on the 165 and 365
(Havering Park - Rainham / Mardyke Estate).
Even with buses drawn back in from associated operations Ensignbus exhausted the supply of Fleetlines -
and anyway it was time to look for newer buses if it was to be taken seriously as an operator,
and Ensignbus began to buy new and secondhand Metrobuses.
DM1043 was Ensignbus 223 when seen on the 165.
But there were still new roles for the DMSs: Essex awarded a contract for the 723 (Rainham - Grays).
Later, when the Lakeside shopping pit opened in October 1990 they appeared on two new routes:
348 Romford-Lakeside and 565 Barkingside - Lakeside.
Photo, used by permission, by Paul Watson.
But by now the Fleetlines were in their late teens, and over the hill.
Withdrawals were under way by the time that Citybus took over
Ensign's stage-carriage routes and buses in December 1990
to form Capital Citybus.
The Dagenham base of Grey-green was the scene of one of those pivotal points in history
that seems of little significance at the time. The company had come into the ownership of
Cowie Group in 1981, but the Dagenham base was still operated as Dix Luxury Coaches.
Now, in February 1987 the company started on its first LRT contract,
a move that started the Cowie group into bus operation and signalled the start of growth
of what would become Arriva buses.
The small beginnings were route 173 (Stratford - Becontree Heath), and ten
Leyland Fleetlines from South Yorkshire PTE. These were from the DMS-alike Sheffield batch.
They had three-track number indicators and two-roller destination blinds.
Livery, strangely for a fleet called Grey-Green, was orange, white and chocolate.
The anomaly was related to the original intention to market the route as "Eastenderbus",
which the buses originally wore as a fleetname.
This was discontinued, and Grey-Green substituted,
although whether this was a copyright issue
or because the fleetname did not match the name on the tender documents I don't know.
Routes 179 and 379 (Chingford Stn - Barking / Yardley Lane Estate) were won for a start in October 1987,
also based on Dagenham, and for these Grey-Green acquired twelve more Fleetlines,
this time from Greater Manchester and with GMB-standard Northern Counties bodywork.
Their GMB paint-scheme was re-arranged to match the earlier batch.
These buses only had single doorways, unlike the ex-Sheffield buses.
In 1988 Grey-Green took over the 298 and 313 after the London Country North-East strike.
The Fleetlines were repainted during 1989 into the new green, grey, orange/white livery,
which made them look much more dignified than the rather down-market earlier livery,
but Grey Green was already starting to modernise the fleet.
Harris of Grays started bus work in April 1986,
taking over the 269 (Brentwood - Grays) from Ingatestone Coaches.
An ex-West Midlands PTE Fleetline with Park Royal bodywork was used.
In October 1986 bus operations were expanded to cover local routes not registered by London Country,
and another five Fleetlines were obtained, ex-London types this time.
Four had been to West Midlands PTE in the meantime, and had early single-doorway conversions and West Midlands livery.
Harris Bus adopted the West Midlands blue and cream as a fleet livery.
Jubilee Coaches of Stevenage expanded suddenly from contract work to stage carriage services
in November 1986, when Stevenage area routes were suddenly awarded by Hertfordshire.
Some ex-London Fleetlines, previously used on contracts,
were pressed into service despite a lack of blind apertures,
and some more West Midlands Fleetlines were obtained at short notice.
These were a mixture of ex-Birmingham Park Royals, and some with East Lancs bodywork.
They went into service in West Midlands livery.
They served their purpose in establishing Jubilee as a bus operator,
and gave way when Jubilee's fleet of Metroriders arrived later in 1987.