Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith.
This page created 12th September 2000, updated 20th February 2015. Best on 800*600.
The Plaxton Darts
Part Three: 9.8m, EDR, LDR, D, DPL, DP
The shorter Darts had been seen as replacements for the midibuses
(Mercedes, Renaults, StarRiders, MetroRiders...) that had plagued bus operations around London in
the early nineties. But the 9.8m version offered scope for replacing the
Leyland National, which was now getting long in the tooth.
Most of the London companies started looking for larger buses with larger wheels
for this, but others could see the 9.8m Dart Pointer in this role,
and were not going to wait for the outcome of Low-Floor trials.
Metroline: EDR 1-44
London Buses did not buy any of this length for itself,
but the first for London were delivered shortly after privatisation, in November 1994.
Metroline bought its first buses (EDR1-9) for route 107,
operating from Edgware garage.
At first they wore plain red, with a white waist-line, until Metroline
adopted its red with blue skirt livery.
Another batch (EDR 10-44) followed in August 1996,
allowing Metroline to displace StarRiders with DTs,
which in turn were replaced by the longer Darts.
The new buses sported Metroline's new image, with blue skirts,
white cheat-line and fashionable logo.
- 107: New Barnet Stn - Arkley - Borehamwood - Elstree - Edgware Stn
- 240: Golders Green Stn - Mill Hill Broadway - Edgware Stn
- 251: Arnos Grove Stn - Mill Hill Broadway - Edgware Stn
- 288: Queensbury - Edgware - Broadfields Estate
- 303: Edgware Stn - Mill Hill Broadway - Colindale
- 305: Edgware Stn - Burnt Oak - Kingsbury
- H12: South Harrow Stn - Pinner - Harrow Weald - Stanmore Stn
- H18: Harrow Weald - Kenton - Northwick Park Stn - Harrow
As Metroline continued to buy newer SLF Darts
the EDRs were moved onto other jobs:
in March 2000 they replaced Mercedes minibuses from the W9,
while early 2002 saw a major move of most of them to Potters Bar,
where they in turn displaced DRLs. Others displaced the ex-R&I Darts from North Wembley,
with the lowest numbered (EDR1-7) going to North Wembley as trainers.
Leaside Buses, South London: LDR 1-55
The Cowie Group bought fourteen long Darts, which it labelled LDR,
in November 1995, for Leaside Buses.
They appeared in the new Cowie group London livery,
of overall red with yellow stripe and pair of diagonal flashes.
Leaside Buses bought another seven in February 1996 for use on the 184.
It wasn't that Leaside needed new buses on the 184, but long 9.8 m Darts were available off the shelf,
and would fit on the 184,
allowing its 9.0m DRLs to be shuffled to South London for the 455,
in turn releasing 8.5m Darts for the 192
(which was what Leaside was trying to modernise, but 8.5m Darts were not available at the time).
Another six followed for the 313, won from Grey-Green, in late 1996.
- 184: Turnpike Lane - Wood Green - Arnos Grove - New Barnet - Barnet
- 307: Brimsdown - Enfield Town - Barnet Church
- 313: Potters Bar - Enfield Town - Chingford Station
LDR20 and LDR21 on the 184 at Bounds Green Stn in January 2001
show the two red variants of Arriva London livery: ice-cream scoop and Cowie-horns.
More followed for South London, where they went onto the 319 and 455.
These have subsequently moved south to Croydon for use on the 166 and 412
LDR28 on the 166 at East Croydon in September 2000 is not operating on electric power:
the pantograph is on the tram in the background!
- 319: Sloane Sq - Clapham Junc - Streatham
- 166: Chipstead Valley - Croydon
- 412: Purley Cross -Croydon - Norwood Junction
Docklands Transit / Stagecoach East London PD410-427
Docklands Transit tendered succesfully in 1996 for the 106,
for which they bought eighteen 9.8m single-doorway Darts.
These wore a predominantly red livery, with blue stripe and white flashes.
Docklands Transit was bought by Stagecoach in July 1997, and
Stagecoach East London took over the operation in October 1997.
It replaced these single door Darts with dual-door examples (see below).
So this batch has joined the exodus of Stagecoach Darts from East London,
most going to Devon, East Midlands or Sussex Coastline for further service.
- 106: Finsbury Park Stn - Whitechapel
Stagecoach East London, Selkent: PD1-18, PD59-103 (with gaps)
Docklands Transit ordered eighteen dual-door Darts before the takeover,
and these, PD1-18, were duly delivered to Stagecoach East London in October 1997
and went to work on the 106.
Thames Transit, in Oxford, had also bought dual-door Darts for Oxford city services,
and after their takeover by Stagecoach there was a shuffle.
Most of the Oxford dual-door Darts came to London.
Most of PD59-103 (with gaps) came during 1998 to Selkent at Plumstead,
and most of older PD701-722 to East London,
in exchange for Alexander-bodied single-door Darts.
The Plumstead batch subsequently moved north of the river to join the others
at Barking and Stratford.They were occupied on the 106, 287, 366, 368.
They were all transferred away gradually to other Stagecoach companies, starting in 1999,
with large batches going at the end of 2001 and the last survivors hanging on into 2002.
Thamesway 973-987 / First Capital 773-786
May 1996 saw route 191 change operator, from Cowie Leaside to Thamesway,
who provided fifteen Pointers in yellow with pink sashes and badgers,
based at Ponders End, Enfield.
Responsiblity for the Thamesway operations at Ponders End
passed to First Capital in September 1999,
including fourteen of the Darts, which then acquired First Capital red and yellow livery.
- 191: Brimsdown Stn - Edmonton Green
R&I / MTL London DP233, 245-8/ Metroline EDR45-9
R&I Coaches, among the mixed bag of Darts that they bought, of different makers and lengths,
acquired five 9.8m Pointers, one in June 1992 and another four in March 1995.
June 1996 saw them taken over by MTL London, which was in turn bought from MTL by Metroline.
They were used with the other Darts on routes 46, 112 and 274.
After the takeover by Metroline DP233 was transferred to Metroline stock for use as a trainer.
Eventually (August 2000) Metroline got round to renumbering them into the EDR sequence, and they became EDR45-9
(although not in the original order).
EDR47, now in Metroline red and blue, threads a way through the Kings Cross roadworks in December 2002..
London Buslines / Centrewest D611-632
1996 also looked like a successful year for London Buslines.
Tenders won meant an intake of forty-eight Darts,
of which thirty-two had 9.8m Pointer bodies.
Fifteen, D611-625, wore dedicated yellow/red/maroon livery for the 285 Heathrow link,
whilst D601-610 and D626-632 wore brown and yellow for the 258 and 203.
- 203: Hounslow - Hatton Cross Stn - Bedfont - Stanwell - Staines
- 258: South Harrow - Harrow - Wealdstone - Bushey Heath - Watford Junction
- 285: Kingston - Teddington - Feltham - Hatton Cross Stn - Heathrow Central
Centrewest bought the company from Q-Drive in March 1996,
whilst deliveries were still taking place.
The buses remained in London Buslines livery, but standardised on the 285 livery style,
with or without route branding.
The 285 was lost to London United at the end of June 2001.
With the 258 converted to double-decker this rendered most of the Darts redundant.
Those at Uxbridge for the 203 remained , but the rest were transferred to First Edinburgh.
London Buslines was completely absorbed by First Centrewest from the beginning of September 2001.
London Buslines Dart 619 is seen crossing Kingston Bridge - and returning - on the 285,
on its last day of operation, Friday 29th June 2001.
The next day this route would be operated by London United.
620 was there too (and others), and is seen from the open top-deck of D142,
there to take part in the opening of the bus-lane on the Bridge.
Photos by Ian Smith. Click for larger versions.
Centrewest bought nine 9.8m Darts of its own,
D33-37 for the 331 in north-west London,
and D38-41 for Roundabout R9 in Orpington,
where Centrewest built a new operation at the expense of Selkent.
The whole batch was transferred to the West Country at the end of 2001,
the Uxbridge buses going to Western National at Taunton,
the Orpington buses to Western National at Truro.
- 331: Uxbridge - Ruislip Station
- R9 : Orpington Stn - Ramsden Estate
D41 rests at Orpington Station between bouts on the R9, September 2000.
Bee Line D201-208
Bee Line took over the Slough operations of London Country North-West (Luton & District) in January 1993.
For the Slough-Heathrow Airportlink services (74, 75, 76) Bee Line bought eight 9.8m Darts,
four in March 1993 and another four in November.
They were painted in a dedicated livery. Centrewest took over in March 1996, and left the Darts alone.
to get on with it.
First Group did likewise until November 2004, when D201-204 (now 46079, 81-83)
were deported to First Somerset & Avon.
Armchair P27-29, 31-35, P154, 156-160 MLE
Armchair, based at Brentford in west London, was another small company
to offer Darts as part of their 1996 tender package,
successfully winning the 117 and 190.
The thirteen buses, not venturing near the Central London zone,
wore Armchair's distinctive orange with white roofs and black skirts.
At the end of 2001 they were put up for sale. Some went to Aventa at Gatwick,
and others via Dawson Rentals to Centrebus in Leicester or Countryliner in Guildford.
Bizarrely, two were hired back by Armchair to fill an increased requirement on route 237.
- 117: Isleworth - Hounslow - Feltham - Ashford - Staines
- 190: West Brompton - Hammersmith - Chiswick - Richmond
Armchair 156 at Hammersmith on route 190 in October 2001.
Now with Centrebus, 107 in Luton on the 19A, September 2009.
County Bus DPL405-414
County Bus bought ten 9.8m Pointers in March 1993 to supplement their 9.0m buses for Harlow services.
Eventually they became part of the fleet of Arriva The Shires and Essex, some being route-branded for the 251
(Hammond Street - Upshire).
Grey Green /County Bus, DP950-1
Grey-Green acquired two Dart Buses for its Medway operations at Strood.
When their operations there passed to London Coaches in early 1996
the two Darts were retained by Grey-Green but initially loaned to Maidstone & District.
They then passed on to County Bus at Barking during 1996.
Metrobus 717-726, 731-732, 752-753, 757-761
Metrobus of Orpington really took to the Dart Pointer.
After its experiences with the shorter varieties it bought ten of the 9.8m variety,
which displaced them from the 358 during 1994-5.
They were displaced themselves by new Optare Excels in mid 1996,
but after losing their route branding for the 358 found a ready niche on the busy 284.
More were needed in 1997, as Metrobus expanded into East Surrey.
East Surrey provided a handful (see below),
and another five were bought from Hylton Castle, near Sunderland,
in September 1997.
Metrobus itself bought a very late standard Dart in August 1997.
Another late secondhand vehicle was bought from Ambermile in 1998.
- 358:Orpington Stn - Green St Grn - Locks Bottom - Bromley - Shortlands - Eden Park - Elmers End - Penge- Anerley - Crystal Palace
- 284:Grove Park Cemetery - Downham - Catford - Ladywell - Lewisham
Metrobus 726 waits at the lights by Grove Park Station,
heading for Downham way on the 284, and 717 slips round the corner heading for Grove Park Cemetery. Sept 2000.
East Surrey 45, 47, 49-51, / Metrobus 730, 756/4/0/1
East Surrey, operating from South Godstone garage,
replaced hired Leyland Nationals with a mixed bag of Darts as it could afford them,
in 1993-4. They were taken over by Metrobus in June 1997, and the five 9.8m Pointers
were renumbered into the Metrobus 7** series, and gained yellow/blue livery.
Luton & District / The Shires 3099 - 3102
Buffalo of Flitwick brought two Dart Pointers to Luton & District at their takeover in May 1995,
and Lucketts of Watford added two to The Shires fleet in January 1997.
Epsom Buses bought seven 9.8m Darts between 1993 and 1995, five of them with Plaxton Pointer bodywork.
Some were branded at times for particular services from Epsom - the 5, 498, 562,
and the others left plain cream with maroon bumpers.
They also worked alongside Arriva London South on the 166.
January 2002 saw the fleet numbered, with these Darts becoming LD12-LD16.
In November 2002 Epsom Buses bought seven new Optare Solos, and these displaced Dart SLFs which in turn made the older Darts redundant.
Most were put up for sale, although LD16 became a trainer.
Epsom Buses Dart at Weybridge Station, replacing the eastbound suburban rail service, October 1999.
Thames Bus of New Haw was one of a number of bus companies trying to operate in the difficult conditions of suburban Surrey,
after Arriva had given it up and several other operators had tried and failed.
They bought one of Epsom Buses' 9.8m Darts in March 2003, and painted it in this smart blue livery.
Thames Bus N401 SPA at Cobham Museum Open Day, April 2003.
Centrebus of Leicester bought the St.Albans operations of Sovereign in January 2004,
then amalgamated its Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire operations with LQT Ltd, Refresh Solutions and
Lutonian Buses. The combined fleets gradually acquired Centrebus orange and blue livery,
and included Darts with varied bodies and lengths.
Amongst them were eleven 8.5m Plaxton Darts from a variety of London Buses and other companies.
Some were specifically acquired for the 366 (Luton-Hatfield).
Centrebus 248 heads into Dunstable on the 34 from St.Albans on a Saturday in June 2008.
Centrebus 112, once PD712 with Stagecoach East London, in Luton on the 17A in September 2009.
Note the unusual rear display panel, now unused.
Red Route Buses, Gravesend
Red Route Buses, running mainly school buses and contracts in the Gravesend hinterland, supplemented its midibuses in 2008 with EDR43
P319MLD negotiates narrow lanes near Ightham Mote on the 223 to Gravesend, March 2014 (photo by Cynthia Smith).
Northern Counties DNL