East Thames Buses Dart SLFs
BackgroundEast Thames Buses had been set up by London Buses to operate where private operators found the going too tough, or where all tender bids were deemed unreasonable by TfL. ETB had taken over the Harris Bus operations, including their 108 and 132 routes. These used Optare Excels, which proved inreasingly unreliable.
Hired DartsSo in May 2000 ETB hired four Dart SLFs for use on the 132 (deemed less high profile than the Blackwall Tunnel 108 route). There were two Pointers and two Wright Crusaders. They were used in white, from Belvedere depot. Three of them were returned in July 2001, and two more - a Marshall and a Pointer - were hired to go alongside the retained hired Pointer (T553HNH). The two fresh hires were returned in February 2002, when ETB bought a pair of elderly step-entrance Dart/Wrights. T553HNH stayed on hire, usually on the 132, but increasingly on the 108 and very occasionally on the 185. In February 2004 it was repainted into London red, with ETB fleetnames and logos, and numbered DC15. It was disposed of, presumably back to its owner, sometime in 2005. It then went to Renown in Bexhill, and was thence taken over by Stagecoach South!
Caetano Compasses, DCL424-437, later DC1-14In July 2002 a more long-term solution presented itself. Most of the Caetano Compasses that Connex had used on the 42 (after Limebourne introduced them), were redundant, apart from those back in use on the 42 with Durham Travel Services. So East Thames Buses bought seven of them (DCL 428, 430, 433-437), for use on the 108 and 132. They had ETB logos and fleetnames added to their all-red livery.
Then in August Durham Travel Services were liquidated. The Caetanos that DTS had hired from Connex were returned to them. But East Thames Buses, as London Buses' operator of last resort, was called in to do something about the 42, and as a short-term measure acquired another seven of the Compasses from Connex, giving them the fourteen from DCL424-437. An increase in requirement on the 42 caused them all to be grouped together at Ash Grove by September, leaving Excels on the 108 and a mix of step-Darts, Olympians and the remaining hired Dart SLF on the 132.
But in January 2003 ETB acquired the whole batch of Scania OmniTowns that had been intended for the 42 with DTS, which released the Compasses to work the 108 (Lewisham - Blackheath - Blackwall Tunnel - Bromley-by-Bow - Stratford), in turn allowing the disposal of the troublesome Excels. The Compasses were renumbered in March 2003, becoming DC1-14.
Opposite ends of the 108: Lewisham Bus Station and Statford Bus Station. Newly acquired DCL430 works from one to the other in August 2002.
Replacements, in the form of Wrightbus Cadets (or Volvo Merits), began to appear in the late summer of 2004, but these first displaced the remaining Excels. But by the end of 2004 some of the Compasses were parked at Belvedere awaiting disposal. They passed on towards the end of 2005, two to MK Metro in Milton Keynes, three to Hackney Community Transport, and nine to Go-Ahead North-East (who rounded up others of the original batch from other operators too).