London United's Dart SLFs (DP, DPS, DPK)
Plaxton Pointer2s for the R70: DP1-11There was no change on the SLF front during 1997, but the company was taken over by French giant Transdev. In August 1998 the start of the Pointer invasion began, skipping the shoebox style straight to the Pointer2. DP1-11 were for the R70 (Richmond - Twickenham - Fulwell - Hanworth - Nurserylands). They were 10.7m thirty-six seater single doorway buses. These too wore standard London United livery.
The R70 (and R68) was lost to Tellings - Golden Miller in August 2000. DP1-5 stayed at Fulwell, where they single-decked the 411. DP6-11 moved to Hounslow, where their single doors were acceptable on the 81 to Slough. The 411 did not stay long at Fulwell. After a single month it was moved, with DP1-5, to Kingston.
The single door DPs were replaced on the 81 by dual doorway buses in the autumn of 2005, and donned vinyl overcoats to operate the Kingston Park & Ride, K50 (Chessington WoA - Kingston). After Christmas they were redundant, but helped out here and there as needed. DP1 and DP11 became the regulars on route 467, and the others often replaced DPSs on the busy 411. But in the spring (2006) they found a new home on Stamford Brook's 440, where they replaced the sold Wright Crusaders.
DP2 at Showbus 98, Duxford, blinded for the R70.
Heathrow gets new buses: DP12-33Early in 1999 twenty-two more 10.7m buses arrived, this time with dual doorways and seating thirty-four. Sponsored by Surrey County Council and BAA at Heathrow, they also sported air-conditioning packs on the roofs. Eleven at Hounslow Heath (DP12-22) were for the Railair Link between Feltham Station and either Terminals 123 or Terminal4, and wore a red, yellow and blue livery very similar to that worn by South -West Trains at Feltham. The rear nearside also carried the Freeflow Heathrow symbol. A large luggage rack replaced two offside seating bays.The service started in March 1999, and initially ran non-stop between the relevant terminal and Feltham, although from February 2000 they stopped also at Hatton Cross. The service never attracted many customers.
The T4 was withdrawn during 2000, and in July five of the buses were redeployed and repainted, nominally for use on the 81 but in practice also on the H22, H37 and H98.
The T123 survived until November 2001, when the relatively new 285 was rerouted to make it redundant.
The remaining dedicated Darts were reallocated to the H23, and soon repainted into standard livery..
DP23 on 555, Hatton Cross, October 2001.London United's contract on the 555 group came to an end in June 2003, when T-GM took it over. This made DP23-33 available for pvr increases on other routes, and they were duly repainted into standard livery.
DP28, now in London United standard livery, on 222 for Hounslow, Uxbridge Station, April 2004.The long air-conditioned batch did their ten years, then in spring 2009 were returned to their lessors, GE Capital of Sale. Some were then sold on, notably to McNairn's of Coatbridge and Premiere Travel of Nottingham.
Hounslow and Hounslow Heath get new buses: DP34-79August 1999 saw the Hounslow area get the new long Darts, displacing the last of the Leyland Nationals. The two-door 31-seaters went to both Hounslow and Hounslow Heath (the old Westlink base), for routes H22, H23, H37 and H98, with the 81 taken over from Lynxes on Sundays. They also appeared on the H91, which was slated to be used by the LLW low-floor Lances.
From March 2000 the LLWs DID take over the H91, but it was not long before the ex-Railair DPs started to appear on it after the demise of the T4. Even all-blue DPs from the 555 appeared on Hounslow DP routes from time to time, while during 2000 the instances of Hounslow DPs on routes 111, 337 and 391 increased.
DP55 storms out of Uxbridge Station, leaving "foreign" territory on the 222 towards home: Hounslow. More calmly, DP99 comes to rest in Kingston on the 411 in September 2010, looking much the same as when new, apart from the fleetname and yellow mirrors.Many of the class were displaced from Hounslow to Hounslow Heath in October 2009, when the 81 was double-decked. At Hounslow Heath they displaced smaller DPSs to Harrow.
The batch were disposed of during late 2012 and early 2013.
Shepherds Bush: long and medium: DP80-99, DPS1-16From December 1999 Shepherds Bush gained two lengths of SLFs: the long 10.7m DP80-99 for route 49, and half-bay shorter 10.1m DPS1-16 for the 72.
DPS8 rounds the corner at Hammersmith on the 72, October 2001.DPS1-16 stayed on the 72 until November 2007, when the whole batch (plus four DPs) were swapped to Stamford Brook for seventeen DPSs off the 319, in order to even out mileage and maintenance. Most of them returned to Shepherds Bush in October 2008.
November 2009 saw most of the batch sent to Tolworth for the annual contract on the K50 shoppers park & ride between Kingston and Chessington WoA.
They all were gradually disposed of during 2011-early 2013.
Low-floor replacements for the 222: DP500-509The 222 (Hounslow - Uxbridge) had been a low-floor test-bed route, using the low-floor Dennis Lance: Centrewest's LLW class, along with a scattering of other types. Now, in September 2000 the contract was transferred to London United, who put fifteen DPs on it. Even with the changes in the airport routes Hounslow did not have enough, so ten new 10.7m dual doorway Dart SLFs were bought for the assumption of the service. These started a new numbering sequence, being DP500-509.
DP505 passes along the Great West Road through Cranford, on the 222 towards Hounslow. DP506 sets out from Richmond back towards Hounslow on the H37.The whole batch were withdrawn into store in April 2010, and sold later in the year.
Medium weight for the 33: DPS511-533 (with gaps)Eighteen 10.1m dual-doorway 27-seaters arrived at Fulwell during November 2000, to take over the 33 (Hammersmith - Barnes Common - East Sheen - Richmond - Twickenham - Teddington - Fulwell Garage). They had to be the medium-size Pointer2s, as the longer ones were too heavy for Hammersmith Bridge. They arrived coded as DP511-533 rather than DPS511-533, with five gaps where matching registrations would not be supplied. Fulwell was their home. They quickly proved that route 71 could be operated by low-floor buses. In May 2001 they were recoded correctly as DPS511-533.
They stayed at Fulwell for the duration of the 33 contract, except for DPS533, which went off to Shepherds Bush early in 2005. But in November 2005 the 33 contract ended, and most of the batch were sent to Hounslow Heath, nominally for the 411 and H22. In practice they allowed the release of long single-door DP1-11 from the 81 onto the Kingston Park & Ride. DPS532 and 533 went to Tolworth.
In October 2009 the double-decking of Hounslow's 81 saw ten DPs arrive at Hounslow Heath, releasing thirteen of the DPS511-547 batch to Harrow, where they released similar ex-Sovereign SDPs to go off-lease. More followed in November. By the time of the split (February 2011) of Transdev London into London United (RATP) and London Sovereign all this batch were at Harrow, which went into the new London Sovereign. In September 2011 they were all returned off-lease.
More DPSs, initially for the 285: DPS534-557 (with gaps)In June 2001 nineteen more 10.1m started to arrive for the 285 (Kingston - Teddington - Hanworth - Feltham - Hatton Cross - Heathrow Central). They had three extra tip-up seats compared to the earlier DPSs. They were allocated to Hounslow Heath, but only ten had arrived by the start of service on 30th June, and a motley collection of other single deckers had to assist until the other nine arrived. These included DP64-67 which should have moved to Hounslow with the H23. The route moved, but they didn't. Perhaps as a consequence four of the July delivery of DPSs went initially to Shepherds Bush, where they appeared on the 72 and training duties! The four DPs went to Hounslow in August, and the four DPSs to their home on the 285 at Hounslow Heath.
Route 285, Kingston, October 2001: Still-new DPS536 and DPS553 arrive from Heathrow.As detailed below, these DPSs were only a stop-gap on the 285. When the dedicated batch arrived these earlier ones were transferred to the new garage at Tolworth for Kingston local routes K1 and K4, where they took over from step-entrance Darts.
Four of them were transferred to Fulwell in April 2007 when Network Rail took back part of Tolworth's parking space. They kept the same blinds, which limited their use at Fulwell to the transferred routes: 371, 406 and 418. Many of this batch went to Harrow to replace the SDPs, and consequently fell into the hands of the new London Sovereign in February 2011. The end came for the London United buses by early 2013.
The real DPSs for the 285 and N285: DPS558-578In November and December 2001 more new DPSs arrived. These had fewer seats, (26 +3 tip-ups) but more luggage space. They were given route-branding for the 285: a bold blue and white diagonal band with Kingston - Feltham - Heathrow 24 hour link, with a plane symbol and a bold 285 on the side too. These displaced the earlier DPSs. The revised route also made the T123 redundant too, and that route was withdrawn.
DPS560, in the dedicated 285 livery, leaves Hatton Cross Station for Kingston, February 2002.September 2008 saw DPS571-9 replaced on the 285 by new EnviroDarts. DPS559-570 followed in October. But these buses were then used to initiate a swap-round of buses, going to Hounslow or Stamford Brook. Four (574-577) were sold to Sullivan Buses at South Mimms in December 2008, and 578/9 moved on to Fulwell (temporarily). January 2009, when the K50 buses came off-work, and Optare Versas took over the 391, saw the rest of this batch go into store for sale. Those sold to Sullivan Buses were repainted blue in time for the peak summer service to Thorpe Park.
Re-equipment on the 290 and 371: DPS579-602December saw more of the medium length DPSs arrive for Fulwell and Tolworth too, displacing short DR-class step-entrance Darts from the 290, and the Optare Excels and MAN Vectas from the 371. These DPSs were thirty-seaters (27 + 3 tip-ups).
Nine of them were transferred to Fulwell in April 2007 when Network Rail took back part of Tolworth's parking space. They kept the same blinds, which limited their use at Fulwell to the transferred routes: 371, 406 and 418.
Kingston locals: DPS588 amidst the cherry blossom, Berrylands, April 2007; DPS600 in autumnal Surbiton, September 2010..
MPDs for Kingston locals: DPK603-615Meanwhile Tolworth had received some 8.8m MPDs in November 2001. Kingston had tried out an MPD demonstrator earlier in the year, and the short buses were now intended for local routes K2 and K3, with the DPSs displaced from the 285 on K1 and K4. As London United had already used the S suffix for the medium length buses, the new short ones were classified DPK - for Kingston. Kingston garage, of course, had closed, with the new buses starting work at its replacement at Kingston.
Most of the little buses lasted until July 2008, when DPK603-10 and DPK612 were called into store for return to the leasing company, having been replaced by new 8.9m EnviroDarts. DPK603-611 went to Ensign Bus in October 2008.
DPSs for Stamford Brook: DPS624-640A batch of DPSs arrived early at Stamford Brook ready to take up route 283 (East Acton - Shepherds Bush - Hammersmith - Barnes Pond) in mid-April. Most of this batch were moved to Harrow to replace SDPs, so went into the new London Sovereign in February 2011.
MPDs for Stamford Brook: DPK616-623The DPKs for Stamford Brook were late arriving. They came in June 2002, only a few days before required for the new 272 (Chiswick - Turnham Green - East Acton - White City - Shepherds Bush Green). DRs had to be reinstated for route-learning. Some went to Tolworth to join the others there, and more were borrowed to start off the K5 when it was taken over on an emergency contract. A pair were returned to Stamford Brook when the new two (DPK625-6) came in August 2006. When the 272 was lost in May 2007 a pair returned to Tolworth, and three went to Harrow.
More DPSs: DPS641-694Route 265 (Putney Bridge Stn - Putney Common - Roehampton (QMH) - Roehampton Vale - Tolworth) was taken over from London General in June 2002. Tolworth's new DPS641-660 for the route were shared with route 418 (Kingston - Surbiton - Tolworth - West Ewell - Epsom), where Metrobuses were displaced.
DPS651 was still on the 265 in April 2014, when seen in the company of DPS684 at Putney Bridge StationSix of them were transferred to Fulwell in April 2007 when Network Rail took back part of Tolworth's parking space. They kept the same blinds, which limited their use at Fulwell to the transferred routes: 371, 406 and 418.
July 2002 saw DPS661-672 arrive at Stamford Brook for route 391 (Richmond - Kew Gardens Stn - Turnham Green - Hammersmith - Olympia - West Kensington - Sand's End). DPS661-3 went on loan to Metroline at North Wembley in November 2005, and DPS664-667 to Selkent at Bromley for the B99 Park & Ride during the 2005 Christmas Shopping Season.
DPS673-680 arrived in August 2002 for the 419, but the route was not yet ready for them, and they went into store, except that DPS675 was used as a route trainer.It was the end of November before 675-680 emerged from store for service on the 419, which in the meantime had had its traffic calming features appropriately shaved to allow low-floor buses to operate with passengers. DPS673-4 entered service at Stamford Brook in October. Despite the delay in store the batch retained their 02 registration marks.
DPS668-680 were transferred to Fulwell with route 391 in November 2005, only to be returned to Stamford Brook with the 391 in May 2007. Most of this batch, plus some others, were then swapped to Shepherds Bush for the 72 in November 2007. But in October 2008 they were called to Hounslow Heath to don vinyl coatings for the Christmas season's K50 contract at Tolworth. After the Christmas season they were dispersed: some into store, for sale, others as spares around the system (including Harrow). Then NCP had delayed delivery of Optare Versas for the 283 in February, so borrowed fourteen DPSs from London United (including many of the ex-K50 buses from store) to fill the gap at Park Royal.
DPS681-685 came in May 2003 to Hounslow for route 110 (Twickenham Stn - Hounslow), followed by DPS686-693 for Hounslow Heath's 216 (Kingston - Hampton Court - Hampton Stn - Sunbury - Ashford - Staines), and a final DPS694 for Stamford Brook. DPS694 was a singleton extra for Stamford Brook.
All-red repainted rear-ends, September 2010: DPS692 on the 216 at Kingston, DPS653 on the K2 at Hook
Latecomers: DPK624-625After a gap of some years London United bought another pair of 8.8m MPDs in August 2006. Unusually they ignored the established numbering scheme, whereby DPs, DPSs and DPKs had been numbered in the 500s and 600s without overlap. Instead of becoming DPK695 and 696 they repeated the numbers 624 and 625. But also unusually they were delivered in traditional red with grey skirt, but with a white line, that had been missing from repaints for some time. They also had the new Transdev fleetnames that were sweeping through the fleet. They came to Tolworth for the K5 (Ham - Kingston - Morden Station), releasing a pair from Stamford Brook that had been used to take over the route when Centra gave it up.
Backstreets route to Morden: DPK624 on K5, Kingston, April 2007.
National Car Parks: NCP01-NCP27, DPS701-727National Car Parks entered the tendering fray with a depot at Twickenham and twenty-seven 10.1m AD Dart SLFs for route 33 (Hammersmith Bus Stn - Barnes - East Sheen, Richmond - Twickenham - Teddington - Fulwell) and 419 (Richmond Bus Stn - Mortlake - Barnes Bridge - Hammwersmith Bus Stn). The buses arrived in October 2005 and started work, as NCP Challenger, in November. Livery was all-red.
Transdev took over the company, including buses and routes, in November 2009.
Replacement EnviroDarts arrived for the 33 in late 2010, resulting in NCP07-27, now renumbered 707-727, being transferred to other London United depots to displace older Darts. NCP01-06, now 701-706, remained at Twickenham for the 419.
London United and London Sovereign againIn February 2011 the Transdev London operations were divided between Veolia, which took the Harrow and Edgware operations as a renewed London Sovereign, and RATP, which took the old London United and NCP holdings. Forty-one of the DPSs had been moved to Harrow over the previous year or two, to replace similar but older SDP class Darts from the original London Sovereign, and these were formally transferred to the new London Sovereign in February.
Meanwhile, back at London United, where that name was starting to re-appear on buses along with the RATP logo (River Seine in a Paris Circle), very many DPs and DPSs were in a variety of store locations awaiting buyers, as they were replaced by EnviroDarts..