This page created 7th January 2010.
Stagecoach settled on the Dennis Dart for its standard London single-decker, in a variety of lengths and doorways. The early buses were bodied by Alexander with ALX200 bodywork, but later Plaxton took over body supplies with the Pointer 2. All four resulting length groups were classified SLD (presumably Single-deck Low-floor Dennis), whether they had single or dual doorways. An early batch were kept separate for the London City Airport shuttle services, and were classified LCY.
SLD 1-29: single doorway medium Alexanders
SLD 1-9 for 230 at LeytonStagecoach were early London users of Alexander ALX200 bodywork on Dart chassis. Leyton took the first batch of nine 10.2m long buses for the 230, a twisting East-end urban route, where they went into service in October 1996. The buses were not pretty. A simple cuboid of a body with a new-style front fitted onto the 8ft 3in (2.5m) wide Dart SLF chassis, whose small wheels permitted low-floor front-door wheelchair access between the wheelarches while retaining a decent turning circle. Stagecoach sent them out in plain red, but with "low floor bus" markings and 'route boards' along the sides.
SLD 10-19 for 364 at BarkingIn 1997 East London retained the contract for the 364 (Ilford High Road - Becontree - Dagenham East) on the basis of new buses, and bought ten, SLD10-19, for use by Barking. These too were single entrance medium length buses.
SLD 20-29 for 314 at Bromley
Brand new SLD28 at Showbus 97, wearing Bromley 314 blinds.Also the 314 route between Eltham, Elmstead Woods, Sundridge Park, Bromley and New Addington was going from strength to strength and needed some rather larger replacements for its Metroriders. (The Bromley - Eltham section had started as the B1 with Ford Strachans minibuses). Ten buses (SLD20-29) went into service from Bromley on the 314 from September 1997.
As further SLD deliveries followed, the Barking and Bromley buses strayed onto other routes, although those at Leyton stayed on the 230. These went to Stagecoach East Midlands in 2001. The Barking buses went to Stagecoach South-East and the Bromley buses went to Stagecoach Scotland (West Scotland or Bluebird), in 2003.
SLD26 at Bromley North, taking up duty on the 227, March 2000.
LCY 1-11: dual doorway medium Alexander airport shuttlesIn the meantime Stagecoach had won the contract to operate the London City Airport shuttle service between Liverpool Street and London City Airport (LCY).
Seven low-floor ALX200-bodied Darts were bought, and painted blue for the service. These had dual doorways and extra luggage racks. The destination box at the front was glazed blue with London City Airport as a fixed sign, at least at first. Two more were added later in the year (1997), and a further two, painted green, were added in 1998 for the shuttle to Canning Town. With two shuttles at work, normal style destination blinds were fitted.
They were retained on this duty until the spring of 2003, when they were replaced by other newer buses from the fleet.
The LCYs were put into store. LCY1-6 were converted to trainers, and were so used by Stratford until 2005,
when they were reseated and despatched to Stagecoach in Warwickshire as 33351-33356.
Meanwhile LCY7-11 were sent
off for further service with Stagecoach South, as 33357-33361.
SLD 30-41: dual doorway medium AlexandersStratford was the next recipient of low-floor Alexanders, in March and April 1998. These were dual doorway buses, seating thirty. SLD 32-34 were repainted in green City Airport livery in October 1999 for a continuous shuttle between London City Airport and Canning Town Bus Station. The remainder of the batch were intended for the 276 (East Beckton - Canning Town - Stratford - Hackney - Stoke Newington Common).
These moved on to other Stagecoach operators between October 2002 and July 2003.
SLD 42-58: single doorway short Alexanders
SLD 42-49 for P4 at Catford, SLD 50-58 for 100 at StratfordShorter Darts were considered necessary for the P4 and 100, to take over from DW step-entrance Darts. But the modular construction of the Dart allowed for this, with the elimination of a 80cm bay. The resulting 9.4m Dart SLFs with single doorway and twenty-nine seats went into service in April 1998. Catford operated them on the back-street P4 (Lewisham Stn - Brockley Rise - North Dulwich - Brixton Stn ) and Stratford on the 100 (Liverpool Street Stn - Tower - Wapping - Shadwell Stn). The Catford examples were replaced by newer buses in April 2003, and went to Stratford to form a reserve, to be used as needed during refurbishments. They stayed with Stagecoach London until the spring of 2004, when they went to Stagecoach in Wales and Manchester.
SLD43 and 44 at Lewisham Bus Station in October 2000, working on the P4.
SLD 59-78: single doorway medium Alexanders for SelkentNovember 1998 saw another batch of twenty medium length buses arriving at Selkent, most being required at Bromley for the takeover of the 269 from Kentish Bus (Bexleyheath Shopping Centre - Sidcup - Chislehurst- Bromley North).
Others went to Plumstead for the 99(Woolwich - Erith), taking over the contract from London Central's Darts from January 1999. Several were used when brand new to work the 156 (Clapham Junction - Wandsworth - Wimbledon) when Limebourne ran into financial problems and lost its fleet.
The Bromley examples became quite common working alongside the LV Lances on the 227 until the longer SLDs arrived in mid 2000, while Tridents took over the 269.
They stayed with Selkent until 2003-4, when they were transferred away to a variety of Stagecoach businesses.
SLD62 at Bromley North, off the 269, and SLD69 heading away for a 227, March 2000.
SLD 79-88: single doorway short Alexanders for SelkentAround the turn of the year (98-9) Plumstead took another ten short buses for the 178 (Woolwich - Kidbrooke). and 291 (Woolwich - Woodlands Estate).
These remained with Selkent (with one early departure) until the end of 2004, when they went to various Stagecoach companies.
SLD 89-95: single doorway medium Alexanders for East LondonSeven more single-doorway medium buses were bought in January 1999 for East London to use on the D3 (Bethal Green - Wapping - Limehouse - Canary Wharf - Crossharbour). In practice the plans were changed, and SLD90-93 went to Romford for the 247 (Romford - Collier Row - Hainault - Barkingside), while SLD89 went to Bromley. SLD89 was soon swapped for SLD94.
The batch went to Stagecoach South in 2003-4, (except for SLD95, which went to Devon!)
SLD 96-106: single doorway short Alexanders for East LondonEleven short buses were bought for the 100 and 309 (Canning Town Stn - Bow Common - Bethnal Green), but mostly settled on the D3. The D3 contingent moved to Bow Garage in April 2001 and back to Stratford (with the D3) in March 2002.
SLD96 had a somewhat nomadic existence, working at Stratford, Romford, Bromley and Plumstead before settling at Bromley in September 2002.
SLD96, now renumbered 34096S wearing plain red but a Stagecoach "football" logo, at Bromley North on the 162, April 2003.The batch was dispersed all over the UK in 2004-5.
SLD 107-110: single doorway medium Plaxtons for RomfordThis tiny batch introduced Plaxton Pointer2 bodywork to the Stagecoach London fleets. The four buses, delivered in the autumn of 1999, completed the allocation on the 247 at Romford. SLD109 moved to Selkent in December 2001, at Bromley and then Catford, but all four moved on to Stagecoach South in the late summer of 2003.
SLD 111-138: dual doorway medium Plaxtons for Stratford and BarkingTfL much prefers dual doorway buses for its busier urban services, so it was no surprise when the large batch of twenty eight buses in November 1999 had dual doorways. The exit doorways on these were immediately in front of the raised rear section. Stratford and Barking garages were the recipients, for routes 276, 300, and 325:
276: SD: Newham Hospital - Canning Town - Stratford - Hackney Wick - Hackney - Stoke Newington Common
300: BK: Canning Town Stn - Beckton - East Ham
325: BK: Prince Regent Stn - Plaistow - Forest Gate - East Ham - Beckton
These buses mainly stayed with East London until mid-2003, when 34124 upwards were sent elsewhere in the Stagecoach empire.
34119 - 34123, as they were by then, were loaned to Travel London for the 152 in April 2006, at which time most of the rest of the batch were sent elsewhere too.
34117 stayed on at Barking after the Stagecoach sell-off.
SLD115 and SLD165 at Canning Town Bus Station, off the 309 on the same day in October 2000. Spot the difference. SLD106, an Alexander-bodied short single-doorway bus was also on the 309 that day, illustrating the mix-and-match employed by Stratford and Barking.
SLD 139-172: dual doorway short PlaxtonsPlaxton also offered the Dart SLF in a short (9.3m) version with dual doorways, seating a meagre twenty-seven, even with tip-up seats. These followed on from the previous batch in November and December 1999.
Some were intended for route 100, which had been extended from Liverpool Street to serve the City and finish at Elephant & Castle.
Others were for Stratford's 309 (Canning Town - Bow Common - Bethnal Green))
and Upton Park's 376 (Beckton - Upton Park - East Ham) ).
SLD141 at Stratford Bus Station on the 276, and SLD158on the 238, August 2000.
SLD 173-203: dual doorway medium PlaxtonsThe late spring and early summer of 2000 saw another sizeable batch of 31 medium length buses arriving, dual doorway Plaxtons again. Twenty three of them (173-195) went to Upton Park, for use on a variety of routes, ostensibly the 104 and 238 but in practice rather more (101, 104, 238, 330, 376).
Dual doorway Plaxton medium-length SLD180 at Stratford Bus Station on the 104, August 2000.
The other eight (196-203) went to Bromley for the 162 (Beckenham Junction - Park Langley - Bromley - Chislehurst - Petts Wood).
SLD196 at Bromley North off the 227, November 2000. 34180 had been repainted by July 2005, when it was at Catford Garage.The whole batch had quite varied careers, spending time at most of the group's garages as needs varied and contracts changed. Some replaced the LCY buses on the London City Airport shuttles, donning green or blue livery as appropriate.
Only a few went elsewhere (including the LCY replacements), to Lincolnshire in March 2006.
SLD 204-211: dual doorway short Plaxtons for CatfordCatford's route 225 into the Rotherhithe area was one of those routes that changed hands at almost every retendering. Stagecoach acquired eight short dual-doorway Darts for it in June 2000, only to lose the contract to London Central in 2001. They have flitted about between the garages, most accumulating at Stratford by the time of the Macquarie buy-out.
SLD 212-223: single doorway short Plaxtons for BromleyAnother dozen short Plaxtons, but this time with just the front doorway, were bought for Bromley in July 2000, for use on the 162, 269 and 314.
SLD214 in Bromley High Street on the 162, November 2000. 34221 at Bromley North in October 2005.
SLD 224-236: dual doorway long PlaxtonsThe 227 was a high-traffic route that would have been double-decked in the 1930s but for various overhead restrictions. The notorious Shortlands railway bridge, right next to the bridge over the River Ravensbourne, remained an obstacle and required the continued use of high capacity single deckers. Stagecoach had been using the Plaxton Verde bodied Lances (LV class) on the route, with some of the medium length Dart SLFs helping out, but now (June 2000) low-floored buses were required full-time. The LVs went during 2000, and their place was filled with borrowings, but by December Stagecoach Selkent welcomed the arrival of a batch of thirteen 11.3m long dual-doorway Plaxtons dedicated to the route.
One of the extra-long Darts, after renumbering, at Bromley Garage. 34236 had been off-duty for some time before this picture of a fitter taking it for a test run from the Gravel Road Yard at Bromley Garage in April 2004.
The length of the SPDs is apparent in this offside shot of a 227 pulling out of the bus station at Crystal Palace, 23/10/2011.This batch all remained on the 227 until the summer of 2012, when they were all withdrawn together in June on the arrival of a batch of long Mercedes-Benz Citaros.
SLD 237-253: single doorway extra-short Alexanders for CatfordStagecoach returned to Alexanders for their 2001 purchases. Seventeen bought in May were extra short (8.9m) buses for use on the 124 and 273, both backstreet routes with plenty of right angle turns:
124: Catford - Downham - Grove Park - Mottingham - Eltham).
273: Lewisham - Hither Green - Lee - Grove Park - Chislehurst - Petts Wood).
This year also saw the introduction of a new corporate livery, both nationally and in London. White'n'stripes were out, swoops were in. In London the main body livery remained red, but a dark blue skirt greatly added to the attractiveness of the buses. The logos changed too, a red orange blue and white "football" replacing the UK symbol and Stagecoach in London becoming the fleetname. Fleetnumbers disappeared from their long-term positions on right hand waists, and appeared on front and back instead.
Grove Park Station on route 124 is my usual view-point for the extra-short Darts from Catford. SLD251, September 2001, and 34253X after a double renumbering, in June 2003. The blue skirts and Stagecoach swirls look good on these short Alexanders.
SLD 254-327: dual doorway medium AlexandersNow TfL was keen to replace single doorway buses at retender. The earliest batches of SLDs, at Leyton and Barking, had to go. Stagecoach found other homes for them, and replaced them with a large batch of dual-doorway medium length Alexanders, in the new livery. There were still a few step-entrance DALs to replace too.
In September and October 2001 SLD254-288 went to Barking, 289-302 to Leyton for the 230, 303-312 to Catford for the 284, P4 and 181, and 313-327 to Plumstead for the 202. One anomaly was that SLD288 was loaned from new to Stagecoach Fife, so received a Scottish registration before coming to London.
SLD310 at Grove Park Station on the 284, November 2001. Seven years later it was in plain red on Bromley's 227 route at Bromley North.
SLD 328-346: dual doorway long AlexandersNineteen longer (10.8m) Alexanders with double doorways were bought in spring 2001 for route 62 (Barking - Becontree - Marks Gate) and route 145 (Dagenham - Becontree - Ilford - Leytonstone), both based at Barking garage.
They stayed until August-September 2004, when they were moved to Stratford.
Route 62 was allocated the new long Alexanders, such as 34339, but the two foot shorter variety appeared too, as illustrated by 34267. Both were passing Becontree Station on 25th October 2003.
East London's 34336 at Old Ford on the 276, October 2009.
Renumbering: DS, DM, DL and DSSThe lumping together of buses of four basic lengths into one class caused some problems of misallocation of vehicles. In June 2002 the SLDs were reclassified according to length, becoming DL, DM, DS or DSS in descending order of length. Their numbers stayed the same. Some buses seemed resistant to change, and continued to sport SLD codes for some time. Note: these class letters did not distinguish in terms of body manufacturer or number of doorways.
DM305 at Lewisham Bus Station on the P4, December 2002.
Catford's DSS241 at Lewisham Bus Station on the P4, December 2002.
DM 347-365: dual doorway medium "Plaxton"s for Barking and BromleyThere was quite a long gap before the next Dart procurement, in November 2002. Then it was a batch of nineteen, seven for Barking's 396, and twelve for Bromley's 314. Older Dart SLFs were cascaded through the Stagecoach group. The new buses were by Transbus, convulsions and corporate restructurings having ripped through Dennis, Plaxton and Alexander, but the styling was Plaxton's Pointer 2.
Medium length SLDs are the staple fare on the 314 between Eltham, Bromley and New Addington: 34357M in Bromley High Street, March 2004 wearing thye stylish blue skirt and swoops. 34365 is at New Addington in July 2009, in plain London red for Macquarie Bank's Selkent.
DM 366-34376: single doorway extra-short Plaxtons for PlumsteadJanuary 2003 saw eleven 8.8m extra-short Plaxtons arrive for Plumstead's route 380: (Belmarsh Prison - Woolwich - Blackheath - Lewisham).
Extra-short Selkent 34375 stands in for an EnviroDart on the 273, passing through Chislehurst, January 2010.
Renumbering: 34***Stagecoach renumbered all its buses nationally in a common sequence, from January 2003. Dart SLFs were in the 34*** series. At least the SLDs were. The LCY buses received 333** numbers. In the case of the London Darts the SLDs retained their original numbers with the addition of 34000. This meant that the problem of quickly identifying a bus of the correct length for a task, so suffix letters were adopted: L, M, S and X for long, medium, short and extra short. Some new numbers appeared at the end of 2002, and most buses were changed to the new series during the year. There were a few notable adherents to the intermediate numbering scheme, some surviving even through repaints.
TfL began to insist on an all-red livery instead of the previous 80%, on front and sides of buses used for its contracted services. Blue skirts and swirls began to disappear. A shame. The small livery variations between companies added greatly to the attractiveness of London's buses, and the blue skirts and swirls were superb.
East London short Darts with 34*** numbers: 34157S is on the 309, near Bethnal Green, and 34159S outside City Thameslink Station on the central London route 100, both in June 2004. The former still sports a blue skirt, while the latter now wears unadorned red.
34377-34386: single doorway short Plaxtons for PlumsteadAnother ten short Pointer-style buses arrived in March 2003 for Plumstead's 386: (Greenwich - Blackheath - Woolwich)
Short Plaxton 34383 on the 380 in central Lewisham, about to return to Belmarsh, in January 2005.
34387-34397: dual doorway medium PlaxtonsThis batch of eleven medium length Plaxton-bodied dual doorway buses were intended to replace single doorway short Alexanders from the P4, and thus went to Catford (in April 2003). Of course they were used interchangeably on Catford's other medium length routes also. They were delivered with blue skirts and swirls.
34392M on 284, Grove Park Station, July 2003.
34551-34560: dual doorway medium PlaxtonsThe national numbering scheme caused a gap in numbers before the next - and final - batch: ten more mediums for Plumstead, delivered in December 2003. They displaced short Alexander single-doorway buses. They stayed at Plumstead until March 2006, when they moved en bloc to Catford along with the 178, to partly compenstate for Catford's loss of the 181 and 284 at that time.
Catford's 34555 at Lee Green on the 178 in Selkent plain red, December 2009. Note the LED rear light clusters.
Macquarie Bank takes overThe takeover of Stagecoach's London operations by Macquarie Bank in June 2006 was unexpected. By the end of August the deal was completed. Stagecoach fleetnames were gradually removed from the fleet, and the trend to plain red livery was accelerated. East London and Selkent fleetnames started to appear on buses, in white italic script, along with Thames barges and bunches of hops - the same fleet symbols used in London Buses days. The two companies, East London Buses and Selkent Buses, remained separate, but now were grouped under the umbrella the East London Bus Group rather than Stagecoach London. The deal included all the operations, garages, staff and buses currently operated in the London area (excluding Megabus and the Oxford Tube).
Many of the early Dart SLFs, up to 34221, had passed to other Stagecoach companies, but a few early examples were taken over, including 34117, 34147-150, 34152, 34156-159, 34161-181, 34190, 34196, 34198-34211 and 34222 upwards.
One consequence of the takeover was the slowing of turnover of buses. Stagecoach had been replacing older Darts in London and moving the older, single- doorway buses out of London to its other UK fleets.. That stopped, of course.
Production of the Dart SLF ceased too. It was superceded by a new model, the Enviro200Dart, which is another story. As these came in for new contracts, and as replacements, older SLFs began to be sold off, through Ensign Bus, to keep the fleet age profile within the limits required by TfL contracts.
Redundant 34257 and 34298 head north up the A1 in June 2010 (photo by Cynthia Smith).
Stagecoach returnsStagecoach bought back the East London Bus Group (East London, Thameside and Selkent) in October 2010. They paid very much less for it than Macquarie had paid them four years earlier, but the age profile of the fleet was much older than it had been, with plenty of Tridents and Dart SLFs approaching the end of their nominal London lives. Stagecoach progressed with fleet modernisation, with EnviroDarts taking over from SLFs gradually south of the river, and Stagecoach withdrawing from single-decker work north of the river. By September 2011 all the East London Dart routes had gone, the last being the 276 and 376.
2012 saw further replacements. Short buses from Catford on the 124 were replaced by EnviroDarts. Longer buses on the 124 were replaced by longer EnviroDarts. The very long SPDs on the 227 were replaced by Mercedes-Benz Citaros. Plumstead hung onto some buses during the Olympics.