This page created 1st February 2010.
Metrobus Dart SLFs
301-308: secondhand medium PlaxtonsIn February 1999 Metrobus acquired its first batch of low-floor Darts, to add to a sizeable fleet of step-entrance Darts. These eight 10.0m Pointers were secondhand, having previously been leased by Limebourne, where they were used on route 42. Limebourne hit financial difficulties, resulting in their fleet being repossessed by their owners. Metrobus acquired eight, repainted them blue and yellow, and numbered them in a new series upwards from 301.
They were divided between Godstone and Green Street Green. The latter four were route-branded for the 352 (Bromley North - Beckenham - Lower Sydenham), although a pair of them spent part of March 1999 on a car-park shuttle contract at the Bluewater shopping pit.
The Godstone quartet moved to Orpington in 2000. They all moved out to Crawley in August 2003 or January 2004. Most were sold on for further service in 2008-9.
Ex-Limebourne, 306 was on the 352 to Sydenham one wet Saturday in April 2000. This picture shows clearly the older, flatter front styling on the secondhand Darts. 302, by now working from Crawley in blue/blue livery, was at East Grinstead on the 291 to Crawley in April 07.
741-748: medium Plaxtons for the 181 (later 241-248)The first five of this 1998 batch of 10.0m Pointers were intended for route 233 (Swanley - Eltham), taken over from Kentish Bus, but size problems on the new route through Sidcup meant that they were diverted to the 181 (Lewisham - Catford - Lower Sydenham - Downham). Another three were added to complete the 181 allocation. (The 233 made do with shorter Dart SLFs in the meantime). Although the 181 was a TfL contracted route, the buses were in standard Metrobus blue and yellow - this was before the days when everything had to be red, or even mostly red. They operated from Green Street Green.
The 181 was lost to Stagecoach in March 2001, and the buses went onto other duties. The 233 was by now amenable to the longer buses.
They were renumbered as 241-248 in August 2001, distinguishing them from the step-entrance Darts in the 7** series.
They moved out to Crawley in January 2004 as part of a managed cascade, replacing older Darts there. They went on to receive blue/pale blue livery. 248 was damaged beyond repair in February 2006 and was written off.
241 was busy on Crawley route 2 in March 2006, still in blue/yellow. In September 2009 244 was in blue/pale blue "country" livery, in service on route 5.
309-311: medium Alexanders for LewesThese three buses were for deep Sussex operations, from Lewes depot, where they worked from delivery in 1999 until Lewes garage closed in July 2003. They then moved to Crawley, where they found a home on route 100. They acquired route-branding for route 200: Gatwick Direct in December 2003, blue/pale blue livery in 2005 and digital displays in 2008.
Sunday in East Grinstead: 311, by now in blue/blue livery, works the 473 shuttle between East Grinstead and Kingscote Station during the Country Bus Running Day in April 2006.
312-319, 339-347, 791-799 (later 291-299): very short MPDs for country services
Early days: 317 passes through New Addington on the 464 in July 2000, while 315 leaves Bromley North on a 146 to Downe in November 2000. Both were based at Godstone.For delivery in late 1999 and during 2000 Metrobus bought a steady stream of small, 8.8m Dart SLFs (otherwise known as MPDs). Most of these were for use from Godstone on Metrobus' Surrey services. The first few updated the buses on the TfL contracted 146 (Bromley - Keston - Downe) and the commercial 246 (Bromley - Hayes - Keston- Biggin Hill - Westerham - Edenbridge).
319 at pretty Tatsfield at the southern end of the 464 route, in company with GS62 on a Running Day, September 2003. The GS-operated 464 route reached Tatsfield from the opposite direction, from Chelsham Garage or Oxted, whereas the new route ran north to Biggin Hill and New Addington to meet the trams.
Most, however, were in standard blue and yellow, although some of the 79* series were given route-branding for prestige route 200 (Horley - Gatwick Airport - Crawley). These last were later renumbered as 291-299. They stayed in Metrobus' Country area, at Godstone or Crawley, until 2008-9, when they were sold or transferred to Brighton & Hove.
346 and 347, arriving in late summer 2000 were sent to Lewes for use on the Brighton 56 service. These two were transferred to Go-Ahead's Brighton & Hove when Lewes depot closed in July 2003.
Sunday in East Grinstead: 291, by now in blue/blue livery, changes at the War Memorial from the 270 (from Haywards Heath) to the 273 (to Crawley): April 2006.
322-332, 334-338: 10.7m for T33, 352Late 1999 saw the start of deliveries of a batch of long (10.7m) dual doorway Plaxtons, deliveries continuing into 2000. Numbers were 322 to 338, with 333 missing (permanently). They were to replace the single-doorway buses on the 352, which from June was abbreviated to run Sydenham Savacentre - Bromley North Stn, instead of from Forest Hill. They were also the rolling stock for the T33 (West Croydon - Addington Village), which was to complement the new Tramlink service. Until that started they were used temporarily on TL1 (Tramlink 1). Some started at Godstone (and 323 at Lewes), but by May 2000 they were transferred to Green Street Green. Livery was standard blue and yellow.
The 246 also provided work for this batch, as evidenced by 328 arriving at Bromley North one Saturday in April 2003, and 338 passing through sunny Westerham the following day.
338 was a general maid of all work by October 2005, when seen at Addington Interchange on the 353 from Orpington. By now it is wearing the short-lived blue-skirt livery.
348-358: 8.8m for 367 (233)March 2001 saw another batch of MPDs arrive for backstreet suburban routes: this time it was the convoluted zigzag route 367 between Bromley North and West Croydon, that took in Bromley South, Shortlands, Beckenham, Elmers End, Shirley, Addiscombe on the way. Arriva London South had struggled with the route, and sub-contracted it to Blue Triangle using older step-entrance narrow Darts. Unfortunately Metrobus' new MPDs could not physically negotiate the route due to road-humps. So until the Councils could resolve the road issues older Darts had to be employed, while the new buses made a start on the 233 (Eltham - Sidcup - Swanley).
352 was on the 336 in April 2003, at Bromley North. 351 had been repainted red by June 2007, when it was on the B14 in Orpington.
359, 361-69, 371-74, 376-79: 11.0m Caetano Nimbus for CrawleyIn March 2001 a significant upheaval occurred in Crawley. Arriva decided not to play any more, and withdrew completely. If this was an attempt at force majeure, it did not work. The Council did not cave in, and Metrobus stepped into the breach, taking over Crawley garage and routes, and begging or borrowing buses as necessary to make it work. One stroke of luck for Metrobus was the availability from dealer stock of fifteen Caetano Nimbus bodied Dart SLFs. They grabbed them to replace Arriva's cast-offs, painted them blue and yellow, and put them to work; The first four went to Crawley, and the remainder to Godstone in the first instance. Three more were available in July.
The Caetano Nimbus were mostly associated with the Crawley routes, especially around Redhill. 369 shows its rather elegant rear-end at Crawley bus station in April 2004, and 371 its distinctive front at Redhill Bus Station in September 2006.
Godstone's Darts did not just work Surrey or Sussex contracts. The 421 (Swanley - Farningham - Shoreham - Sevenoaks) was a Kent route. Here Nimbus 374 works past Swanley garage in June 2004. By March 2006 pale blue had replaced 366's yellow. It was working the 291 to East Grinstead from Crawley.These Nimbus remained as Country Area buses, gravitating to Crawley, although still frequently used on the Redhill routes. They had their yellow replaced by pale blue in 2005-7, and received digital displays in 2008. Some have been route-branded for the 430/435 in the Redhill area.
381-393: 8.8m MPDs for 233, 336, 367, 494August 2001 saw yet more MPDs arrive. These included those intended for the 233, plus some for the 138 and 336. These two routes (Coney Hall - Bromley North - Downham - Catford Bridge) and (Locksbottom - Bromley Common - Bickley - Bromley South - Bromley North) were due to swap their northern termini, returning the 138 to its traditional short role and extending the 336. But the 138 had surprised everyone by being able to accommodate ordinary step-entrance Darts in place of MetroRiders. It could not yet take the wider MPDs on the Downham estate roads. The route swap was suspended, and the 138 kept its MetroRiders and narrow Darts for a while longer.
The 233 became a stamping ground for Orpington's MPDs, from various batches. Here two of the August 2001 buses,382 and 391, pass Swanley Garage in June 2004.
The 336 took on the new MPDs on the Bromley North - Bickley - Locksbottom section. Here 382 (again) is seen at Bromley North Station in April 2003, with 393 at the same location in September 2003.
224-227: ex London General LDP24-27: Pointer 10.0mThese four 1996-vintage Pointers were transferred from London Central in May 2002, to fill a need on the 358 (Orpington - Bromley - Shortlands - Eden Park - Crystal Palace). They were made redundant again in January 2004, and were withdrawn into store at Crawley. They decided the buses were too good to waste, and after a refurbishment reinstated them for Crawley area service.
225 and 227 on 100, Redhill - Horley - Gatwick - Three Bridges - Maidenbower, September 2007.
211, 213, 214: borrowed London General LDP111, 113,114: Pointer2 10.1mThese three Pointer2s were borrowed from London General in June 2002 for a month, to fill a gap on the 352. They were allocated Metrobus fleet numbers for their short stay, before they returned to London General.
320, 321: 10.7m single doors for Crawley's 526This pair of Pointers arrived in March 2003, but stayed in store at Crawley until May, when they were registered for use on route 526. They were route-branded in November. They stayed at Crawley, gaining blue/blue livery in August 2006 and route branding for route 200 in March 2008.
320, with route 200 route branding, was at Horsham bus Station one Sunday in May 2009.
201-219: Red 10.7m dual doors for 246, 405, 130New Pointer2s arrived in August 2003 for TfL work, and introduced the new red livery. TfL was specifying 80% red on the front and sides of new buses used on its contracts, so these were overall red with a narrow waist band in blue and yellow.
The first five, 201-205, were for Godstone for the 246 (Bromley North - Hayes - Keston - Biggin Hill - Westerham (-Chartwell)). When Godstone garage closed in February 2006 they moved to the new garage in Croydon. They moved to Crawley in April 2006, along with the 405 allocation, but were withdrawn into store at the end of 2006 when their work was lost. However, they were refurbished and repainted in Crawley "town" livery of blue and dark blue for use on Crawley route 2.
201 and 202 pass at Keston Fox, January 2005.Eight, 206-213 were sent to Crawley for the 405 (West Croydon - Purley - Coulsdon - Merstham - Redhill). The 405 work was transferred to Godstone in April 2005, and these Darts went with it. When Godstone closed in February 2006 some were transferred to Green Street Green and some to Croydon. A couple (208, 209) became trainers (7208, 7209) in June 2007. Others wandered a bit, some settling in Crawley, others at Croydon.
210 on 405 at Redhill Bus Stn, September 2004.The last six, 214-219, went to Green Street Green for the 130 (New Addington - Addington Interchange - Shirley - Woodside - Norwood Junction). These too have had varied careers, some staying put (apart from a short sojourn at Polhill while Green Street Green was being rebuilt), others going to Croydon or Crawley.
Work done, 218 heads for Orpington off the 130, along Addington Road, January 2005. Two months later, the same bus is ready to depart Addington Interchange for Norwood.
Crawley "town" livery used pale and dark blue, separated on the sides by a white swirl. 201 and 207 are seen at Crawley Bus Station in September 2009.
271-289: Red 8.8m MPDs for Green Street GreenNineteen more MPDs arrived in August 2003 for Orpington's burgeoning small-bus routes. These had the red livery with narrow blue/yellow band. Most have stayed at Green Street Green, with the odd defection to Croydon. The last three moved to Crawley in August 2008 before taking up work on the Oxted network in blue/dark blue livery.
The narrow blue/yellow band on red livery lasted just a couple of years. 275 is on the 138, Bromley High Street in September 2006, 280 on the 336 in December 2004.
The Crawley "town livery suits the MPD: 289 sits in Crawley Bus Station in September 2009. The blank screen shows how the digital display is lost when the engine is turned off.
380: the Kent County Council busKent County Council bought GJ52HDZ in December 2002, for use on its contracted services, in particular the 401 (Tunbridge Wells - Tonbridge - Sevenoaks - Westerham / Chartwell), and 421 (Swanley - Farningham - Sevenoaks). Southlands Coaches of Swanley was their preferred operator, and the bus was painted in their reverse-Metrobus livery of yellow with a blue skirt.
In May 2004 the bus was transferred to Metrobus at South Godstone, taking the vacant number 380 but retaining its distinctive livery.
In April 2006 Kent took it back, and passed it to Arriva at Tunbridge Wells, where it was painted in Kent's own white livery and branded for the 401. it then moved on again, to Go-Coach at Otford.
380 heads home towards South Godstone past Oxted, after a Sunday working on the 401, September 2005.
251-256: more MPDsIn December 2004 Metrobus replaced the last of its step-entrance Darts on TfL work with a small batch of six MPDs. These had a further livery variation: gone was the blue and yellow waist band, and in was a blue skirt with yellow coach-line. This livery was not to last long, most going all-red within sixteen months. They were allocated to Green Street Green.
The short-lived blue skirt livery is shown to good effect by 254 as it scurries about Bromley on route 336 in December 2004.
Ten years later, after a refurbishment, 254 rests at Farnborough Hosital between R4 workings (March 2014).
220-223: ex T-GM Caetano NimbusIn March 2005 Metrobus took over the Dartford routes and vehicles of Tellings-Golden Miller (Crystals). These included four 10.5m Caetano Nimbus Dart SLFs (their 447-450) on lease from Dawson Rentals. T-GM's livery had been red with blue skirt and yellow coach-line (very like the latest Metrobus livery). Metrobus repainted them all-red. They continued in used on the R2 (Petts Wood - Orpington - Locksbottom - Keston - Biggin Hill) until their leases expired in May 2007, when they were returned to Dawson Rentals.
257-268, 228-236: East Lancs Esteem 9.0m for 138, 367, 146, 336The 2006 awards for Bromley small-bus routes asked for new buses, despite the oldest buses used on them being just five year-old MPDs! Metrobus ordered two batches of new Darts, with a new design of bodywork. This was a modified Esteem body by East Lancs, which supplied the same style for new Scania OmniTowms at the same time. The first batch arrived in April 2006, four for the 138 (Green Street Green) and eight for the 367 (Croydon). The second batch in November comprised nine for the 146 and 336, all for Green Street Green. They displaced early MPDs, some of which displaced other buses (such as the ex-Crystals Solos in the Orpington area), while some of the earliest were sold. Livery by now was unrelieved red, in response to TfL's diktat.
228 heads for Locksbottom on the 336, Bromley North Station, March 2007.
Another two views, this time of 260 at East Croydon on 367, March 2008.
Metrobus takes over First Orpington: 120-147, 380-386December 2007 saw First London pass its Orpington operations to Metrobus. This brought thirty-five Marshall-bodied Darts into Metrobus service. The twenty eight shorter ones (8.9m) were numbered 120-147. 120-123 were elderly (1999) by Metrobus standards, and were quickly sold in the summer of 2008. The rest were quickly repainted in all-red. Some were in a refurbishment programme by First at the time of takeover, and First completed these too.
Most had gone by the end of 2008, sold on for further service elsewhere, mostly. But some hung on until 2012/13, the last two being transferred to other parts of Go-Ahead London, one to Northumberland Park to join ex-First examples there, and one to Blue Triangle at Rainham.
Seven longer (10.2m) buses were numbered 380-386. Although initially used on Orpington services, they seem to have spread to use on any of Bromley's Dart routes. Three then donned white livery for training, based at Crawley, while another three were sold to Grant Palmer at Flitwick.
Normal territory: 142 has reached its Green Street Green terminus on the R11, July 2009. Stranger: 139 emerges from Rangefield Road onto Southover, October 2009.
Metrobus takes over Arriva Horsham: 388-399In October 2009 Metrobus took over the Arriva operations from Horsham. It took the buses: six Enviro200 Darts for the 465, one Cadet, and twelve elderly Dart SLFs. The latter were numbered 388-399 (these numbers being currently vacant). 389, an odd one out, having originated with Maidstone & District and subsequently working with Arriva Kent Thameside, had been acquired as a spare for TfL route 465 and was red. The rest were in Arriva turquoise and champagne livery, with four route branded for the 98. They were all transferred to Crawley for inspection. Half were promptly put on the sales list, but 390, 393-396 and 398 were prepared for service.
Crawley's 394, once Guildford's DSL74, now looks good in Metrobus blue/blue livery as it heads east through Dorking on route 93.
Metrobus dividesIn July 2014 control of the "red" bus operations from Green Street Green and Croydon passed to Go-Ahead London. The Crawley operations came under the control of Go-Ahead Brighton & Hove. Red double-decker operations began to be affected almost immediately, with transfers of buses, but most red single-decker routes retained their allocated buses. The trend during the preceding months of bolstering Green Street Green's single-deck allocation with old LDPs continued.