Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created 20th August 2012.

London Buses was exploring low-floor single-deckers at the time of privatisation. Wrights of Ballymena offered a low-floor body on Lance, Scania or Volvo chassis: the Wright Pathfinder 320. As this was an untried technology, with kneeling, low floors, independent front suspension and access ramps, London Buses bought some of each chassis: Dennis Lances LLW1-38 which it split between Centrewest, London United and Metroline, Scania L113s SLW1-30 divided between Leaside Buses and East London, and a solitary Volvo B6LE, VWL1, with London General. Other London area companies tried some too, County Bus taking four (ELW266-269) and London & Country five (LSL5-9).

London Buses LLW All were large saloons, with large wheels, which raised the first problem: how to get a good steering lock whilst maintaining a wide enough passage between the front wheelarches. With large-wheel long single-deckers, even wide ones like these, it wasn't possible to get sufficient clearance for a standard wheelchair here. So wheelchairs had to enter via the centre doors, which were equipped with a retractable ramp. The problem was in getting the centre doorway close enough to the kerb in London parking conditions: nailing misparked motorists who parked inconsiderately with fines or tow-aways was not politically acceptable. To help wheelchair boarding the bus suspension could be lowered. One problem was that kneeling could only commence once the bus was stopped and the handbrake applied. That took a second or two extra - with another second or two to lift the bus again after the doors were closed. With instructions given to kneel at every stop, on the basis that drivers could not tell on approach who needed the facility, dwell times at stops grew, and late-running, or slow-running, became endemic. Also the front step had sensors underneath to detect toes whilst kneeling, and these could be planed off by an injudicious kerb approach. Another feature which gave rise to adverse comment was the dearth of handrails alonside the wheelchair space, giving an unaccustomed lack of support for those heading for the centre exit or the rear seats. Behind the centre doors the floor was steeply ramped up, with the rear seats up several steps.

The Wright Pathfinder 320 was a 10.8m low-floor body. London Buses specified an all-red livery with prominent low-floor buses signwriting and down-arrows. Individual bus-operating subsidiaries were allowed their own fleetnames above the front doorway and cab.

LLW1-10: London United

London United LLW The first ten started to arrive at Fulwell and Hounslow in December 1993, allowing some time for familiarisation before they took over Hounslow's route 120 (Hounslow Bus Stn - Northolt Stn) at the end of January 1994. London United was privatised in November 1994, taking on the ten LLWs. They technically passed to Westlink (Stanwell Buses) in March 2000, when the 120 was given over to low-floor double-deckers and the LLWs moved to Hounslow Heath for the H91 (Hounslow West Station - Hammersmith). But it was a moot point, as Stanwell Buses was subsumed by London United in September 2000. Repaints saw the LLWs gain London United's smart livery of red with a dark grey skirt and light grey roof.

LLW2 on H91 The H91 moved to Stamford Brook garage in June 2001, taking the LLWs with it, and returned with them to Hounslow Heath in May 2002. They did not have a good reputation for reliability, and were displaced in July 2004 by Dart SLFs. They were not retired, but were fitted with vinyl posters for the pre-Christmas Kingston - Chessington Park & Ride route K50 for the 2004 season.

At the end of the Christmas shopping spree they were sold, all ten going to A2Z Buses in Birmingham.

LLW2 at Hammersmith on a H91 working, October 2001.

LLW11-24, LLW31: Centrewest

Metroline LLW LLW11-24, fourteen buses, were allocated to Centrewest for the Uxbridge Buses route 222 (Uxbridge Stn - Hounslow Bus Stn). Centrewest was privatised in September 1994. The LLWs stayed put on the 222. Livery changed slowly: some just had the "low floor bus" on the front dash replaced with First + logo. Others lost their down-arrows and large low floor bus signs, gaining repaints in red with a yellow waist band and Uxbridge Buses fleetnames on front and upper sides, and small discrete easy access bus signs.

In September 1998 another similar bus was added, transferred in within First Group from Yorkshire Rider. Numbered LLW31 (despite there being another with Metroline), it operated from Uxbridge on route 335 (Slough Bus Stn - Newland Park/Chalfont & Latimer Stn).

The 222 was lost to London United in 2000, and the LLWs (except LLW31) spent time on route 27 and route 92. These were then double-decked, and First transferred the batch to First Southern National and First Bristol in spring 2001. LLW31 stayed on the 335 until Christmas 2002, when it departed to First Midland Red.

LLW25-38: Metroline

Metroline LLW Metroline took the other fourteen new buses for the 186 (Brent Cross - Northwick Park Hospital), operated initially from Harrow Weald. These had the standard London Buses livery for the type. But Metroline too was privatised, in October 1994, and subsequent repaints brought blue lower panels, red uppers, and a white line in between, with no mention of low floor or easy access.

The 186 was transferred to Edgware in September 2000, and the LLWs went with the route. Like others of their kind they developed a reputation for unreliability. Nevertheless they stayed with the 186 until early 2006.

LLW26 on 186 Then six were sold to Sullivan Buses, and six went to the short-lived UK North in Manchester. When that collapsed three found new homes on Malta, while three went to Tate's Travel of Darton and then Val's Classic Coaches for a while.

LLW26 leaves Harrow station on a 186 for Edgware, April 2004

LLW25-27, 35-37: Sullivan Buses

Sullivan LLW Sullivan Buses of South Mimms bought six of the LLWs from Metroline in 2006, and painted five of them blue with a pink stripe and branding for its service 950 to Thorpe Park. The other was bought for spares. They gave several years of service on the 950 before being replaced by Caetano-bodied Dart SLFs in 2008, when they were sold for scrap.

Ian's Bus Stop LLW Contents. LLW bus histories. LLW photo refs. ELW .