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).
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 alongside 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.
LLW: Centrewest, London United and Metroline Lance
ELW: County Bus Lance
LSL: London & Country Lance
SLW: Leaside Buses and East London Scania
VWL: London General Volvo B6LE
For a fuller account of the low-floor buses' introduction, see Matt Wharmby's excellent article in "London Bus Magazine" 172 (LOTS).
Ian's Bus Stop