Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created 8th May 2000, updated 19th October 2005

Nationalisation: London Buses

London Buses Metrobus In 1984 London Transport was nationalised by Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government. This wrested it from the control of the (Labour) Greater London Council. The new London Regional Transport was given a brief to halve the subsidy by means of tendering, and the buses were placed in the control of London Buses. They presently added a grey skirt and white band to the livery, and substituted its yellow and white roundel for the white bullseye, but basically kept the Metrobuses where they were, allocated to more or less all the districts except East London, London Central and Selkent (which had Titans).

Nationalisation was supposed to be swiftly followed by privatisation, to bring the rigours of the marketplace to the industry. It was a long time coming. Bus deregulation in the rest of the UK had been widely unpopular, with more buses carrying fewer passengers, and longer journey times with more car congestion. Market forces and competition produced a market that was fluid in the extreme. However, passengers did not like having the routes, route numbers, buses, bus companies, times and fares all changing at six week intervals, and went by car instead. The awful prospect of this happening in London delayed privatisation, and when it did come, in 1994 it was under the strict control of London Regional Transport. No simple market economics, but a centrally-planned, centrally-organised, highly regulated system.

Meanwhile the Metrobuses kept rolling along (or jerking and screeching, depending whom you listen to), and were divided up among the operating companies that were set up as London Buses subsidiaries.

ex-Manchester Metrobus

Second-hand at Potters Bar

Tenders for services in the Potters Bar area produced the first second-hand Metrobuses, in 1987: all had front doors and forward staircases. They were fitted with London-style front indicator panels. They received London red with black skirts and white bands and bullseyes. They worked on the W8, 310A and 234.

M1443-1447 came from Greater Manchester. They had MCW asymmetric-screen bodies, and four-leaf folding doors.

Alexander bodied Metrobus M1448-1449 came from Yorkshire Rider, and were unique in London, having Alexander RH bodies.

M1450-1451 were also from Yorkshire Rider, but with MCW bodies to Mk II styling.

M1481-1485 were from Busways in Newcastle, with MCW bodies.

Leased by Harrow Buses

Harrow Buses was a low-cost unit set up by London Buses to compete in the tendering process. Leased buses were one of the methods used to drive down costs, and amomgst other interesting beasts Harrow Buses in November 1987 leased 29 MkII Metrobuses.

M1452-1480 were all single doorway, front staircase MkIIs, with small "provincial" destination screens. They were painted in the red and pale cream Harrow Buses livery, and operated from Harrow Weald on routes 114 and 140. They lasted as long as the operation of the tender, just over three years, until January 1991, when they were returned to the lessor.

Harrow Buses Mk11 Metrobus Ex-M1457, now with Reading buses

M1457 moved on from London to Reading Buses. Wearing overall advertising, it visited Cobham Open day in April 2003..


Sell-off of the London Buses companies in 1994 saw the Metrobuses go to most of the new companies, with the notable exception of the two Stagecoach companies (Selkent and East London), and London Central, which used Titans for this role.

MTL London Northern / Metroline London Northern

MTL bought the London Northern company, with a host of Metrobuses. It acquired more when it took over London Suburban Buses, and imported some ex-London examples that had earlier been sold to MTL on Merseyside. Garages were at North Acton, Holloway and Potters Bar.
The London operations were sold to Metroline in 1998.
Livery in MTL days was unrelieved dull red, with small MTL flashes and logos on the sides. Adverts were worn, including T-ads on the offside, and "super-rear" ads covering the whole rear end.

M801 at Ludgate Hill, September 1998 M1153 at St.Pancras, December 2002

Above left: M801 growls up Ludgate Hill towards St Pauls on route 4, on a Monday morning in September 1998, showing the red livery and T-ad.
Above right: M1153 is a late survivor on Central London services, assisting Routemasters on route 10 in December 2002. Here it passes the massive porch of St Pancras Station.

M1083 at St Paul's, September 1998 M1083 at St Paul's, September 1998 M961 and RT3871, Oxford Street, June 1999

Above left and centre: M1083 at St Paul's (also September 1998), on route 17, shows an example of the super-rear ads. How do they produce these?
Above right: M961 on the 13 meets an earlier generation of people mover in Oxford Street. Blue Triangle's RT3871 was on the way to Cobham from Aldwych, during the RT60 celebration in June 1999. M961 is thirty years younger than the RT. Progress?
Metroline Northern perations in London dwindled during 2002, with Ms replaced by low-floor buses on most routes. Some clung through 2003 on as deputies on the Routemaster routes, but operation on TfL services ceased in March 2004. Potters Bar was the last outpost, where a handful remained on other services until May 2005.

London General

M918 at Aldwych, September 1998 London General, a large company, had its share of Metrobuses for its services in south-west London, the old "Daimler-land" served by Sutton, Merton, Stockwell, Battersea Bridge and Waterloo.
A management buyout in 1994, the company was taken over by Gateshead-based Go-Ahead in May 1996. Although management rationalisation has occurred with London Central, another Go-Ahead company, the company has retained its separate livery. Its Metrobuses are turned out in red with grey skirt, yellow cheat line and white band, with London General logos on front and sides.
Route 77A takes London General's Metrobuses almost into the City of London, with its terminus at Aldwych. M918 waits on the offside stand before a return to south-west suburbia (well, Wandsworth actually), in September 1998.

M838 at Aldwych, June 1999 M177 at Putney Bridge Station, June 2000
Left: M838 cruises past a line of RTs at Aldwych, looking for a parking spot, during RT60, June 1999.
Right: M177 at Putney Bridge Station, the terminus for route 270 from Mitcham, June 2000.
Below: M830 is also on the 270, seen at the south end of Putney Bridge, and making slow progress through Putney, in the heavy traffic on Wednesday 7th June 2000.
M830 on Putney Bridge, June 2000 M830 in Putney, June 2000

London General reached the end with Metrobuses in normal service in February 2003, when Stockwell's last were withdrawn. This still left a couple for special purposes (M1440 at Sutton and the "spotted cow" liveried M1435). There was still a crowd of white-blouse and grey-skirt training buses too, which were mainly moved out from their comfy homes to the Plough Lane open-air space, to make room for the new larger fleet of low-floor WVLs.

London United

London United was another management team purchase in November 1994. It operates in west London and Surrey, through much traditional single-decker territory. Nevertheless it has a substantial Metrobus allocation. Metrobuses continued for some time in the old London Buses livery, with London United fleetnames added, but some have been repainted in the nice LU livery with pale grey roofs, deep grey skirts, and white cheat lines. The French company, Transdev, which took over in 1997, perhaps feels less of a need for a strong corporate identity than is the fashion in English companies.
M990 in Knightsbridge M1240 on Putney Bridge, Feb 98
Above left: M990 rolls through Knightsbridge towards Hyde Park Corner on a fine day in February 1998. It retains the old livery, and sports a grille variation.
Above right: M1240 on Putney Bridge on the 220, also in February 1998, also wears old livery, and a rudimentary grille treatment.

M1048 at Cobham Open day, April 1998 M110 at Hampton Court Station, June 1999
Above left: M1048 shows off the revised livery at Cobham Open Day in April 1998.
Above right: M110 at Hampton Court Station in June 1999, also looks good in the new livery.


Metroline operates services on the north-west quadrant, with garages at Cricklewood, Willesden, North Wembley, Harrow Weald, and Edgware. From the start of the management buy-out in October 1994 they had a fair number of Metrobuses (including M1), with a few more acquired from Atlas Bus.

Livery includes a deep blue skirt and white cheat line.

Some of the Metrobuses were fitted with coach seats, and branded for Metroline Travel.

Metrobuses were displaced by low-floor double-deckers during 2003, with a much depleted fleet hanging on into 2004 on contract services, with an occasional foray into service until March 2004. The Thorpe's takeover brought a handful more, for brief use on contracts.

M1346 on 113, October 2001 M1428 leaves Piccadilly, June 1998

M1428 operates a schools contract turn in Piccadilly, March 1999.
M1346 is on route 113 by Regent's Park in October 2001.

Leaside Buses / Arriva London North

M740 at London Bridge Stn, March 2000 Leaside Buses operates to the north and north-east of London, from garages at Tottenham, Enfield, Clapton, Wood Green and Palmers Green. The company was bought by the Cowie Group in September 1994. It had about 150 Metrobuses.

The Cowie group started to modify the livery in 1997, adding yellow swept-up stripes at the rear and a yellow bar across the front, with Cowie Leaside fleetnames. For some reason or other the public was not over-enamoured of the name Cowie Buses. The Group name was changed to Arriva in October 1997.
M723 at Cobham Open Day, April 1998

Above left: Enfield's M740 reaches just south of the river, on the 149 at London Bridge Station, March 2000. It still sports the Cowie stripes livery, and was just about to be displaced from the 149 by new low-floor buses.
The new Arriva livery kept the Cowie link by the introduction of "Cowie-horns": a broad ivory-coloured upsweep. Leaside's buses retained basic red (with horns) to stay within the 80% red rule for buses serving Inner London. Corporate insecurity, or some design consultant's wish to make some easy money, led to a renaming of almost everything in the Arriva empire, sweeping away local company names. So Leaside Buses became Arriva London North.
Right: M723, also from Enfield, shows off the then-new Arriva cow-horn livery at Cobham Open-Day in April 1998.

M1253 at London Bridge Stn, March 2000 M1253 at London Bridge Stn, March 2000

M1253 was also at London Bridge Station on the 149, in Arriva livery, in March 2000.

South London / Arriva London South

South London, operating the southern corridor, with garages at Battersea, Brixton, Norwood, Thornton Heath and Croydon, had a share of Metrobuses too, including the Cummins-engined batch and the MkIIs. They hung on in operation until the Croydon Tramlink opened, and then almost all except the Cummins batch joined the diaspora, spreading to Arriva's Country operations around London and further afield.

M1092 at East Croydon, 11 September 2000 M1102 at Addington Village, 11 September 2000

Two Cummins-engined survivors of the Tramlink purge: M1092 is at the Addington Interchange on route 466, while M1102 passes East Croydon Station on the 197, both in September 2000.

M1245 on 23, Lower Regent Street, July 2003

Centrewest / First Centrewest

Centrewest uses Metrobuses on its operations to the west of London, with a variety of local Fleetnames. Much of the company's operations were based on small buses, but over a hundred Metrobuses were needed for trunk operations.
M1245 reached the heart of the West End in July 2003, when it deputised for an RML on Route 23. Here it waits at the lights at the top of Lower Regent Street.

Capital Citybus / First Capital

289 at Aldwych, December 1998 Capital Citybus was not a privatised London Buses company. An independent, it grew from the tendered bus activities of Ensignbus of Rainham. The blue and silver of Ensignbus gave way to the yellow of Capital Citybus with a sale to Hong Kong Citibus in 1990.

Capital Citybus bought its own Metrobuses, single-doored forward staircase examples, in 1988, and added many more secondhand buses from around the country. Some second-hand London examples were bought too.

289 is one of Capital Citybus' 1988 purchases. Despite being in yellow livery it was on route 1 at Aldwych on a Saturday morning in December 1998.

M546 at North Weald, June 1998

The 80% red rule applies to buses regularly used on inner London routes, so some of the Capital Citybus Ms appeared in their attractive red and yellow scheme.

FirstBus took over in mid 1998, so the Citybus "Arrow C" logos gave way to "First Fs" on the front panels.

303, although second-hand, looks very smart in the red livery, in June 1998. 303 was previously M546 with London General.


Grey-Green Metrobus Grey-Green bought some second-hand Metrobuses from South Yorkshire Transport for use on London tendered services. They were two-doorway buses, but the centre doorway was set further forward than on the London buses, with an extra small window behind it. They were liveried in Grey-Green's early - and short-lived - bus livery of orange, white and dark grey. Grey-Green sold them on to London Pride and County Bus.

Metrobus Metrobus


Metrobus has tended to buy new buses rather than second-hand, so it was something of a surprise when it bought a handful of Metrobuses from London General and turned them out in its blue and yellow livery. They were actually destined for its South Coast services, but filled a temporary gap on the Bromley operations while new buses were on order.


Connex, the train operator, won the tender for route 3 in late 1999, for which it bought new buses. It also bought some Metrobuses as spares, and for its rail replacement work (back-door bustitution?). They are painted in Metroline style, with deep blue skirts.

London Coaches / Arriva TOLST

M553, M310 on Victoria Embankment, March 2000 London Coaches introduced Metrobuses to the sightseeing fleet back in 1995, buying some from Leaside Buses and some from South London. It added another batch from MTL Liverpool in 1997, and others since. The dual door ex-London versions have mainly been converted to partial open-top. In December 1997 Arriva took over, and rebranded the operation back to The Original London Sightseeing Tour, with a variation on the Arriva London livery - the ice-cream scoop style, with the champagne colour brought right down at the front. (As non stage-carriage vehiicles, they are not covered by the 80% red rule). The Metrobuses are classified by TOLST as the MB class.
MB553, converted to partial open-top, pauses in the late winter sunshine at the Victoria Embankment stop on the Original London Sightseeing Tour, with another right behind, March 2000.

London Pride

London Pride also operate a large number of Metrobuses, culled from a variety of previous owners such as MTL Liverpool, Stevenson's, Grey-Green, Cardiff Buses. Some are open-top, some closed.

bus histories. photo refs.

Bus Stop Part 1. Part 2. Part 3: Country Ms.