Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created on 19th September 1998, updated 11th June 2004

The Long Buses, RML 880-RML903, RML2261-RML2760

Part Four: Towards the millenium.

1990-91: New engines.

It having dawned that in the current economic climate there would be no Routemaster successor before the millenium, the operating companies decided to replace the RMLs' ageing AEC engines. Larger Iveco and Cummins engines were used, producing another different note to the Routemaster sound-effects library. About 400 were re-engined in 190-91, with very nearly all the others following on in the next two years.

1992-93 Kentish Bus takes over route 19.

RML2452, Kentish Bus Late in 1992 it was announced that Kentish Bus (the erstwhile London Country South-East) had been awarded the tender for Route 19, starting in April 1993. The Country Area was getting to play with RMLs again, even if it was on a Central route. The tender specified crew-operated Routemasters, and London Buses Ltd leased 24 Iveco-engined RMLs to Kentish Bus as part of the tender agreement. They were overhauled at Yeates of Peterborough, then refurbished by South Yorkshire Transport in Rotherham. They were painted into maroon and cream - the company colours - with a painted route diagram along the upper side-panels. After practising with a borrowed red RML, and an RM from Capital Citybus, Kentish Bus took over operation in April 1993, initially working from a base at Nine Elms, and then from the Battersea Garage annex from October.
RML2452 seen in the distinctive maroon and cream of Kentish Bus, at Showbus 97.
A re-organisation within the Cowie Group in 1997, of which Kentish Bus was by then a part, saw the 19 operation taken over by South London at Brixton. The RMLs have been repainted into the now-required red, some with the new Arriva logos. RML2363

1993-94: Refurbishment.

After trial runs in the previous couple of years, the RML fleets were refurbished in 1993-4. They were fitted with fluorescent lighting and repainted with white ceilings on both decks. (The prohibition on smoking at last having made this possible upstairs: the previous Sung Yellow was designed to disguise the nicotine stains.).
They were re-trimmed too, with a new blue needlecord for the seat-covers and saloon-sides, which immediately improved the passenger environment. External signs were few, but included new rear-lamp clusters and DMS-style flashers mounted on the cantrail at the front corners.
RML2363 approaches St Paul's from the City. The position of the new light clusters can be seen, on the rear panel. The Route 11 route-branding is applied to the rear as well as the front. (Monday 28th September 1998)

1993: BTS takes over route 13.

From December 1993 BTS Coaches of Borehamwood took over operation of route 13 (Golders Green - Aldwych), and leased 22 RMLs from London Buses. They were refurbished, and had Cummins engines. They were painted in a light poppy red with a yellow band, and route diagrams on the upper panels. At the start they carried BTS fleetnames, but this has been changed to Sovereign. They operate from the BTS depot at Borehamwood (BT).
Initially they worked the 13 every day, giving an RML presence in the City on Sundays, but later MTL London took over opo operation on Sundays and evenings.

A reduced requirement led to three RMLs being returned to the LT Reserve in 1997. In the second half of 2001 most of the short RMs bought back by Travel for London and rebuilt by Marshalls of Cambridge were used to replace the Sovereign RMLs from the 13, the RMLs being reassigned to other companies to allow further refurbishments and service enhancements.

Sovereign RML2719 passes the Adelphi Theatre on route 13, September 1998.

1994: Privatisation.

In the second half of 1994 the long-heralded privatisation of London Buses took place, with the operating companies sold by the Government. RML2687


Centrewest was bought by its own management in September 1994. The sale included 48 RMLs for use on two routes:
7 (Russell Square - East Acton) and
23 (Liverpool Street Stn - Westbourne Park).
All the RMLs are Cummins engined, and operate from Westbourne Park (X). They carry Gold Arrow fleetnames, and a black band above the windows bearing the via-points in white.
The company was bought by First Bus in 1997. Since the takeover the buses also carry FirstBus insignia.
The Gold Arrow fleet uses discreet side boards for its route-branding, and paints its radiator grilles black. This is RML2687 approaching St. Pauls, 28-09-98, on route 23.


Leaside Buses was sold to the Cowie Group at the end of September 1994.
48 RMLs were included, for use on two routes:
38 (Victoria Stn - Clapton Pond), and
73 (Victoria Stn - Stoke Newington). The RMLs are all Cummins engined, with catalytic converters on the exhaust systems. They were refurbished by Leaside Buses before privatisation, and include the only two remaining RMLs with illuminated advert panels (RML2544, 2588). Cowie Group renamed itself Arriva from October 1997, and the Leaside buses can be expected to sport Arriva logos and yellow strap-lines on the lower panels.
Leaside also uses side-writing and black radiator grilles. RML2386 heads for Clapton Pond on the 38, June 1998.

London Central

London Central was sold to the Go-Ahead Group (Gateshead) in September 1994. As well as 46 AEC RMs there were 58 Cummins RMLs. Again there were two routes for the company, this time operating from different garages:
12 (Dulwich - Notting Hill Gate), Camberwell (Q) and
36 (Lewisham - Queens Park Station), New Cross (NX).
The 12 is operated by RMLs, while the 36 has a mix of RMs and RMLs. The livery is constrained by the London Red rules, which has at least spared Londoners the "cheap and cheerful" red, blue and yellow livery that is disfiguring the group's buses elsewhere.
London Central's approach to Route branding is related to the original version, but rather more stylish. RML2276 rounds Trafalgar Square in June 98.

London General

London General was sold to its management and employees in November 1994, with 68 Iveco - engined RMLs (and an RM).The RMLs work on three routes from two garages:
11: (Liverpool Street Stn - Fulham Broadway), Waterloo, RA;
14: (Putney Heath - Tottenham Court Rd), Putney, AF;
22: (Putney Common - Piccadilly Circus), Putney, AF.

The RMLs are mostly in London red with white bands and grey guard-rails, with London General logos on front dome and sides. Some have been given the General treatment.

RM2732 looks good with a gold band and large fleetname
as it heads east up Ludgate Hill on the morning after Showbus98.

London United

London United was another management and employee buy-out, in November 1994. The sale include 39 Cummins-engined RMLs for use on two routes based on Shepherds Bush garage (S):
9: (Hammersmith - Aldwych);
94: (Acton Green - Trafalgar Square).
Most of the RMLs are in red with a white band and grey wheels/guard-rail. They carry the old London United Tramways crest and have fleet-numbers on front and rear as well as the sides. ER880 sports the full London United Tramways livery.
A takeover by Transdev (a state-owned French company) in 1997 has not changed the outward appearance. (Perhaps French management is not as insecure as the English variety?)
RML2485 choggles eastwards along Kensington High Street, June 1998.


Metroline was also a management and employee buy-out, in October 1994. Fifty RMLs were included in the deal, for use on two routes from Willesden (AC):
6: (Kensal Rise Stn - Aldwych);
98: (Willesden to Holborn).
The RMLs are all Cummins-engined. They carry red with a white band, with fleetnames on the front dome and sides. The lined blue skirt suits the RMLs nicely.
On one of London's few "offside" bus-stops, RML2695 stands at the Aldwych terminus of route 6 in September 1998.

MTL London

London Northern was sold to MTL (Merseyside)in October 1994, who re-named it MTL London. The Routemaster fleet was a mixture of AEC RMs and Cummins RMLs (plus AEC engined showbus RML903) The RMLs were originally allocated to route 10, and the RMs to the 139, but were not route-branded and often strayed:
10: (Hammersmith - Archway);
139: (Trafalgar Sq. - Golders Green Stn).
The RMLs were repainted into a dark red without cantrail relief, but with prominent MTL motifs on the bodysides.
Metroline North London's RML903 at Showbus 98. It has lost its MTL fleetnames prior to application of the Metroline-style livery.

MTL London acquired two more RMLs at the end of 1997, when they were returned to the LRT reserve by BTS, plus a third at the start of 1998.
The 139 was converted to Dart/Marshall low-floor single deckers in 1998, but the 10 continues to see both RMLs and RMs.
MTL London was sold by its parent company to Metroline in 1998. The new name for its operations is Metroline North London.

South London

South London was bought by the Cowie group in December 1994, including a mix of 31 RMs and 27 Iveco-engined RMLs. Most of the RMs were dedicated to route 159, leaving the RMLs and a rump of normal-liveried RMs for the 137:
137: (Streatham Hill - Oxford Circus);
159: (Baker Street - Streatham Garage).
Since the London Red rule came into operation, repaints of the RMs has returned them to red with white stripes, and the RMLs can be found on both routes.
1997 saw the Cowie group adopt a new corporate image and fleetname: Arriva. The South London operation is now Arriva South London, and new logos and straplines are gradually appearing.
Also in 1997 the Kentish Bus operation of route 19 was transferred to South London at Brixton.
Another new livery is worn by Arriva's RML2726 on the 159 in June 1998. Group standard turquoise and champagne/white ice-cream scoop is not permitted in London, and the permissible white cow-horns sit badly with the Routemaster design, so common sense has prevailed, giving the RMLs simple white bands, plus the yellow tag-line along the lower sides.

Stagecoach East London

RMLs on 15
Stagecoach bought East London in September 1994, with a mixed bag of Routemaster types, including 54 RMLs. The RMLS at Bow (BW) have Iveco engines, whereas all but one of the RMLs at Upton Park (U) have Cummins engines. The odd one out is RML2760, the last Routemaster built, which retains an AEC engine as well as original livery, unrefurbished interior and "London Transport" fleetnames.
The buses work on two routes:
8: (Victoria - Bow Church), BW;
15: (Paddington - East Ham), U.

"...then three come along together". East London's route 15 is served by RMLs in simple red with yellow bands and gold fleetnames: very traditional! RML 2496 brings up the tail of a procession through the City, 28-09-98.

This history obviously is not finished: At 38 years old the RMLs are still going strong. Apart from those scrapped at the end of their London Country careers there have been only two disposals: one, very early (1972) and for an unfathomable reason, was sold to Mary Quant for use as an overseas touring boutique, and may still exist somewhere in the world; and the other, written off as irreparable after an accident but repaired and restored by Clydeside Scottish is definitely still around. Another was burned out in a garage fire at Holloway. What other class of bus has this kind of record?

Part Five: 2000 onwards

Part Three: the eighties Part Five: the noughties photo references bus histories

Ian's Bus Stop RM Contents RCLs RMLs RMFs