TA, TAS: Dennis Trident, Alexander ALX 400
TA1-98: low-height, low floorStagecoach London introduced the Dennis Trident ALX400 combination from the start of 1999. Mindful of their UK-wide operations they persuaded LT Buses to allow the first 98 new buses to be built to the reduced height of 4.2m rather than the normal 4.39m, and also to feature a curved staircase at the front, behind the driver, rather than the straight version preferred by London Buses. This meant an increase in capacity, albeit at reduced headroom, giving a 51/22 seating arrangement. (The long-low combination thus followed on from a similar arrangement with the Volvo Olympians, for the same reasons.)
TA1 was in the Stagecoach National livery at first, for a tour of UK companies, so missed out on the January introduction on route 55 in January. Otherwise the first 38 - in unadorned red - went into service from Leyton on routes 55 and then 48 and 56.
TA1, the doyenne of the class, became Leyton's showbus, retained after many others of the low-height batch had been banished to the provinces. Delivered in plain red, it had received the blue skirt plus swirls livery in 2003. By the time of the 2005 Showbus it had been restored to the original livery.
The initial Leyton batch were followed by deliveries for Bow, more for Leyton, Barking and Upton Park. TA74 never arrived, being burnt out before delivery. By and large this first batch stayed where they were first put, but only for 4 years in most cases.
When contracts came up for re-tender the foot was put down firmly: buses would be full height, and would have straight stair-cases.. So many of the low-height east-enders were sent off to other parts of the Stagecoach empire: Devon, Cambridge, Cheltenham & Gloucester, Hull, North-West and Stagecoach South on the coast. TA1 was retained by Leyton, who treated it as their show bus. It continued in service, mainly on the 55.
Two, TA48 and TA49, escaped transfer, instead joining the private hire fleet at Waterden Road. Likewise the Upton Park buses managed to remain.
But in autumn 2009 the axe fell on the remaining low-height batch, and those remaining (with the exception of 17001) were sold.
Several of the early Tridents have had long lives after London as sightsseing buses, often partly topless. Here 17079 is in Cambridge on City Sightseeing in June 2015, while 17015 is on the summer service bus at Bowness on Windermere in June 2016.Stagecoach London continued to take Tridents, in different sizes, until 2006, when the Enviro-buses started to become the norm: