Connex' Alexander ALX 400s: TA1-TA20, TA22-TA30Connex was a train operator in South East England, but ventured into London Bus operation starting in January 2000 with a win of route of route 3, together with lengthy night route N3. For this it acquired twenty-nine 9.9m Tridents, garaged at Beddington Cross. The Tridents had central staircases, and were liveried in red with a dark blue/green skirt and an orange cheat-line. There was no TA21, probably because the licensing authority kept back the 321 registration plate.
TA5 was given a gold-colored vinyl wrap in April 2002, to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee
Connex TA29 descends Regent Street on the 3 to Crystal Palace.
Connex TA31-TA38April 2001 saw the arrival of eight more: TA31-38. These differed from the first batch in having a forward staircase, giving two fewer seats upstairs but improving circulation downstairs. These too were based at Beddington Cross, this time nominally for the short 196 - although the batches soon became mixed.
Later, now in all-red for Travel London, TA31 climbs to West Croydon on the 157 to Crystal Palace, October 2005.
Connex TA39-TA55The August/September 2001 batch was seventeen forward staircase TAs for notorious route 60. This route had been attempted by several operators since 1999 with singular lack of success. Connex achieved a workable contract for fifteen new buses. Only eight had been delivered by the end of August, but Alexander loaned six brand-new TAS destined for Stagecoach London (TAS441, 442, 444, 449, 460 and 472) for September. By the end of the month only TA52 and 54 had yet to arrive. With the maintenance spares from the first two batches they coped. Together with the two earlier batches the new buses worked on the 3 group and the 196 as well as the 60.
Connex TA56-TA72In a similar fashion the Tridents ordered for the takeover of the 157 were late arriving. Only nine had arrived by the end of November 2001 for a 1st December start. Again seven TAS were loaned from Stagecoach, TAS 526-531 new from Alexander and TAS524 from Catford. The ordered buses arrived during December and the loans went to Stagecoach.
Travel London TA20 comes through the dip at Wallington Station, heading towards Morden Station on the 157, not Crystal Palace, April 2007.
GoldTA5 was given a gold-colored vinyl wrap in April 2002, to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee, followed by TA38. It was used in the gold wrap on the 60 and the 196, while TA5 made a show on route 3.
Ex-Limebourne routes get TA 73 - 129In June 2002 Connex started a programme of converting several routes that it had taken over from Limebourne the previous July. The 344 had been operated with DCL-class Darts, and was converted to TAs, requiring a run-out of 17, operated from Battersea garage (QB) - the old Q-line base. Eighteen TAs arrived there early in June. A further four arrived in July. One was seen on route 156 in early July - a trial run? Then the 156 was converted from DCL Darts at the beginning of August, only to be extended to Vauxhall in September, increasing the roll-out from 8 to 13.
For once Connex had plenty of TAs, so during August some were sent to assist East Thames Buses as that operator of last resort struggled to cope with the withdrawal of Durhan Travel Services from route 42. Route C3, normally a Solo route, saw several TAs during August too. All these routes used the ex-Limebourne Battersea garage, and the temporary surplus due to the delayed conversion of the 211 allowed some swaps between that garage and Beddington Cross. Tube strikes in September and October saw TAs used on the C1, either Victoria - South Kensington or Victoria to Earls Court.
The 211 was converted in November, 20 TAs taking over from ex-Limebourne Excels once a problem corner in Chelsea was sorted.
Travel London takes overHaving lost their rail franchises in Southern England, Connex threw in the towel with its bus operations too. In December 2003 many of the Connex buses lost their Connex logos (but not their legal lettering), and then in February 2004 the company, with its buses, routes, garages and staff, was taken over by National Express, to be operated under the Travel London banner.
Some of the route3 buses gained overall ads for West End shows, and some of the Battersea buses gained them for Back-the-Bid. In the spring of 2005 TAs started to lose their dark blue skirts and orange lines, going all-red. The early batch (TA1-30, less the overall ad buses) were given full repaints, with white roofs.
196 lost, C3 double-deckedIn May 2006 route 196 was lost on re-tender. Ten TAs, redundant at Beddington Cross, were moved to Battersea to double-deck the C3, where TAas had helped out the Solos before, back in August 2002. Now they took over properly.
Travel London gets Kingston University contractFour TAs were moved from Beddington Cross to Twickenham in August 2006, to take over Kingston Unversity contracts. They returned to Beddington Cross in November. Arrival at Battersea of the new EnviroTridents released a couple of TAs back to Beddington Cross, so the Kingston four returned to Twickenham to replace the harassed Darts.
ShufflesSeptember 2006 saw route 60 go to Arriva London South at Croydon. The substantial allocation of older TAs were gradually moved across to to Battersea, where they released newer TAs to take on the new route 452 in December. The 452 was due to get new Enviro400 Tridents, but these did not start to arrive until January, delivery being completed in March 2007. That made the older TAs redundant again.
Some went to Travel West Midlands in Birmingham. Others either did not go, or came back. Some were refurbished, with individual seating upstairs. - and then came back. These were intended to fill an increased vehicle requirement on the 156. Others came back in September for the Kingston University contract, quickly replaced by buses in all-white.
Meanwhile TAs were swapped between Battersea and Beddington Cross to put younger forward staircase TAs onto route 3. and the whole fleet was renumbered, the TAs becoming 9701-9720, 9722-9829
RenumberingThe whole fleet (including the buses elsewhere) was renumbered in April 2007, the TAs becoming 9701-9720, 9722-9744, 9746-9829. The new numbers appeared in different places on the front of the buses at different times, below or above the windscreen, central or off-set.
East London LineIn December Travel London allocated fourteen elderly Tridents to operate route ELC - a railway replacement for the East London Line, which was being majorly reworked for Overground. Thirteen of these had been previously allocated to Travel West Midlands. Some had gone to Birmingham, some had gone into store. All had been refurbished, with individual seating and a plain red livery with bold side adverts depicting a new Overground train. They were collected at Walworth for the duty. The fourteenth was 9724 borrowed from Battersea. Just in case the loadings had been underestimated five Tridents (TA82,83,84 86 and 99) were borrowed from Metroline through the first six weeks of 2008.
Route 188 saw some Tridents too. Some of the ELC buses were borrowed during a Jubilee Line disruption, and then during Summer Saturdays three extra Tridents (and five Volvos) were added to the complement, between Elephant & Castle and Greenwich.
iBus coverFour of the East London line buses, no longer needed there, started to be used for cover at various garages (BC,WL,QB) during September/October 2008 whilst the fleet was converted. Six ex-Armchair Tridents (DT1-6) were also borrowed from Metroline.
KU buses get red skirtsThe all-white buses at Twickenham for the Kingston University services gained red skirts late in 2008. They were helped out for a while by all-red 9711, but that moved in January 2009 to Byfleet for use on route 400 (Staines - Shepperton).
Nedrailways takes overIn May 2009 Nedrailways bought Travel London and Travel Surrey for 32million pounds. They said at the time that there was no intention to alter the signage or fleet numbers. (Perhaps the Dutch are less insistent than British companies to put their mark on everything). But...
WithdrawalsSeptember 2009 saw massive withdrawals of Tridents, due to an influx of 38 new EnviroTridents. Seventeen of the younger Tridents from Battersea went off-lease to Dawson Rentals. The oldest Tridents were withdrawn into store, eighteen from Battersea, five from Walworth (the East London line contract had ended), and a pair from Beddington Cross. Four more at Beddington Cross were designated as refurbishment cover. The Kingston University contract had been taken over by Tellings-Golden Miller, so the four white/red buses were downgraded to training and railway substitution work.
AbellioFrom October Nedrailways adopted the Abellio brand-name that they used for their railway services in Germany. The twin-peaks logos and references to National Express had already disappeared. Now the Travel London fleetnames went, replaced by abellio London and abellio Surrey (the suffixes in tiny lettering). The Netherlands Railway logo made an appearance too. Many of the buses declared withdrawn in September continued in service at Beddington Cross!
The Trident situation was unsettled during 2010. Some withdrawn buses were reinstated. Others became trainers. Many, but not all, of the first batch left the fleet in mid-year. Others found survival niches, such as 9708,9709, 9717 and 9718 on the mixed allocation 152. 9773, 9774 and 9775 were regulars on the Redhill school runs on the 407. The Abellio Surrey buses were gathered at Byfleet for school duties and for route 400, then were withdrawn for railway replacement and training - except two remained on school duty.
The ex-Armchair Tridents arrive: 9830-9843Fourteen Tridents at Walworth arrived in February 2011, leased from Dawson Rentals. They had originated with Armchair as some of the DT-class, and had been taken over by Metroline until going off-lease in early 2009. A few had seen intermediate use with other operators. Although third-hand, they were all younger than any of the Connex or Travel London Tridents, and at eight years old fell within TfL's ten-year desirability criterion. They were put to work on newly-won route 172, which had specified existing double-decks. Their front displays were gradually changed over to the wider single-line apertures standard to Abellio.
Heathrow and LiverpoolMarch and April 2012 saw preparations begin for the Stratford Games. Ten Tridents were repainted and moved into Hayes garage for use on the 350 to serve Heathrow Terminal 5. Another ten were allocated to Beddington Cross as a top-up fleet for the Games, and presumably would have had all their advertising removed, including fleetnames (The international organising committee was granted all sorts of power, including control of advertising anywhere near the Games, control of traffic and highways, suspension of civil liberties...). Another eight Tridents were loaned to Selwyn's Coaches in Liverpool for use on Merseyrail services during the summer rebuild of Liverpool Central (Abellio had a stake in Merseyrail). They stayed until returning to store in October. That accounted for twenty-eight of the middle-aged Tridents. The previously earmarked buses for the games turned out not to be the ones actually selected, which were painted plain white and sent to Stagecoach at Stratford for the duration.
The Green Bus at GuildfordThe Green Bus of Birmingham won a schools contract in Guildford to serve St.Peter's School with a network of services (PT1-5). They sub-contracted Abellio Surrey to operate it using nine Tridents (9733-9737 and 9753/56/57/59). As it turned out, a different set of Tridents were actually supplied (Surprise?).
Operations began in September 2012, based at Byfleet. Six of Abellio's Tridents were drafted in, two already sporting The Green Bus green/green livery. To bring the operation up to strength two of The Green Bus' Tridents were brought down from Birmingham. These two had been bought from Abellio earlier (9732, 9738). Both, ex Abellio 9732 and 9738, had been converted to single doorway with digital displays, with The Green Bus' very smart green/green livery. The ex-Abellio London buses were repainted green/green by the end of 2012, and converted to single doorway.
Disposals and ContinuationBy mid 2013 all the first batch buses (9701-38) had been sold for use elsewhere (including Abellio Surrey), most as runners, a few for spares. The ex-Armchair Tridents stuck to the 172, helped out by others as required. A few suffered fires, either engine fires or riots, and were written off. TA73-111 were all returned off-lease (in 2009 or 2012). The ten at Hayes for the 350 spent three years there, before being replaced by EnviroTridents in March 2015. But the remaining sixty-odd soldiered on, still at Beddington Cross, Battersea and Walworth. By now fourteen years old they clung on to certain routes, mostly as second fiddles to newer types. They also played a large part in railway substitution work as parts of the Capitals' railway structure was renewed (such as the Overground, the Lego train (DLR) and Underground signalling).
Borisbuses took over some of Abellio's trunk routes in the spring of 2016, triggering a cascade of buses which made Tridents redundant. Twenty six went to Southdown PSV, the dealer at Copthorne.
Their last TfL use came in March 2017. The ex-Armchair buses has been returned to Dawson's Rentals in February. That left a small handful for railway replacement work, and the Abellio Surrey gang. The Abellio London buses soon departed.
Bus2The Guildford schools contracts were handed over by Greenbus to Abellio Surrey during the spring of 2015. The buses involved already belonged to Abellio Surrey of course. In September, for the new academic year Abellio Surrey continued the services under a new label: BUS2. The livery remained the same, but the Greenbus names were replaced by BUS2. Surrey County Council continued to withdraw funding from schools services. Go play in the traffic, kids! Routes were amended to try to make them economic, but in July 2017, at the end of that academic year Abellio regretfully threw in the towel. The buses were used briefly on railway substitutions, but went to Ensign Bus in September 2017, drawing Abellio's Trident operation to a close.