The London Transport experimental Atlanteans: XA

This page created 16th May 1999, updated 25th May by Ian Smith


In 1965 the rest of Britain was buying front entrance Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines, while London Transport was still busy buying Routemasters. It occurred to the Executive that they ought at least try out these buses, especially if one man operation was to be the future. Staff shortages were already a significant problem, and the market forces approach - pay a decent wage to staff - was politically unacceptable. Londoners had to keep their cheap fares, and LT was not allowed to make a loss.

So London Transport bought a batch of 50 Leyland Atlanteans, and 8 Daimler Fleetlines, for extensive, intensive, trials, the XA Atlanteans in the City, and the XF Fleetlines in the Country Area.


XA drawing 1 The Leyland Atlanteans did not exploit the low-bridge possibilities that had excited many operators nationally. Indeed LT specified a raised floor, with a step on the platform, in order to widen the constriction point between the wheel-arches, in an attempt to allow double-width entry/exit. To this end the staircase foot was also angled to the front. The bodies were based upon a design that Park Royal developed for Stockton Corporation.
Mechanically they were straightforward rear-engine machines, with a transverse Leyland O.680 engine (11.1 litre) driving through a fluid flywheel and Pneumocyclic automatic gearbox.
Livery was standard LT red with a deep flake grey band round the middle.

Into service

The Atlanteans began to arrive at Aldenham in July 1965. The first few went through the type-testing procedure there, but most were delivered to Fulwell garage where there was plenty of storage space. Deliveries continued throughout the autumn, but the buses went into store until there were sufficient XAs and RMLs for the comparative trials. These started in November 1965, with XAs replacing RMs at Chalk Farm on Central core route 24. Meanwhile RMLs replaced RTWs on routes 76 and 34B at Tottenham. During he next two months the other prong of the truials started, with RMLs going to Stamford Hill for the 67 and XAs to Highgate for the 271, both previously RM routes.

Garage Number Route
CF Chalk Farm 24 Pimlico - Hampstead Heath
HT Highgate 271 Moorgate - Highgate Village

All did not go smoothly. The maintenance regime at London Transport was based around the phenomenal and unusual reliability of the RT and RF, with the RM close behind. LT was not used to the kind of mechanical failure rate considered normal elsewhere. Coupled with a strange mechanical layout, inevitable conservative prejudice and a preoccupation with having a handbook for everything, this caused grief in engineering departments.
A major problem was thermal expansion. In heavy traffic (either vehicular or passenger), the long idle times while stopped caused expansion along the main coupled axis of engine, flywheel and gearbox. As these were all mounted as a unit, the expansion stresses tended to pop the thrust bearings. Ooops.

The problems seemed to be less with the Country versions, which were Daimler Fleetlines (the XF class). It was not obvious whether this was due to an easier regime in the Country, different maintenance standards at East Grinstead, or design / manufacture differences. So in April 1966 the eight green XFs moved to Highgate, while eight XAs went to East Grinstead. They returned in July, when phase two of the trials was instituted: the RMLs and XAs swapped, the XAs taking over the 67 (Stamford Hill) and the 76 / 34B (Tottenham).

Garage Number Route
EG East Grinstead 424 Reigate - Horley - East Grinstead
EG East Grinstead 435
EG East Grinstead 438C Crawley - East Grinstead (M-Sa works)
AR Tottenham 76 Victoria Stn - Tottenham - Lower Edmonton Stn
AR Tottenham 34B Edmonton - Brimsdown
SF Stamford Hill 67 Northumberland Park - Wapping

A different eight XAs, from Stamford Hill, were swapped with the XFs again in mid May 1967, and stayed in the Country until June 1969.

Changes of scene

The comparison trials came to an end, with not a few bangs and whimpers, during the autumn of 1969. The last XAs were removed from Stamford Hill and Tottenham in January 1970. New uses were sought for the XAs that would take them out of Central London onto less exacting duties. One person operation was also a consideration, and the buses were modified to accept fare machines or fare-boxes. XA22 became London's first double-decker omo bus on 22 November 1969, working on the 233 route from Croydon. The Peckham P3 operation should also have gone omo from the same date, but this was deferred until January 1970.

Garage Number Route
TC Croydon 233 West Croydon - Roundshaw
PM Peckham P3 Peckham Garage - Nunhead - Peckham Garage

Meanwhile three XAs were officially transferred to the Country Area, taking over duties at East Grinstead from three XFs required for the Blue Arrow service at Stevenage. These three, XA46 - XA48, were transferred to London Country when the Country Area was nationalised in January 1970.

VA10, BX The class gathered again at Croydon (TC), where they were put to work on the West Croydon - New Addington C routes, including the express operations, for which they acquired blue blinds. Perhaps the longer runs suited them, but it must have been a hard bouncy ride into Croydon over the Shirley ridge for the commuters from the Dormitory on the Downs.

In 1973 their world changed dramatically. All fifty, including the London Country three, were sold to the China Motor Bus Company in Hong Kong for use on the cross-harbour tunnel route! They worked there until 1980, when they were replaced by ex-London Fleetlines: not the XFs, but their successors the DMS class.

XA10 behind Bexleyheath garage "sometime in the early seventies".
Photo, used with permission, by Mike Dawes

Ian's Bus Stop XA story. bus histories photo refs XF