The first few began to arrive for familiarisation and crew training from October 1988. Several were promptly put to work on routes other than the intended 28 and 31:
MA13 and 14 went to Victoria Basement for use on the C1, to evaluate longer midibuses than those currently in use,
while MA1, 5 and 7 went to Ealing for the E5, which was expecting chairlift-fitted MT midibuses which were late arriving.
The MA buses were not as neat a bread-van conversion as the MT class (bodied by Reeve Burgess), especially on the offside, where the drivers window looked like a design afterthought. Those for Westbourne Park wore Gold Arrow branding and frames for route-boards along the sides.
They proved the experts right: loadings went up by 10% on both routes. At the same time they were deeply unpopular with a very conservative travelling public, who did not like the ride nor the cramped seating. With 10% more passengers, they didn't like the crush-standing either, with fifteen allowed. Coupled with sharper acceleration and braking, it all made for a perceived unpleasant experience. Yet 10% more people travelled! Some double-deckers (long RMLs) were drafted in to cope with some peak journeys.
Route 31 started to convert to DW class Darts from February 1991, followed by route 28.
This left the Gold Arrow MAs, now two years old, but with about 150,000 miles on the clock,
to be re-allocated elsewhere. The surplus allowed the fleet to be fitted with air suspension
to alleviate the worst effects of coil-spring suspension.
The buses were based at Uxbridge, with U-line branding.
In April some moved to Hanwell for route 195, newly won from London Buslines, and were rebranded "hoppa".
Hertfordshire funded a new R1 route linking Chorleywood, Rickmansworth and Harefield, using MA80 and MA81 from Uxbridge, starting in August. These received new Uxbridge Buses branding from March 1993.
From September Alperton converted route 224 to MA operation, using eight MAs that had been displaced from Westbourne Park. These received Midilink branding.
At Westbourne Park itself MAs took over route 70. Two were loaned to Chalk Farm for use on route 46.
A more significant move, with long-term implications, was of a number of MAs to the Selkent area. Four went to Bromley to join their midibus pool, and two to Catford. Others moved to Plumstead to prepare for the introduction of route 202 (Blackheath - Catford) in November. This, when introduced, had the side-effect of putting them on the 54 on Sundays too.
1992 saw the process continue, as the rest of Westbourne Park's MAs were displaced by DW Darts. Three more went to Catford, and others to Potters Bar (MA10), Alperton and Orpington (MA9).
Stagecoach Selkent acquired those at Plumstead (MA9, 14-17, 19-21, 24-25, 29-31, 41), the spares from Bromley and Catford having returned to Centrewest at Greenford at the start of the year.
London General retained MA108-134, either at Putney or at the Battersea Base midibus centre, which had taken over from Victoria Basement when that closed in 1993.
London General became part of the Go-Ahead Group in May 1996, and later in the year passed on eleven MAs (MA109-112, 115-120, 127) to another company in the group - The Wycombe Bus Company, a subsidiary of the Oxford Bus Company. They all went, not surprisingly, to High Wycombe. From there some were sold on, notably to Chiltern Queens and Brodyr Richards, leaving five to be taken over by Arriva The Shires in December 2000. They received ATS numbers, but were sold fairly quickly, without donning Arriva livery.
Others from London General were sold to Milton Keynes Metro, but the remainder were transferred by the end of 1997 to London Central at Camberwell, where they were put to use on the 484 until the arrival of the DEL-class Darts. Some of these MAs then went to Milton Keynes too, and the others found service elsewhere.
Centrewest became part of First Group in March 1997, and the MAs were dispersed to work out their old age in various parts of the First empire, notably Midland Bluebird in Edinburgh, Eastern National, Western National, Strathclyde and Manchester.
MA1 has been retained in store by First Centrewest, presumably as a preservation candidate.
Ian's Bus Stop Midibus index. MA . MA histories. MA photos. MT.