MCW Metroriders for London Buses:
The MCW Metrorider was an integral midibus,
MCW drawing on some of the design style of the Optare Citypacer
but managing to produce an ugly duckling instead of a swan.
But the pudgy little buslets performed reasonably well,
and were bought in significant numbers, and in two lengths. They did not save MCW,
and the Metrorider design was bought by Optare and continued as the MetroRider.
MR1-64, MRL65-92, MR93-105, MRL106-133, MR 134
MCW built the Metrorider as an integral vehicle.
No imported or even homegrown van chassis under this one!
It was available in two lengths: 7.0m and 8.4m (23ft 4in or 28ft).
Width was 2.2m (7ft 4in), enabling it to go places a full-sized bus could not.
Unlike the CityPacer it had a decent engine,
a Cummins B-series with Allison AT545 transmission.
The driver was seated reasonably high,
for fare collection as well as a good driving position.
The door was narrow, with a raised floor inside: not a buggy-bus.
MR1-22, MR134: Kingston hoppas
June 1987 was the date of introduction of the first fleet of Metroriders,
for the Kingston group of midibus routes K1-K3.
The Metroriders wore the distinctive Westlink livery of
red with white and turquoise go-faster flashes down the sides.
They were joined in January 1988 by a demonstrator,
that was eventually taken into stock and numbered MR134.
MR23-52: Harrow hoppas
September 1987 saw the accumulation of a batch of thirty for Harrow Buses midibus routes.
Delivered to Walworth, the buses then went on to Harrow Weald or Edgware before
starting service in October from the North Wembley operating base.
They were painted in Harrow Buses red, cream and black.
MR53-64 Bexleybus 29-40
In December 1987 a dozen Metroriders in blue and cream Bexleybus livery were delivered.
They went initially to Orpington - and worked there -
before their January 1988 introduction to Bexleybus service.
As well as the distinctive livery they were allocated Bexleybus fleet numbers.
A loaned Metrorider from MCW also saw use as a trainer.
MRL65-77, 89-92 Orpington Buses
As the short Metroriders went off to Bexleyheath,
so ten longer Metroriders arrived at Orpington, plus a pair that were on loan from MCW.
These two rapidly joined the Roundabout fleet, although numbers were not allocated for some time.
They were joined by another five in October 1988, these becoming MRL77 and MRL89-92.
The Orpington Metroriders were a stretched, 8.4m, version of the Metrorider,
with more, shorter windows on each side, and seating up to 33.
Orpington chose to seat some with dual-purpose high-backed seating for its discerning clientele.
Livery was lustrous maroon and grey, with white Roundabout markings.
MRL78-88 Kingston Buses
Another eleven long versions joined the Westlink fleet in October 1988,
displacing shorter ones to other London Buses companies.
Some shorties went to North Street (East London), some to Sutton,
a few temporarily to Edgware before becoming trainers.
MR93-98 St George's Hospital SG1-6
Meanwhile, earlier in 1988, six more dumpy ones were bought for Wandsworth Hospital Authority,
for routes G1 and G2 serving St George's Hospital.
These were numbered SG1-6 for their introduction in July, operating from Streatham Garage,
but were renumbered into the MR sequence in August.
They carried Wandsworth Health Authority fleetnames
as well as London Buses roundels and Wandle District logos.
Retarder fitting: Northumbrian borrowings
The program to fit electric retarders to midibuses
saw six short Metroriders arrive on loan from Northumbria Motor Services in July 1988 as spares.
Four went to the midibus base at North Wembley, and two to Westlink at Kingston.
(More of the same batch went on loan to Kentish Bus, but that's in Part3).
So the sight of brand new Metroriders in Northumbria's "large-N" grey, white and red livery
was seen in many parts of the greater London area during that summer and autumn.
The Central Area examples returned to Northumbria in October.
MR99-105, MRL106-133 Walthamstow and Clapton
A mixed bag of short and long Metroriders appeared at Walthamstow from December 1988.
A significant proportion of the longer version, intended for Clapton,
were delivered to Walthamstow at the same time,
and were used as spares until they were transferred to Clapton in June 1989 for the route 100
"Wapping Citylink", which replaced the 22A between Wapping and Aldgate.
MCW, in trouble, terminated its own Metrorider production,
and sold off the design and jigs to Optare,
who then proceeded to produce their own version, the MetroRider - but that's part 3.
The Metroriders spread
The midibuses were intended to be a cheap, flexible resource in a period of rapid change as
tendering became widespread - and as its downsides were encountered too.
Early changes saw small numbers of small MRs, displaced by longer MRLs where they had been successful,
moved to Sutton and to North Street for new tendered routes.
- 9/88: 256 Hornchurch - Harold Hill (- Noak Hill) North Street, Romford
- 9/88: 346 Upminster local hoppa North Street, Romford
- 4/89: 699 Romford - Upminster, (Summer Suns) North Street, Romford
- 10/88: 352 Mitcham - Eastfield Estate Sutton
- 10/88: 576 Epsom - Langley Vale Sutton
Tendering results in Harrow in 1990 saw many of Harrow Buses' midibus routes lost to Sovereign,
while Metroline took the others using Darts.
The dispersed MRs tended to retain their red and cream, but without the Harrow Buses fleetname.
Bexleybus also disappeared, but some of the Metroriders stayed at Bexleyheath under the new incumbent: London Central.
These MRs went promptly into red, with proper London fleetnumbers!
Orpington Buses replaced their Metroriders with new Darts in 1990:
they too were repainted red and moved up the road to Bromley or Bexleyheath.
So the little buses moved around to pastures new,
continuing the work of opening up busless estates
and providing bus services to within a few hundred yards to every London household.
In some places they took over routes from big buses on Sundays.
Notably Streatham garage (AK) became a centre for South London midibus operation in 1990,
and Plumstead (PD) gained a network in 1991.
Some of the new homes for the Metroriders are given here, but the list is not complete:
- 10/89: 513 Kingston - Downside Common Westlink
- 12/89: K4 Hook - Kingston Westlink
- 1/90: 115 Balham - Forest Hill Streatham
- 1/90: 366 West Croydon - Beckenham Junction Streatham
- 1/90: 367 West Croydon - Beckenham High St Streatham
- 2/90: W15 Hackney Central - Walthamstow Central Walthamstow
- 4/90: 384 Cockfosters Stn - Barnet Potters Bar
- 1/91: 380 Lewisham - Abbey Wood Plumstead
- 1/91: 386 Eltham - Kidbrooke - Greenwich Hospital circular Plumstead
- 11/91: W5 Harringay Sainsburys - Archway Holloway
Long Optare MetroRiders were still being delivered as the first shorties went into store as redundant, in 1992.
It was the usual story. New small buses on previously unserved roads had been a success,
growing their slice of the market.
People without cars liked them, as there was less far to the bus-stop (or hail-and ride point).
They were soon overcrowded, which required bigger small buses.
The small buses had to find new niches to grow, or go for sale.
By the second half of 1992, with Darts proliferating, it tended towards the latter.
They may have only been five years old,
but lightweight running units do not run for ever,
and these had clocked up about 200,000 miles already.
Structural problems had also reared their ugly head, especially with the longer MRLs.
Not that the run-down was rapid. Early Metroriders trickled away sooner (with exceptions),
but the bigger midibuses still had a role in suburbia and the quirkier corners of unredeveloped London.
Twist in the tail: MRW2-4
Westlink fitted three long Metroriders (MRL78-80)
with tail-lifts for a wheelchair-access service
- H20 - for the London Borough of Richmond.
They were given the latest Westlink paint-job and communications gear.
The were renumbered MRW2-4, with London Borough of Richmond registration plates: A2 LBR - A4 LBR.
Arriva London North kept three short Metroriders in operation into the year 2000 on "The Shuttle",
a contract operation between Waterloo and Westminster for the Department of Health and Social Security.
MR102, 104, 105 operated it from Clapton garage,
spending their days rolling to and fro across Westminster Bridge.
But in April 2000 they were replaced by new Mini Pointer Darts in special liveries,
and went into store before sale. Arriva London North also kept a long MCW Metrorider, MRL129,
which operated as Edmonton's staff bus.
MR105 operates the Department of Health "Shuttle" service across Westminster Bridge in October 1999, linking Westminster and Lambeth.
Part Two: Country & Independent Metroriders
Country & Independents.
Ian's Bus Stop
MR main text.