Country Area & Independents MCW MetroridersWhile London Buses was finding the Metrorider and its ilk a useful tool in the early cheap-and-nasty phase of the tendering wars, beyond the GLC area competition was even hotter under deregulation. No new large buses were being bought. Competition was based around second-hand double-deckers (usually Atlanteans or Fleetlines) or mini/midibuses. The Metrorider fitted into several niches.
Inside London there was scope for Independents to flourish under the tendering scheme, and for the old London Country businesses to break into the inner ring.
London Country North-West MCW 1-39LCNW bought thirty new 7.0m Metroriders for its Hemel Hempstead scheme in June 1988, using them on a collection of new competitive routes to suburbs, with big buses (SNBs and ANs) on other parts of the new network. Almost everything went to plan, but in October the midibus requirement at Hemel Hempstead was pruned, so a few moved to Garston. But by and large the midibuses settled where they were. They were largely unaffected by the takeover by Luton & District in October 1990, apart from a change in fleetname on their green and grey livery.
MCW12 and 13 were transferred to Slough in July 1991 for an exalted duty,
taking over the truncated limbs of GreenLine routes 725 and 726.
The Windsor-Heathrow sections of both were now covered by new routes 525 and 526,
operated by the MCWs with Slough Bus fleetnames.
This eventually gave rise to their being sold to Q-Drive when Luton & District sold off the Slough operations
in February 1993.
Luton & District had grown out of the "District" part of the name, and was rebranded as The Shires in 1994. After the takeover by Cowie in June 1996 the business became Arriva The Shires. The Metroriders, with some casualties, kept on with their suburban zooming, still in Hemel Hempstead (now Gade Valley), and Watford (Network Watford).
Northumbria borrowings for Dockland: 804, 807-810Kentish Bus, the newly renamed London Country South East, was an early user of Metroriders. They won a Docklands Development Corporation tender for the P14 (Surrey Quays - Isle of Dogs), which took buses back to the Rotherhithe Tunnel for the first time for many years. The contract started in November 1988, but Kentish Bus' own Metroriders were not delivered on time. So Northumbria loaned some of its Metroriders to Kentish Bus. One, 804, was repainted in Docklands Corporation red white and blue striped livery, but the others were used in Northumbria big-N livery, with Kentish Bus fleetname transfers applied. The other four borrowed for the start of the P14 (807-810) returned north after just a month, when the long Metroriders arrived, but 804, which had arrived in September 1988 stayed until July 1992.
Northumbria borrowings for Kent: 828-845The Docklands borrowings were not the first. Already Kentish Bus had startled some of its users by placing ten of the little buses on its Dunton Green based routes in September 1988, followed by eight more in Dartford and Gravesend in October. These were not short-term loans, and some of the Metroriders stayed with Kentish Bus for four or more years.
Docklands MRLs: 860-865Five 8.4m Metroriders were bought by Kentish Bus for the Docklands contract, and painted in the red, white and blue contract livery. They arrived in December 1988 and took over from the borrowed Northumbria buses on the P14.
At the end of the contract they went to Londonlinks at Lewisham, and thence to other parts of the group. Some at least went to Maidstone and District, and then came back to Kentish Bus later for Country Area duties.
Secondhand buses: 867-869, 855-858In July 1990 Kentish Bus took two more short Metroriders from Northumberland, that had previously belonged to Moor-Dale Coaches of Low Fell. They had been on loan to East London since March, and now came to Northfleet as 867 and 868.
In June 1992 another (869) was bought from Boro'Line Maidstone to join the Docklands buses,
followed by a further four long ones, also from Boro'Line.
These were numbered 855-858,
only to be renumbered the following month as 856-859.
These four were repainted in Kentish Bus primrose and maroon,
and operated initially from the Dartford out-station.
Later they worked on Orpington Roundabout R7, from Dunton Green.
Jubilee Coaches / SovereignJubilee Coaches of Stevenage started their competitive midibus operations in Stevenage just as crews of London Country North East went on strike over conditions imposed on them because of the tendering process. Nineteen Metroriders were put into service, in cream with a green skirt. They were emblazoned with large RoadHopper fleetnames, and decorated with jumping green frogs. They stayed independent through 1988, while LCNE largely went to the wall as its contracts were rescinded, but was taken over by Sovereign in January 1989.
Some of the Metroriders remained in Roadhopper livery for Stevenage, and others were repainted in blue/cream HERTSrider livery for use elsewhere. When Sovereign sold its Stevanage operation to Luton & District in May 1990 a half dozen of the Metroriders went with it. Some of these lasted into the Arriva The Shires fleet.
Harris, GraysHarris bought a couple of Metroriders early in 1988, and added a third at the end of the year, expanding its fleet to take advantage of LCNE's retractions in the Grays area.
West's CoachesAlso in London's north-east quadrant, West's Coaches of Woodford Bridge was expanding in the Loughton area, whence London Buses had withdrawn. Nine Metroriders were acquired between May and December 1988 for the 531 and 531 on the Waltham Cross -Loughton - Deden corridor.
BTSMeanwhile, over on the west side of Hertfordshire LCNW had lost the tenders for Borehamwood services B1, B2, B3 to local firm BTS. BTS used Optare Citypacers at first on the 'Borehamwood Bustler', but in May 1989 bought four new Metroriders.
Tellings-Golden MillerT-GM bought five secondhand Metroriders in 1994 to assist in its service expansion in Surrey and Middlesex.
F.E.ThorpeThorpe had been operating the Carelink service, providing a wheelchair-accessible service between London's mainline stations, and in 1995 won a contract for the C4 minibus service between Putney Pier and Hurlingham, that required width-limited vehicles. Three Metroriders were bought new for the takeup of the contract, and two secondhand ones (ex London Buses via other operators) subsequently. In 1998 the Metroriders were replaced with newer Mercedes midibuses.