Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,
This page created 2nd April 2002, updated 1st September 2005.

Optare MetroRiders: Other Operators

  1. Kentish Bus Optares
  2. London & Country / Londonlinks
  3. Capital Citybus
  4. R&I / MTL London / Metroline
  5. Lucketts / The Shires
  6. Metrobus
  7. Limebourne / Tillingbourne
  8. Tillingbourne
  9. Red Route Buses, Gravesend
  10. Southlands Travel, Swanley
  11. Town & Country, Purfleet
  12. Red Rose, Aylesbury
  13. White Rose, Thorpe

Kentish Bus / Londonlinks

Optare MRL drawing: Kentish Bus As a fairly enthusiastic user of MCW Metroriders it was not surprising to find Kentish Bus early in the queue for the Optare variety. Even then, knowing the problems associated with the type they were cautious. 862 was a singleton order, delivered in November 1989, and used on the London contracts from Leyton and Lewisham.

It was January 1991 before four more (886/7/9/90) were received, these going to Northfleet for the newly-won B11. Kentish Bus must have been happy with the results, for another fifteen (961-975) arrived in October 1991, also to Northfleet

Then there was a gap in orders. A demonstrator was used in 1994, then two more (977-8) were acquired secondhand following the demise of Darlington Transport. 978 went initially to Londonlinks for six months before being transferred to Kentish Bus.

1852 on R5 at Green Street Green, September 2002 852 (later 1852) was another singleton order, arriving in November 1995 to spend five months with Londonlinks before going to Thameside. A narrow bus, it became the regular vehicle on the R5 (Orpington-Cudham-Knockholt-Orpington), whilst Arriva was in charge.

1852 negotiates the roundabout at Green Street Green in September 2002, whilst heading for Orpington on the R5.

Eight more, 801-808, were new to Dartford in April 1996 for the local routes there, sporting the new yellow and green livery. Six more (1809-1814) arrived in March 1998 to Northfleet.

1809 and 1810 in Northfleet Garage, October 2004 1801 passes Swanley Garage, June 2002

A Sunday line-up of MetroRiders in Northfleet Garage, October 2004, including 1809 and 1810.
Green Traveller 1801 passes Swanley Garage on the G2 to West Kingsdown in June 2002
Their service history has been complex, with several of them moving backwards and forwards between various parts of Arriva Southern Counties as the need arises, particularly between Arriva Kent Thameside, Arriva Kent & Sussex and Arriva Medway Towns. They have gradually donned Arriva turquoise and champagne livery, with the exception of 1801, which was repainted in a dark green livery for the "Green Traveller" promotion in March 2000. This lasted until February 2004, when 1801 was given the blue and cream treatment, before departing northwards in June.

London & Country / Londonlinks / Kentish Bus: 440-453, 472

1451 at Dunton Green, February 1998 London & Country was never a great user of MetroRiders. They bought a batch of fourteen long wide ones in October 1994 for the 407 (Croydon - Caterham), but the route, plus the MetroRiders, was handed over to Londonlinks in January 1995.

Most went to Kentish Bus when Londonlinks was redivided, although 1440-3 returned to London & Country. These four technically became "red" buses when Arriva Croydon & North Surrey broke up, as they joined Arriva London South along with Beddington Farm depot. The Kentish Bus examples gained yellow/green livery, followed by the anaemic Arriva National turquoise/cream.

With the exception of 1453 they have all gravitated to Arriva Kent & Sussex, those from Croydon going to Gillingham and those from Thameside to Tunbridge Wells.

1451 was in Kentish Bus livery in February 1998 when Dunton Green closed.
It is seen ready to depart for Tunbridge Wells garage where it will continue to
operate the Sevenoaks routes. Photo by Ian Smith. Click for a larger version.
Optare MRL drawing: Kentish Bus Optare MRL drawing: Arriva KT

Capital Citybus / First Capital 621-630

Capital Citybus received ten 8.4m narrow MetroRiders in March 1992 ready for an April start on route 236 (Finsbury Park Stn - Hackney Wick). They also made appearances on Capital's other midibus routes, normally operated with MB811s, such as the W6 (Lower Edmonton - Southgate). They were painted in Capital's overall yellow with red relief, and operated from Northumberland Park.

The takeover by First Group presaged their gradual repainting into red with yellow relief. In time they took over the W6 from the Mercedes.

In March 2001 their work on the W6 was taken over by new low-floor Darts. Three were transferred to First Manchester, but seven were retained as spares initially.

Two went to Ponders End as spares for the DWs on route 462, but this was a brief respite, as Ponders End closed in June 2001. Three more MetroRiders headed for Manchester.

The remaining MetroRiders were also to see service on the 395 from April 2001, when First Capital took over the Rotherhithe Tunnel route from Stagecoach East London, which therefore went back to MetroRider operation after a spell with StarRiders. But this duty only lasted until April 2002, when three Koch-bodied Mercedes-Benz Sprinters arrived for the tunnel route.

Optare MRL drawing: Capital Citybus Optare MRL drawing: First Capital

R&I / MTL London / Metroline OM243-4, OM279, MRL233-4

Optare OM drawing: R&I R&I Coaches bought three MetroRiders in 1995 for the Hampstead Hoppa services, H1, H2 and H3 choosing the new intermediate 7.7m (25ft 8in) length: with the bay behind the emergency exit missing. They were initially in red, grey and blue livery, transforming to red with MTL flashes under MTL London ownership and plain red with Metroline. OM279 was subsequently given a blue skirt on repaint.
They worked from North Acton until all that base's vehicles were transferred to Harlesden in October 2000.

MRL233-4 were ordinary 8.4m long MetroRiders, but to the 1997 specification, bought by MTL London to supplement the Potters Bar MRLs on the W6 when the tender requirement increased. When the main batch of MetroRiders were displaced by new low-floor Darts in May 2001 these two were not sold, but transferred to Harlesden to act as spares to the OMs, despite their extra length. They in turn displaced two second-hand MRLs that had been acting as spares.

Lucketts / Arriva The Shires 2102-4

Lucketts of Watford bought a MetroRider in August 1995, followed by two more in September 1996. All three were given cherished registrations: L600 BUS, L700 BUS and L800 BUS.

They passed to The Shires with Lucketts in January 1997. They continued at Watford as the company rebranded as Arriva The Shires.

Another of Arriva's shake-ups in January 2002 saw all three moved to Arriva Southern Counties at Grays, where they did staff bus and some public duties. 2103 returned to Garston in February, while 2102 and 2104 moved on acrooss the Thames to Dartford, where they were renumbered into the Southern Counties MetroRider scheme as 1850-1851.

Metrobus 901-906, plus others

Metrobus of Orpington encountered MetroRiders when they took over operation of the 138 (Catford Bridge - Coney Hall) in December 1995. This route had seen Metroriders ever since its northwards extension from Bromley through the narrow, car-clogged roads of the old L.C.C. Estates of Downham and Bellingham, which required buses only 2.25m wide. Now the green/green/red of Londonlinks gave way to the blue/yellow of Metrobus as Kentish Bus was unable to continue the contract. With the changeover came Kentish Bus 963-968, 971-2.

Optare MRL drawing: Metrobus January 1996 saw the arrival of Metrobus' own MetroRiders for the 138, six new long narrow versions, based at Green Street Green.

The ex-Kentish Bus acquisitions found new work on the 284 (Lewisham - Grove Park Cemetery) and 181 (Lewisham - Downham), taken over from Kentish Bus in January 1996. Metrobus did not keep them long, disposing of most of them during in autumn 1996 to Reading Buses or Guernseybus, when new Optare Excels on the 358 cascaded Darts for use on the 284 and 181.

East Surrey was taken over in June 1997, bringing in three Optare MetroRiders that later became 911, 917, 918 when renumbered. 911, 917 also went to Guernseybus in March 2000.
Seven more secondhand MetroRiders arrived towards the end of 1997 and in January 1998 this time coming from Stagecoach Selkent. Some were put to work on the 138, temporarily, from February to June while the new ones in Metrobus livery were helping out on the C1 (Victoria Stn - Kensington High St.). This had been given up by London General, and until June was worked jointly by Stagecoach Selkent and Metrobus. Others went to support the work in Metrobus East Surrey territory. Two were sold to Guernseybus in January 1998. The remainder became 912-916 when numbered into the new Metrobus numbering. 913-5 were sold to Guerseybus in March 2000, while 912 went to Southlands Travel.

901-910 continued on the 138, although the monster loads that they carried began to take their toll. During 2001 narrow Darts began to appear on the 138. Once it was established that this type could negotiate the route despite their 9.0m length they took over, and the MetroRiders went into store.

Metrobus 904 at Catford Bridge on 138 Metrobus 904 at Catford Bridge on 138

Metrobus MetroRider 904 at Catford Bridge on the 138, on a grim late October day in 2000.

Limebourne / Tillingbourne 2201-2206

Optare MRL drawing: Limebourne Limebourne was a bus operation set up by Q-Drive set up after that company had sold its London Buslines and Berks Bucks Bus Co. to Centrewest in March 1996. It had won the tender for the Central London C10 route (Elephant & Castle - Victoria), starting in May 1996. The company leased six new Optare Metroriders for the operation, based on Battersea. They were in red, with a biscuit-coloured skirt and green "jam-labels" almost bearing the fleetname in white. C10 route-branding was also carried, with a yellow route strip dotted with via- and end-points.

The company went into receivership suddenly in the autumn of 1998, and although operations continued under new management the MetroRiders had already been re-possessed. They were acquired by Tillingbourne for their Surrey operations, but those too ran into trouble in the spring of 2001 and after Tillingbourne's demise the batch made their way to Shamrock of Abercynon.


Tillingbourne expanded during 1997 as Arriva contracted their Surrey operations. They acquired four new Metroriders (R501-504VOR) in the second half of 1997 and another three (R505-507WRV) in early 1998. Most were given TIL Northern Ireland registrations. Another two were bought secondhand in summer 2000.

Bur Surrey continued to be difficult country in which to operate buses, and Tillingbourne had difficulties holding that which Arriva had surrendered. In spring 2001 the company folded, and leasing companies took back the buses that they owned. Some went on to Shamrock at Abercynon, others to Strathtay Scottish.

Southlands Travel, Swanley

Southlands Travel had a succession of MetroRiders for bus operations from Swanley. The latest, erstwhile MRL152, was sign-written for its dedicated job on the 427 (Swanley-West Kingsdown).

Southlands' MRL152 on the 427 at Swanley, June 2004. ex-Southlands MetroRider on Berwald's service

MRL152 was working on the 427 for Southlands in Swanley one Saturday in June 2004 when its motor cut out at a roundabout , and the starter-motor refused to restart it. Embarassing!
Ex-Southlands L192DDW was working on Berwald's service connecting Victoria Rail and Coach Stations the previous day.

Red Route, Gravesend

Red Route Buses has developed a tendered operation in the Gravesend area, using mainly multi-hand MetroRiders and ex-Go Northern Nationals. They operate several of the routes once operated by London Transport's GS class.

Red Route 613 at Longfield Stn on 423 Red Route 613 at Longfield Stn on 423 Red Route 613 at Longfield Stn on 489

Above:Red Route 613 passes Longfield Stn on a Sunday in March 2005 on the 423 to New Ash Green, returning as a 489 to Gravesend.
Below: 778 at Longfield, also on the 489, and 582 on the K14 to Bluewater.
Red Route 778 at Longfield Stn on 489 Red Route 778 at Longfield Stn on 489 Red Route 613 at Longfield Stn on K14

Other operators

Just as larger operators found the MetroRider useful for estate penetration and for use where physical constraints prevented the use of larger, longer or lower vehicles, so small independents found them useful for niche workings.

Wider London operators included Town & Country, Purfleet and White Rose, Thorpe, both of whom used secondhand MetroRiders acquired from Heathrow car-park operator APCOA. Red Rose of Aylesbury also had a selection, including at least one secondhand from London.

Red MCWs. Other MCWs. Red Optare MetroRiders. Other Optares. SRs.

Ian's Bus Stop Midibus Index. MRL histories. MR/L photos.