Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,
This page created 22nd February 2002, updated 19th March 2002.
The Optare StarRider was not London Buses' first large minibus,
but it was a substantial class, and relatively long-lived.
The first entered service in July 1988,
and the last bowed out thirteen years later in July 2001.
Construction: The StarRider was based on the Mercedes MB811D van chassis,
stretched to a 4.8m wheelbase, allowing a 8.4m body.
The driver was positioned above and behind the front offside wheel and engine.
The entrance, wide for London, was behind the front nearside wheel.
London chose to have 26 seats with a standing space for 10.
At the start they were fitted with coil spring suspension.
Beginnings: Catford, SR1-4
A demonstrator (E95 RWR) had visited Orpington for a few days in February 1988,
and then London Buses bought four to use on new route L3 connecting Downham and Catford via back-roads.
The first, SR1, arrived in July 1988 and was used for training and publicity.
It was named StarRider 1.
Livery was standard red, but with cat logos on both sides
reflecting the image generated for the new Catford Market.
The others arrived for training before the service started,
SR4 sporting a dot-matrix indicator on the front.
They all had long narrow route advertising frames along the edges of the roof.
They went to work in November 1988.
Peckham Hoppas, SR5-28
Peckham's Hoppa scheme came through London Central District's winning three of the four local tenders
for the group (Kentish Bus won the P14). P11 and P12 replaced local sections of the 70 and 70A,
while the P13 was a new territory venture to serve a new estate.
P11: Waterloo Station - Peckham Garage
P12: Peckham Garage - Nunhead - Brockley Loop
P13: Peckham Garage - Pepys Estate, Deptford
Peckham's two dozen Hoppas were so branded, but had no roof-side boards.
The next three (SR29-31) were dispersed, SR29 to New Cross and the other two to Walthamstow.
But February 1989 saw a clutch of new StarRiders (SR32-41) go to the minibus base at Victoria (Victoria Basement)
to join other minibuses on West End minibus routes such as C3: Earls Court - Chelsea Harbour.
Walthamstow, SR41-43, SR49-53
In May 1989 Walthamstow acquired SR42-3 and SR 49-53, joined in June by SR41.
These were used on Essex County Council routes, including the 211 (Waltham Cross- Breach Barns).
New Cross, SR44-48
New Cross received the missing bunch for the July 1989 start on the 284.
Bexleybus 108-113, alias SR54-59
Six StarRiders went to Bexleybus, dressed in blue and cream,
in July 1989 for the B16 (Ferrier Estate - Bexleyheath), cut from the 160.
The buses were SR54-59, which were renumbered as Bexleybus 108-113.
The rest of the 160 (Catford, St Dunstans College - Eltham, Southend Crescent)
also received StarRiders, but this time from Selkent District at Catford.
SR60 had been on loan to Orpington Buses during June, but joined SR61-81 for the July debut.
The StarRiders were not big enough for the school runs,
so a Titan was used each day for the school journey and given the route-number 160S.
There was also the 225 (Rotherhithe - Lewisham) and the 273 (Lewisham - Horns Park Estate).
Harrow Buses, SR82-105
The Harrow Buses green-field midibus unit at North Wembley
took two dozen StarRiders for September 1989, replacing Metroriders on the H11-H15 group of Harrow routes:
H11 (Northwood Station - Northwick Park Hospital)
H12 (South Harrow Station - Stanmore Station)
H13 (Ruislip Lido - Northwood Hills)
H14 (Northwick Park Hospital- Hatch End)
H15 (Northwick Park Hospital- Harrow Weald)
Victoria Basement, SR106-121
In November 1989 Victoria Basement took most of the remainder of the order,
the sixteen StarRiders displacing smaller Optare CityPacers.
SR10 was badly fire-damaged in January 1990 - so much that it was eventually disposed of into a skip.
SR122 and SR 123, the last two, arrived at about the same time.
In February 1990 Bow took on route S2 (Lee Valley Ice Centre/Clapton - Stratford),
using seven StarRiders (SR31, 41-43, 49, 52-3) transfered from Walthamstow.
The Bow StarRiders did not stay there long. In November 1990 they moved en bloc to Camberwell
for the Camberwell Clipper, the P5 (Brixton - Elephant & Castle),
receiving appropriate branding.
The Harrow Buses low-cost unit lost badly in the new tender round.
The unit closed in January 1991, costing 130 jobs.
It seemed that quality as well as cost mattered.
Metroline took over some of the Harrow routes, but using more civilised DT Darts.
The StarRiders moved on, some going to Edgware and Potters Bar for the Barnet re-organisation,
and some to Catford.
February 1991 saw a major reorganisation of buses to the north of London.
Metroline began to use StarRiders from Edgware on the 143
(Brent Cross / Hendon Central - Archway Station),
wearing Skipper branding.
London Northern, using the Midilink brand, started two new midibus routes,
including 326 (Hendon Central / Brent Cross - New Barnet / Potters Bar),
serviced by Potters Bar.
Other changes in 1991 saw StarRiders spending time at Norwood (N), Chalk Farm (CF) and Stratford (SD).
In January 1992 Metroline started the 303 (Edgware Station - Colindale ASDA), sometimes using SRs from Edgware.
From July 1992 StarRiders from Victoria (GB) began to be used on Red Arrow routes at weekends,
when normal use of the Red Arrow base at Waterloo was prohibited.
Cricklewood gained a few StarRiders during the second half of 1993, from Victoria and Potters Bar.
Bromley was another recipient of StarRiders in mid-1993, using them on the 396 (Eltham - Bromley)
One of the worst features of the bread-van generation of buses was the lively suspension,
occasioned by the use of rear coil springs, that caused a fairly uncomfortable ride,
especially when full of standing passengers.
Experiments with rear air suspension proved succesful, and during 1994 many StarRiders were so fitted,
including SR 1-9, 12-13, 15, 17-18, 20, 32-35, 39-40, 46, 50, 55-61, 65-68, 71, 81-107, 119.
Bromley's SRs had their fuel tanks altered to nearside filling to suit the Bromley fuelling point.
More Tendering changes
January 1994 saw the loss of route C2 by London General at Victoria Basement,
and its gain by London Northern at Holloway.
Twenty-five SRs made the move too, acquiring London Northern transfers.
In February it was Selkent's turn to lose at the tendering gain,
when many of its routes were lost to Kentish Bus with new Northern-Counties bodied Darts.
Some Catford StarRiders went to East London at Upton Park to replace RBs.
The Greenford midibus base also received three SRs in February, but did not use them,
replacing them by MAs in March. Two of them moved to Cricklewood, the other to Fulwell.
But Cricklewood had its own problems,
and in February despatched all its StarRiders to Edgware.
In March Camberwell gained eleven SRs, almost all from Catford.
The buses that had moved to Holloway with the C2 were not there long.
The tender had specified new Darts, in this case DNLs with Northern Counties bodies.
The StarRiders were displaced in June 1994,
making their way to Enfield for a September start on the 192:
(Enfield - Lea Valley Tesco).
Dedicated Railway Replacement Work
The new fashion in railway maintenance work was to close lines for several months while the engineers fiddled around
and then tested everything. No more putting a wooden cross on the signal to show it wasn't working,
and using hand-signalling. No more Clapham disasters caused by resignalling short-circuits.
So the market for dedicated rail replacement buses improved greatly.
One line affected by a long-term closure was the East London Tube line, from March 1995.
There were several replacement bus services, but one was provided by nineteen StarRiders,
which were the largest buses allowed through the Rotherhithe Tunnel.
Stagecoach East London repainted them in orange and white livery.
The contract lasted until 1998, when Stagecoach sold most of its StarRiders.
A section of the North London Line was closed for seven months during 1995
for works relating to making the line suitable for North of London Eurostar trains
(that never operated, but that's a different story -
the line IS used for returning GNER's Eurostars to North Pole).
Anyway, replacement bus services were provided by Metroline,
with some StarRiders in dedicated North London Railways livery.
As the nineties progressed so customer expectations on small-bus routes changed,
and the minibuses largely gave way to Dennis Darts of various sizes.
The low-floor revolution eventually put paid to any new tenders
involving these midibuses with their two-step entrances,
as well as many of the first generation Darts that had supplanted them.
They began to disappear to the provinces, either by big-group transfer or by sale.
The East London Line contract kept many going with Stagecoach,
as did the P14 (Surrey Quays - Isle of Dogs) via the narrow Rotherhithe Tunnel,
latterly the 395 until retendered to First Capital in April 2001.
Leaside used them on the 192 until new LDR Darts arrived,
and London Central used them on Peckham's P13 (Surrey Docks-Peckham).
Crystals bought a pair in 1988 for use on the 146 (Bromley North - Downe),
one an ex-demonstrator. Livery was white with dark blue skirt and powder-blue flashes.
Welwyn-Hatfield Line also bought a pair new in 1988, mainly for their X10 service.
They wore pale gold (or coffee) livery, with, rather strangely, CityPacer markings!
Buzz Co-operative, a Harlow company set up by former LCNE employees operated mainly Mercedes minibuses,
but bought two Optare demondtrators for use where greater capacity was needed.
The buses had a yellow, white and gold livery, with a cheerfully busy bee motif.
East Surreyhad several dual-purpose StarRiders, in orange/cream livery
Metrobus acquired four StarRiders in 1997, two secondhand buses from London Central,
and two dual purpose vehicles with the takeover of East Surrey.
The last of them was sold in May 2000.
Other London Area operators had StarRiders at some stage, but I have not tracked them all down yet.
Operators included Lucketts, Capital Citybus, Tellings Golden Miller, Cruisers of Redhill and
The last route to be inaugurated with London StarRiders was the 584 (Lewisham - Catford).
This arose when the 284 was retendered. Metrobus had used 2.25m wide Darts on the 284 (Lewisham - Grove Park Cemetery),
but Stagecoach's replacement SLD low-floored Darts were only available in the wide version
- which wouldn't fit through the width barriers on the back-street route between Catford and Lewisham.
So until the situation could be resolved Catford borrowed a StarRider or two from Stratford
for the short-term 584 over the offending section of route,
while the wide-boys took the main road. One of the buses was SR1: the Cat was back where it started.
But it couldn't last. Stagecoach found some narrow Darts off the 124,
and the StarRiders moved on, the last being sold by Stagecoach in July 2001.
Stagecoach overall red suited the StarRider well.
Here are two of Matt Wharmby's photos of the last days, with SR1 on the 584 and SR106 on the 395 in March 2001.
Ian's Bus Stop
SR main text.