RATP's Real Play

On Saturday 11th November London United RATP took over trunk route 18 from Metroline, and on the Friday night beforehand, RATP ran the associated night route N18.

Both routes had been run by Metroline West from Willesden Junction, since the split up of First London. Metroline inherited 50-odd Volvo Gemini 2s (VW1841-1894); vehicles which First London leased to replace the bendy buses on the route in 2010. Most of these buses have since returned to the leasing company.

The VWs on the 18 survive from First London days, and were ordered to replace the bendy buses on the route.
VW1879 waits time at Euston.
© Tommy Cooling
The 18 occasionally saw some of the 295s buses, shown by VWH2132 at Warren Street on a short working to Harlesden.
© Tommy Cooling

Metroline West VW1894 on Route 18, Euston
VW1894 shows the state of the buses on the last days on Route 18, repainted to red, prepared to return off-lease.
(© Aubrey)

To cope with the loss of the N16 operation at Harrow Weald, part of the H18 allocation was drafted in as a replacement, and VWH2218 demonstrates this here with the last N18 bus at Harrow Bus Station.
© Tommy Cooling

London United's operation of the route began in the very late hours of Friday 10th with the night bus service, N18.

First RATP N18
On a wet Saturday morning, the first bus, VH45219 arrived from Harrow Weald at Trafalgar Square. This is one of the new buses for the contract gain.
(© Aubrey)

The first departures from Trafalgar Square were to Sudbury, as timetabled. The night route started off with no qualms, with buses running roughly as scheduled. Most drivers were still in their Metroline uniforms, as expected with transferred drivers.

London United VH45242 on Route N18, Oxford Circus
At a drenched Oxford Circus, VH45242 is seen at Oxford Circus enroute to Harrow Weald.
(© Aubrey)

However, as the night drew on, bunching started to happen, which was not too dissimilar to the nights under Metroline West. Most of this bunching was however due to road closures in the Central London area, thus many buses were stuck at the southern end of the route.

N18 to Harrow
VH45227 at Oxford Circus is curtailed to Harrow after a fairly lengthy gap between buses.
(© Aubrey)

Most of the route runs to Sudbury, and only buses every 30 minutes run to Harrow Weald. It is a fairly busy night route, as it is the only Central London-Wembley night bus route, and does not parallel a night tube line throughout.

VH45240 on the N18 night service in Harrow, showing off the new Harrow Weald, Bus Garage display.
© Tommy Cooling

18/N18 runs from London United's new Atlas Road garage (RP), the same site that Tower Transit held until just before they lost the 266 to Metroline. A 10 year lease was signed for the site. All other routes formerly at Park Royal (PK), as well as the night 220 service moved into the new site around the corner at Atlas Road. It is not yet known whether RATP will keep the smaller, existing Park Royal garage site.

VH45241 demonstrates the new RATP chapter for Route 18 at Euston Station.
© Tommy Cooling
London United VH45216 on Route 18, Great Portland Street
VH45216 on the first day of Route 18 with London United at Great Portland Street.
(© Aubrey)

The majority of the 18 route uses new 67-reg B5LH Gemini3s (VH45216-VH45251), with a top-up of a few older 65, 16 and 66-regs of the same model from various RATP garages. At the time of writing, a few spare E400 ADEs were used to cover the late arrival of some of the new VHs.

A-Team || RATP London United: VH45157 | LJ65FZO || ADE40412 | YX12FNT || 18: Euston - Sudbury
VH45157, from London Sovereign's Edgware Garage passes ADE40412 from London United's Hounslow Garage at Sudbury & Harrow Road Station, the northern terminus of the 18.
(© Alisha)

The ADEs are from Hounslow (mainly), and are being used temporarily, albeit very few are actually used on the route daily. These buses were made free from the loss of the 120 and 222 to Metroline, ironically. These buses will later form the bulk of the 142 and 642 allocation when they move to Edgware (BT) in January from Arriva London North.

VH45159 (65-reg) was brought into Atlas Road for the 18 from London Sovereign's Edgware Garage.
© Tommy Cooling

VHs from the 65-reg batches are usually from the batch used to initially top up the 13 (and thus 139) at Edgware (BT), and these form part of the permanent allocation. VH45153-VH45162 and VH45184 (16-reg) are the ones that have transferred from Edgware.

London United VH45162 on Route 18, Euston
VH45162 (16 reg) was brought in from the 85 allocation at Tolworth, and forms part of the permanent allocation.
(© Aubrey)

VH45162 is the sole member of the 85 allocation to move to RP. Other 16 reg buses include VH45185 and VH45186 transferred from Fulwell's extra allocation for the 65.

London United VH45202 on Route N18, Oxford Circus
VH45202 is one of two Shepherd's Bush VHs to move to Atlas Road, with this bus seen at Oxford Circus. The other bus transferred was VH45201.
(© Aubrey)

Brand new - RATP London United VH45241/BF67GMV | Route 18 | Euston
VH45241 is seen at Euston at the end of a journey from Sudbury, which I had travelled on.
(© Omar)

I (Omar) sampled them on the first day of service. Compared to the B9TLs that ran the route previously, they’re a bit more cramped at the lower deck rear, although that’s due to the bodywork and chassis combination. The ride itself was largely rattle-free and ticked all the boxes for me. Fast, smooth and comfortable. The 18 was on diversion on the day as well via Wembley Hill Road, currently served only by the 483. The VH I had(45241/BF67GMV) effortlessly tackled its steep incline, a quality that Volvo haven’t let go of just yet. It’s the first time I’ve had a B5LH on a hill that steep, and it certainly warrants merit. The result of that: Sudbury - Euston in 53 minutes in the morning. Not a bad way to kick it off!

18 United
The first day was not without hitch however, with some gaps appearing throughout the day. Along with the diversion, bedding in of the route with new contract and operator, as well as the sheer frequency of the 18 in any case, bunching was inevitable, as seen here with VH45161 and VH45241 at Warren Street.
(© Aubrey)

The transfer of the N18 to London United meant that Harrow Weald Garage would be over capacity again at night. Therefore, the Edgware allocation of the N98 (similar amount of work as Harrow Weald's N18 allocation) was given to Harrow Weald to "solve" the overcrowding. The N98 is Harrow Weald's third Central London night route is two years, having had the N16, then N18 and now N98.

Metroline VWH2209 on Route N98, Oxford Circus
Displaying Holborn RED LION SQUARE, a destination that the N98 within a year may not serve, VWH2209 drives past Oxford Circus on the first night of Harrow Weald operation on the N98.
(© Aubrey)

As this is the largest day route that London United has ever operated with a PVR of 44 during weekdays, this will be their largest operation challenge to date. The 18 is one of the most frequent bus routes in London, with buses every 3-4 minutes during the peaks. The buses seem to handle the route well, and overall, this is a big positive move for RATP London.

Also a positive move is the introduction of our newest member of the blog, Alisha Juszczyk:

*RARE* Go-Ahead London Blue Triangle: DMN4 | LN51DWO || W19: Walthamstow Argall Avenue - Ilford
DMN4, rare on Route W19, back in July 2016 at Leytonstone Station
(© Alisha)

Well helloes. I'm Alisha, the Random Buses Girl. This nickname comes from the fact I started off in this hobby by getting on board of random buses that turned up, regardless where they were going. Officially this was back in 2014, but I always had an inner bus enthusiast in me, first coming to light when I used to take the long way home from school on 308's epic Marshall Capitals.
Today the London bus scene is major part of my life, having done all routes end-to-end. Currently you got me roaming around the city, doing whatever my heart desires, or what I'm reputable for - catching rare workings. Favourite ones got to be double decker on single deck routes, the views are where it's at!
I am also (slowly) getting into trains and trying to expand my horizons outside London. Grateful to join this blog, start of another epic journey methinks!

Post by Alisha, Aubrey, Tommy and Omar.
All rights reserved © WLTMTB 2017

Please do not reproduce any images without prior permission



The last daytime daily London United TA allocated bus route now no longer has its TAs. After the 131 moved from London United to Go-Ahead London General, there are no "officially" allocated London United bus routes which are allocated Tridents.

London General WVN41 on Route 131, Raynes Park
WVN41 shows the new order of the 131, with existing Volvo B9TLs from the loss of the 259. And a usual curtailment.
(© Aubrey)

Prior to the introduction of Go-Ahead London to Route 131, London United had operated the route for 15 years with Tridents from Tolworth or Fulwell Garage.

TA40214 shows the oldest of the old order at Tooting Broadway, as part of the initial batch to convert the 131 to low-floor.
(© Patrick)

The route was initially tendered in 1987 to London Country South West, but in 1990, the route was retendered to Westlink. Since London United bought out Westlink, the route had been with London United until 29th September 2017. The order towards the end was a motley collection of Tridents, as well as the newer buses that were also in Tolworth.

TA40320 is a newer Trident, from the last 2003 batch of buses. Most of this batch had never been touched internally, and thus had not had a refurbishment throughout its 14 year career in London.
(© Patrick)

Some of the Tridents that I (Patrick) travelled on were over 15 years old, with out-dated interiors that brought back many childhood memories. Whilst many required an overhaul, London United maintained them fairly well over their lifetime, proving them to be fairly robust nearly two decades on. Some TA’s were altered upon refurbishment with added air vents on the front, while many retained their original shape.

London United TLA3 (TLA40323) on Route 131, Kingston Fairfield
Tridents which did not come from Fulwell initially ended up on the 131 towards the end, with TLA40323 initially from Route 94.
(© Aubrey)

From 2000 to 2003, the order for London United deckers were Tridents, excluding the trial Volvo B7TL/Wright Eclipse Geminis that ended up at Fulwell for the 267. For most of South-West London, the Trident has been the usual bus for double decker routes for London United. It practically ended up like some of the things that seemed to have never changed in the outlook for the childhood of some enthusiasts, including myself (Aubrey). However, times change, and these buses have reached the end of their London lives. It may not be the complete farewell of London United's Tridents just yet, but all other full time day bus routes of London United are allocated other buses on paper at least.

London United SP40108 on Route 131, Wimbledon
SP40108 on the last night of London United operation, seen at Wimbledon.
(© Aubrey)

London United VH45176 on Route 131, Raynes Park Station
Some hybrids from the 85 also ran on the 131 during the last year of London United operation, VH45176 being one at Raynes Park.
(© Aubrey)

From 30th September, the 131 went to Go-Ahead London. Displays were not as ready as the buses, shalt we say...

Double Display
Well, initially all seems well here. However, hybrid WHV23 at Fairfield, Kingston shows a second paper 131 display in full A3, Calibri font.
(© Aubrey)

Although this was with some of the buses, there were some worse instances captured by other enthusiasts, which they've allowed with their permission to be on the post:

Go Ahead London General WVN36 (BG59FXC) on Route 131 displaying Shannon Corner
WVN36 displaying 131 to Shannon Corner. Although this seems normal, this is actually a stuck blind, as the 131 is at Tooting Broadway having just come from Kingston, with a yellow paper display confirming the route and destination on the dashboard.
(© Hassaan Chaudhry)

But this was not the worst instance. On the first day, a few of the buses were having similar issues to WVN36. However, the most notable first day sighting is of a WVL with 649 to Campion School, with a 131 blind fitted on top of the number display, with destination on the dashboard. It was however just a few days later, that nothing informative within the blindbox was found on a 131 working:

*RARE* Go-Ahead London: WVL246 | LX06EAJ || 131: Kingston - Tooting Broadway
WVL246, albeit on an unallocated route, shows the full temporary display galore, with two route numbers and a destination. This bus is normally found on 44, 270, 280 and 163.
(© Alisha Juszczyk)

Even though there were some display difficulties, the first day presentation for some buses were decent.

Not First
These two buses were ex-First London, bought by Go-Ahead London when they bought out Northumberland Park and Dagenham respectively. What used to be VN37878 and DMV44278 is now WVN45 and SEN37. Both at Merton Garage and having been refurbished after being reassigned from route losses (259 and 368, respectively).
(© Aubrey)

The route has returned to Merton Garage after 30 years, when it was ran out of Merton (AL) partly on Sundays. First weekday allocation at Merton for 37 years. Now back on a garage on line of route, it goes to the same operator as the other Kingston-Tooting bus route, the 57, having transferred in 2016 to Merton. Although through most of its life, the 131 has been based in the western end of the route. It is allocated ex-First WVN Volvo B9TLs, as well as native Volvo B9TLs.

London General WVL483 on Route 131, Kingston Cromwell Road
Also allocated are some native Volvo B9TLs, with WVL483 seen here in Kingston Cromwell Road
(© Aubrey)

London General E226 on Route 131, Wimbledon
Freshly transferred from Stockwell was E226, running fully blinded on the 131 on the first day. The only ADL bus out of a sea of Volvo/Wright on the first day.
(© Aubrey)

The first day was full of curtailments, including Raynes Park, Shannon Corner, Wimbledon, New Malden (as seen above), Colliers Wood and Merton Garage. Thus, the whole set of curtailments seen in one day. Gaps of about 0-20 minutes were observed, and bunchings of up to 5 buses in Wimbledon were found on the first day. Notable amounts of traffic did not help the first day.

Finally, out of sheer coincidence, two buses ordered for bendy bus conversion for the 453 (E188) and 436 (E226) are now finding themselves in suburban London in the same place. E188 is now a Sutton bus, whilst E226 is a Merton bus, seen on the 213 and 131 respectively.
(© Aubrey)

Other than the messy start, Go-Ahead London has not seen any major issues in the running of the 131 since then. It has been quite a turn of tenders in the past few years in the South-West, with 57, 131 all going to Go-Ahead, whilst London United regained the 85. The use of existing buses surely helped the bid for GAL for both the 57 and 131 in bus procurement cost.

Text by Aubrey and Patrick
Photos by Aubrey, Patrick, Hassaan Chaudhry and Alisha Juszczyk.

All rights reserved © WLTMTB 2017


Picture Archive Post 64

Stagecoach London 17575 on Route 230, Wood Green, 05/04/2013
Stagecoach London 17575 on Route 230, Wood Green, 05/04/2013 (© Aubrey)

Ordered for Routes 54 and 160 at Catford Garage, initially noted as TAS575, this Trident plyed routes from Catford (TL) Garage for Stagecoach Selkent. Under the national renumbering scheme, this bus became 17575s, albeit the s was dropped later on in life. When Stagecoach sold their London bus operations in June 2006, the bus initially stayed at Catford. Under Macquarie Bank ownership (East London Bus Group, Selkent), the bus went to all-red from Stagecoach swirls. When the 54 and 75 was lost to Metrobus, this bus initially moved on loan to Metrobus for two months from April 2009. This was due to their Scania N230UD/East Lancs Olympus buses being late. Only one month after returning back to Catford (TL), the bus moved to Leyton Garage (T) and thus became part of the East London sector. Thus, this bus ran routes such as the 48, 55, 56, 69, 97, 230 (as shown) and 257. In October 2010, ELBG fell back into the hands of Stagecoach, as they bought back the sector for a profit, showing that an investment bank can't run a bus operator. Its last day of London service was 9th July 2014 on the 55.
After London, the bus moved to Stagecoach Scotland West for the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow. In August 2014, it moved briefly to Stagecoach Manchester's reserve fleet before moving onto rail replacement on Merseyside as Merseyrail Replacement when Hamilton Square station closed. This bus was then converted to open top in 2015 and entered service as a sightseeing vehicle for Stratford-upon-Avon (Stagecoach Midlands), where it is today.

(Current) Route 230 started out as a Monday-Friday route from Leyton Garage (T) between Stratford and Manor House with Routemasters (RMs). From 1977, the route became OPO with Leyland Nationals. From 1981, the route became Finsbury Park-Whipps Cross, before only extended a year later to Leytonstone. June 1987 saw Leyland Titans re-deckering the route, with the route being diverted at Seven Sisters to Wood Green. Under sectorisation, the route initially went with Leyton Garage to London Forest. However, this sector was ill-fated, as due to a low-ball tender on Walthamstow routes in March 1991, wage cuts were proposed thus drivers went on strike. London Forest later lost the routes anyway, LBSL (later TfL) would never tender routes as a area-based package ever again and the route (along with Leyton Garage) moved to East London in November 1991. In June 1996, the route was rerouted to its present state, diverted at Whipps Cross to run to Upper Walthamstow. The route was also single-decked again, with Darts (Alexander PS, and later Alexander ALX200/Dennis Dart SLF). Only in 2004, the route was re-converted to double decker using Tridents after trees at Upper Walthamstow were sorted. As the Upper Walthamstow section was hail & ride, the route became one of the few double decker operated hail and ride sections in the TfL area. Then, albeit overshadowed by the other changes that happened on that day, 22nd June 2013 saw the route move to Arriva London North from Tottenham (AR), with new VDL DB300/Wright Pulsar Gemini 2s, which is the current state today.