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London United's new Decker...

As many will know, in late October a strange thing appeared at London United's Hounslow Garage in west London, however upon confirmation, that strange thing turned out to be an MCV bodied Volvo B9TL, probably the rarest bus body you can find in Britain today with only two examples in service.

The MCV bodied Volvo B9TL, dubbed 'D130RLE' is a double deck bus design that was first exhibited by Comfort Delgro Engineering work in Singapore in year of 2005, the body although dubbed 'comfort delgro engineering body work B9TL' is actually supplied by MCV and if you do a bit of research yourself into what the body looks like, you will notices major similarities between the two. Effectively the D103 is just a derivative of the body introduced in 2002.

As I'm sure you already know, the MCV D103RLE is a body that was introduced to England after export from Egypt in April 2010. The first body AE60 GRU was delivered to London General's Merton Garage on the 3rd of June 2010 for evaluation, however upon arrival, it was decided that the body was in fact too heavy and it did not match the TFL's specification criteria, so the bus left that same afternoon, before I could get a snap of it, I personally don't think its fair as I only arrived 24 hours late!

The body was promptly sent to MCV Ely, via Volvo Truck and Bus also in Ely  for conversion work as it would be officially unveiled at the Bus and Coach expo in November 2010. It was converted to single door, received Hanover LED displays and a high specification paint job which saw it sport Wessex Connect striking blue livery. The Bus entered service at their Gypsy patch lane depot, however after just merely a year in service it was de-roofed as it was crashed into a rail bridge. Many such as myself thought this would be the end of this beautiful vehicle as it had not yet entered production so a new roof could not be built. However good old Ensignbus came to it's rescue and it was salvaged and then converted to open top. It then entered service with Bath Bus company in Summer of 2012.

A second bus dubbed VM1 BJ11 XGZ was built to a whole type approval specification was delivered in May 2011 to Dockland's Buses Beckton garage in East London for appraisal of the Route 425, although it was commonly seen on the 474. The vehicle which I thankfully did get to photograph in my opinion was far superior to that of any E400 or the most upmarket  Gemini2, features such as lower deck level seating gave a clear and unrestricted view and air conditioning of both the upper and lower deck was a first for London Buses, so it made it that more appealing than any other bus I had sampled.

After the lengthy trials and no further news on any other orders for the vehicle, it seemed as if the vehicle's future was doomed which is why everyone's head turned when a new MCV B9TL BF62 UXU suddenly appeared at Hounslow Bus Garage one afternoon in October. The bus said to have arrived in the UK in late September, is on loan to London United for a six month trial where it will be evaluated for fuel readings and compatibility. During this six month trial it will also visit Shepherd's Bush and Stamford Brook Garages, however for now it will be rooted to the Route H32. Strangely it is also dubbed 'VM1' but has a few minor differences. The interior is built to London United's specification but samples the seat moquette used on London Sovereign's new E200s topped off with the bottom breaking Lazzerini seats.

Although this will probably be where the story ends...wait its not, as in November 2012 Golden Tours of London announced the first ever firm order for these buses, with 9 buses due in Early 2013, six of which will be open top. I along with other enthusiasts took to the news well and do look forward to seeing more of these things around London. Metroline were said to be looking at the vehicle, whether any firm orders are placed more than likely depends on the result of this trial by London United so I hope it goes well!

London United VM1 BF62 UXU 

Key Facts about the MCV D103RLE

  • Only three Buses have ever been built
  • Classed as a whole Volvo product with the body supplied by MCV
  • A deravative of the Comfort Delgro Engineering work B9TL introduced in 2005
  • Has a length of 10.3m
  • Air conditioning throughout the vehicle
  • Comfortably seats 63 passengers
  • First model imported into the UK in April 2010
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Latest Buses at the Trim...25th of November 2012

It's been a while since this one, however you could say the revival of the blog is still under way  With myself and Jack busy with University commitments as well as social commitments, its hard to get five minutes to yourself where you can sit down and just do you! However thanks to long term blog contributor Eddie, we can still bring you interesting pictures such as the Hant's Dorset Trim series which has been running for nearly two years.

Seen here at the Hant's Dorset Trim inn Eastleigh is GAL WVL202 LX05 EZU, which is now Northumberland Park (NP) bound after finishing its refurbishment. The batch is part of a handful of vehicles, that have just been released by Putney Garage after the delivery of Wright Gemini bodied Volvo B9TLs and Hybridg B5LHs for the Routes 14 and 22. This has allowed WVL202 and similar vehicles to be allocated to other routes within the GAL operation. The first batch have moved to Northumberland Park (NP) for the recently won route 257 which was formerly run by Stagecoach. The second batch of vehicles which includes models similar to the above will move to Stockwell Garage (SW) for Route 87 which will allow the existing President bodied Volvo B7TLs, 'PVL's to you and me to be transferred to the Go Ahead London commercial fleet.

Arriva Shires 4529 LJ51 DFA
Former EC based Wright Cadet, DWL17 is seen here at the trim after completing a lengthy refurbishment journey that started in late September. The vehicle is part of a batch of vehicles that were formerly allocated to the route W15 before it was lost to First from their Lea Interchange garage. Surplus to requirements the vehicle was used on their route 444, before being sent here. It will transfer to Hemel Hempstead garage to take up duties on the routes there and help to dispose of older stock.
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All change Route 24...The homecoming

The evening of the 9th of November 2012 marked the day that Metroline regained the 24 from the hands of Go Ahead after a five year stint with the company which lasted from the 9th of November 2007 - 9th of November 2012. The story behind the 24 is an interesting one, for which  Metroline will be glad to be a part of again.

The history of the route as we know it dates back to 24 1910, however only from Hampstead Heath to Victoria  from Chalk Farm Garage with the aim of linking the south of the river Thames, to the north of the river. From 1912 the route was extended beyond Victoria Station to Pimlico Station, thus making it the oldest unchanged route in LBR history, it was operated by London General Omnibus Company.

From the 3rd of May 1950 the day time allocation was 29 SRTs, the Saturday allocation was reduced by just one vehicle (which is a far cry from what we are used to in modern times) and  the Sunday operation was reduced to 17.

On the 14th of May 1952, a second allocation was added to the route, in the location of Gillingham Street, Victoria, the allowed for swifter changeover times and it also served as a back up in case the services towards Victoria were disrupted. Following this new allocation, the PVR of the route was raised by 3 vehicles to 32.

Just over two years later on the 16th of October 1954, the allocation of the route was changed the popular RTL type. The allocation continued as this for a while, until the allocation was changed to the RTW type in 1958, to ultimately be replaced by short wheelbase AEC Routemasters in 1963.

Winning the FIFA World Cup in 1966 marked a momentous year for the United Kingdom and it also marked for an eventful one for the route 24 also. From the 12th of June 1966, Leyland Atlanteans were introduced on the route to operate alongside the Routemasters for comparison trials. The comparison trials lasted for a while, however they turned out to be fruitless and the Routemasters remained on the route for the time being.

From the 24th of January 1970, following an increase in capacity, the route was upgraded to RML operation, which is a long wheelbase version of the Routemaster and a further allocation at GM (Gillingham Street) was introduced for Saturday journeys.

Although this may sound a bit far fetched, you could argue that the route also played a key role into the production of the Leyland Titan. As in 1976 a pre-production Leyland Titan B15 prototype, dubbed 'Bus of the Tomorrow' entered service on the route, another sister vehicle NHG732P followed for trials on the route 3. The Bus was a result of a collaboration between London Transport and Leyland Motors to create a whole new generation of London bus. The trial was deemed a success unlike the Fleetline that went before it and 1125 models were promptly ordered.

Ten years after the initial trials, the route was converted to Leyland Titan operation, however this only lasted for two years, this came after the route operation was transferred to Grey Green who were a part of the Cowie Group on the 5th of November 1988 from their Stamford Hill base in North London. Thus making the route London Transport's first central London route to be operated by a private company. The vehicles ordered were some 26 Volvo Citybus B10Ms, finished in their distinctive grey, green and orange livery.

From the 25th of March 2000, the Grey Green buses on the 24 were repainted into Arriva London's red livery  to mark their absorption of Cowie Group. The buses featured very attractive cow horns that sat on either side of the bus, just below the first top deck window. Five months later, the allocation was moved to Tottenham Garage (AR) and newer Leyland Olympian class vehicles and new DLAs were introduced to operate alongside the existing Citybuses.

However Arriva's branded vehicles did not last on the route as on November 9th 2002, the route was awarded to Metroline Travel from their Holloway Garage. The chosen vehicles were 31 state of the art Volvo B7TLs with Plaxton President bodywork, with body numbers from VP317 - 347.. They featured civic esteban seats and sliver hub caps, which made them such lookers when they whizzed by in between their duties on the route. Following their takeover of the route, Metroline raised the PVR by three buses to make it 27.

Surprisingly mid contract in 2005, Metroline took on the delivery of the first ever Alexander Dennis E400s, with fleet numbers ranging from TE665 - 692. Although the Buses were ordered for the upgrade of Routes, 4, 186 and 271, Metroline chose to showcase them on their flagship route 24, thus allowing the release of 14 VPs, VP317 -330 to Harrow Weald (HD) to part convert the 140 to this type operation. The vehicles were painted with a lighter shade of blue skirt, due to to confusion over what shade of blue TFL wanted on their contracted services, which turned out to be misunderstanding. The vehicles had their skirts promptly repainted Metroline's standard shade of blue.

Again, a repeat of the 2002 tender announcement and Metroline respectively lost the route, this time to the hands of Go Ahead London from their Stockwell Garage on the 9th of November 2007. A lot enthusiasts were sceptical over the running the route from a garage south of the river for the first time, and reliability was an issue in the opening stages of the contract, as expected with most route changes. Go Ahead London smartly raised the PVR of the route 27 and E400s were introduced on the route for the second time.

In early 2009 two Alexander Dennis E400 Hybrids were introduced onto the route although they were originally destined for the route 196.

Although Metroline had lost the contract, they did not end up loosing out in the long term. The loss of the 24 in 2007 allowed the remainder of the VPs; 331 - 347 to move to Harrow Weald, which would allow the ousting of the TAs to PA to operate on the route 210 new contract which specified double decks. This in turn allowed HD to standardise their fleet to just Volvo B7TLs.

May 2012 made for a new set of tenders to be released which included the route 24 and surprise surprise TFL announced that the route 24 had been lost by Go Ahead London to....Metroline! It was announced that the route would operate once again from their Holloway garage with the contract commencing on the 9th of November 2012 This time around using 24 Volvo B9TLs with the prestige Wright Gemini2 bodywork in addition to this, 5 hybrids were stipulated into the contract which were swiftly announced as Volvo B5LH Wright Gemini2s to be billed 'VWH'.

Metroline announced that they would be reducing the PVR of the route to 26 in order to combat the reliability problems that were on the route and they would be incorporating a new timetable to cut the short turns on the journey to make for a more effective running.

Just to clear up an enthusiast debate. The VWs on the route; VW1365 - 1388 are fitted with a ZF transmission gearbox and not a Voith one like their sister vehicles VW1300 - 1306.

We'd just like to congratulate Metroline regaining this route for a further 5 years for which we hope they will be very successful years.

Key Facts about the 24 route

  • Operated by Metroline Travel
  • London's oldest unchanged route
  • The first red London Bus route to receive rear engined buses.
  • Runs between Hampstead Heath and Pimlico
  • Has a peak vehicle requirement of 26
  • Runs from Holloway Garage
  • The first central London route to be run by a private operator
  • Has had four different operator

Credit goes out to Eddie, Peter Horrex, John Delaney, Mega Anorak and Grahame Wareham who provided the photos used in this post. 
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Metroline CELF Centre Part 38...New VWHs for the 24!

It seems as if trips to CELF are all I do now days, but they are with good reason. I have recently enrolled into an International Business course at University, which I am taking very seriously so I rarely have time to myself for which I can blog. So when I do go out it normally is with good reason and the damp weather provided the perfect photography conditions for this.

Its not often in this modern day and age that a company takes on the delivery of a new type of bus, since the introduction of the Gemini2 and the horrid E400 companies are tending to stick to what they know, and with the MCV B9TL progress not looking promissing it somewhat excites me when an operator takes on the delivery of a new class, albeit with the same bodywork as their diesel derivatives.

As all London Bus enthusiasts know, the high profile route 24 contract was re-awarded to Metroline from Go Ahead London after a five year stint which lasted from 2007 - 2012. It was announced that Metroline would take over the route on the 10th of November 2012 and as part of the contractual agreement, Metroline would have to source 5 hybrid buses and 24 standard diesel buses. The route was previously run by Metroline from the years 2002 - 2007, so its somewhat a homecoming to the company.

Having the third largest hybrid fleet in London, consisting of 5 Optare Tempo Hybrids and 41 ADL E400 Hybrids, the company took on trial a Volvo B5LH, which is the product of  a combination between Volvo and Wrightbus The bus was based at their Cricklewood garage and it must have proved successful as it was announced that the hybrid allocation would consist of 5 Volvo B5LH Hybrids or VWH to you and me. They would be allocated fleet numbers VWH1360 - 1364 while their diesel variants would be given fleet numbers VW1365 - 1388 which are reported to be late for some reason or another.  There are a few differences between the diesel and hybrid variant as the shot below demonstrates.

The new VWHs weigh 11911KGS (conspiracists take note) and are finished off with very smart looking gold advert frames. A fleet list created by Ian Rivett has been created in order to help familiarise yourself with the buses. 

VWH1360 - LK62DHX - body no. AH155 - At CELF
VWH1361 - LK62DHZ - body no. AH156 - At CELF
VWH1362 - LK62DJY - body no. AH157 - At CELF
VWH1363 - LK62DJZ - body no. AH158 - Heysham Bound
VWH1364 - LK62DKE - body no. AH159 -Heysham Bound

The Vehicles have been delivered just under a month before the route 24 contract starts in order to allow the drivers to familiarise themselves with the new chassis, which has proven itself with its main operator; Arriva, with the managers at Stamford Hill garage quoting them to be very reliable and providing excellent comfort levels for both passenger and driver, this is testament to the fact that Arriva have ordered a further 75 of these vehicles, due for January 2013. Although this being their delivery of the vehicle, Metroline were quick to get out their cheque book once again and place a further order of 12 more of these vehicles, coincidently due in January also for the Route 52 contract, which will also be gaining VWs as part of the diesel order. 

If I was to honestly give an opinion on these vehicles, it would be that they are the best DDs in London at the moment, apart from VM1 BJ11 XGZ and I think they are far superior in quality to the E400 Hybrid.

There are still a few TAs and VWs lingering about at CELF following their return from Olympic duties, however they should disappear in the following weeks, returning to their respective garages. The TAs will be returned to W to operate on the 32 contract, I must say I like the fact that they have retained their cosmic fainsa seats upon refurbishment. There was at least two DEMs on the premises today awaiting commissioning before being delivered to PB for usage on the Route 234 and W9 contracts.

Now although I did not go on to the premises, I must say thank you to Metroline for providing us with a such a facility, that allows us enthusiasts to take advantage of seeing new buses prior to them entering service and allowing us to take photographs without hassle. More shots from the day's visit are placed below.

Metroline DEM1359 LK62 DHV

Metroline VWH1362 LK62 DJY

Metroline MM785 LK57 EHV (Offside)

Metroline TP451 LK03 GHU

Metroline TE1314 LK12 AWJ

Metroline TEH1113 LK60 AJY

Metroline DEM1358 LK62 DHU

Metroline MM785 LK57 EHV (Offside)

What was here today?

  • 3x  VWHs
  • 1x TEH
  • A few TEs
  • A few DLDs
  • A few VWs
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Metroline CELF Centre 37...New DEMs for PB

It's been a while since the last update, with Jack and I both being busy in securing our entry into university which was successful, we had to put aside the less important things such as blogging and focus on the period which could shape the rest of our lives so things on the blog had to be put aside for a while, but thank you loyal viewers who according to the hit counter still tuned in during our long absence.

I visited Metroline's CELF Centre yesterday for the first time in over 4 months which is somewhat out of the norm for me, however the purpose of today's visit was  to obtain pictures of the new Alexander Dennis E200s for routes 234 and W9 which commence later on in the year and also to obtain pictures of the many Olympic buses that have been released by LOGOC passing through the centre today. For those who are not familiar, Metroline had a contract for 91 buses to operate on the Olympics, these consisted of DEs, DLDs, TAs, TEs, VPLs and VWs. Before I go into further detail, I will explain the allocations of these buses and where they are headed to.

The former 266 TAs (TA638 - 659) will be heading back to Cricklewood to operate on the 32 and part 210 in order to allow the release more TE9xx to the 189. DLD693 - 711 amid rumours will be heading back to Kings Cross Garage to operate on the Route 214. VPL629 - 637 will be heading back to HT to operate as logistical spares on the routes there. TE1307 - 1317 will be heading to Cricklewood to operate on the 32 although they will probably appear more on the 189 and 332. The VWs as we know will be heading to Holloway to operate the W7.

Above we can see new and old together for what may be the first and last time. To the left we have DEM1340 LK62 DCE and DP1014 to the right, which looks looks like a victim of a bad crash, it will most likely be repaired and withdrawn before returning off lease. These brand new 9.6M ADL E200s are part of a 23 strong batch of vehicles that have been ordered for the routes 234 and W9 contracts which will see off the  DP1001 - 1014 and DSD208 - 217 which were originally ordered for the Route 206 back in 2002.  Just to make things easier for you, I have included a small fleet list of these DEMs.

DEM1337 - LK62DAA - body no. C208/1
DEM1338 - LK62DAO - body no. C208/2
DEM1339 - LK62DBZ - body no. C208/3
DEM1340 - LK62DCE - body no. C208/4
DEM1341 - LK62DCF - body no. C208/5
DEM1342 - LK62DCY - body no. C208/6 
DEM1343 - LK62DDU - body no. C208/7
DEM1344 - LK62DDY - body no. C208/8
DEM1345 - LK62DDZ - body no. C208/9
DEM1346 - LK62DEU - body no. C208/10
DEM1347 - LK62DFF - body no. C208/11
DEM1348 - LK62DFJ - body no. C208/12
DEM1349 - LK62DFP - body no. C208/13
DEM1350 - LK62DFY - body no. C208/14
DEM1351 - LK62DGF - body no. C208/15
DEM1352 - LK62DGO - body no. C208/16
DEM1353 - LK62DHC - body no. C208/17
DEM1354 - LK62DHD - body no. C208/18
DEM1355 - LK62DHE - body no. C208/19
DEM1356 - LK62DHG - body no. C208/20
DEM1357 - LK62DHP - body no. C208/21
DEM1358 - LK62DHU - body no. C208/22
DEM1359 - LK62DHV - body no. C208/23

Notice anything different in comparison to other E200s? Have you noticed now? I'll tell you anyway. The brand of seats being used in this bus are a derivative of the Fainsa Metropolis seats deliberately ordered as they are tougher than the normal Civic Esteban seats and the routes theses buses are set operate on, go past many schools which if you put 2 and 2 together you will understand. 

Above we can see TA654 which was formerly part of a batch of vehicles that formerly made up 88% of the route 266's allocation before it respectively passed to First on the 19th of May 2012. These buses will continue to operate out of Cricklewood Garage on the 32 and 210 once they pass their M.O.T tests and are commissioned into service. 

Here we can see DLD702 LK55 KLV awaiting entry into service at Kings Cross garage, interestingly this batch of Darts have been upgraded to Euro4 for whatever reason and only feature one exhaust pipe as opposed to the two they used to have.  I can promise more quality posts in the coming weeks, but you know as they say 'a picture paints a thousand words' so in a smart move that will see me save 1000 words, more photos from the day's visit are placed below. 

Former Harrow Weald VP484 LK03 GMF

Former Harrow Weald VP484 LK03 GMF

DE1324 LK12 AXH and TA653 LK05 GGZ

DE1131 LK10 BYX


DEM1340 LK62 DCE

The long lasting DP274 P674 MLE

MM783 LK57 EHT

Trainer Bus MM777 LK07 AYH

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Sullivan Buses South Mimms Garage [SM]

Around two weeks ago, I visited Sullivan's South Mimms Garage in Hertfordshire, just north of the M25. Since the company began operating just over a decade ago, they have become renowned for their diligent work for LUL when services are suspended.  

The Garage located in South Mimm's opened in 1999 when former LUL Manager Dean Sullivan decided to start up a bus company. This derived from his earlier career within London Underground which saw him directly take responsibility for providing LUL with replacement bus services during times of engineering work or network downfall. However outside of his work responsibilities, Dean was also an enthusiast which made him excellent at his job, he independently owned three preserved ex London Buses and with the help of a very large bus operator, Dean managed to certify one of these for PSV License to make it eligible to carry passengers whilst in operation.

One of the the first jobs that Sullivan Buses was over a decade ago in 1998 and this was to provide replacement bus services for the DLR and London Underground following major engineering work on both networks.  The success of this operation helped to build the backbone on what we now know as Sullivan Buses today. Later on that year the company purchased an Ex London Buses Leyland Titan numbered T85 from Leaside Buses (a subsidy of Arriva). From here on, work opportunities for the company began to grow and the first two buses were joined by T890 which is interestingly still owned by the company today!

Over the years, the company grew from strength to strength, winning many Hertfordshire County contracted routes, and becoming LUL's preferred replacement bus operator. From their humble beginnings with two Buses, the fleet grew to a respectable 50 vehicles, which were easily noticeable with their yellow doors and white roof tops. In addition to this the company's vehicles have been heavily used in over 30 Television productions, including BBC's Eastenders and 'The Bill'. The company have a smaller base located in Stained which is used to house their Thorpe Park Express services which run from Staines to Thorpe Park.

On the 27th of June 2003, the company gained their first London Buses tendered contract, in the form of the Route 383 which was respectively won off Metroline, operation smoothly commenced using 3 Ceatano Slimbus bodied Dennis Dart SLF Buses coded as 'DN'. However upon the re-tendering of this contract in June 2008, the route was respectively re-gained by Metroline and the DNs were absorbed into their commercial fleet.

Despite the set back in 2008, Sullivan's kept on pushing towards providing diligent bus services and their efforts were awarded when it was announced that the company had won the route 298 from Arriva, with a contract commencing on the 4th of February 2012. The company also gained four other school route contracts, placing them back within the London Buses tendered services operations.

We would like to thank Dean Sullivan for arranging and allowing us to visit his amazing garage and for ensuring that we were safe on his premises by following all codes from the Health and Safety at Work Act. More photos from our visit are available below.

Three Heritage Routemasters

Metrobus B69 WUL and Titan WYV 66T

Routemaster Interior

Routemaster Interior

Routemaster Interior

Routemaster RML889

Two Heritage Routemasters

Routemaster Interior

Routemaster Interior

Sullivan Buses AE15 TW61 SUL

Sullivan Buses AE15 TW61 SUL dashboard

Former President B7TL Demonstrator X157 JOP and former
London General PDL26 PJ02 PZZ

TPL296 EY03 FNL and EL04 SUL

WVL1 GD52 SYC and former London United VP119 W466 BCW

President B7TL dashboard

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