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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

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. 


C0BO says:
at: Thursday, November 15, 2012 12:13:00 am said...

Weren't the TE's introduced to the 24 in 2006 and don't you mean 23 VP's (VPP317 -330) went to the 140.

Jay says:
at: Thursday, November 15, 2012 3:24:00 am said...

I mean 14 VPs. If you count them individually as units as they are individual buses, you will see that the number of buses between VP317 - 330 is actually 14 Buses and not 13 which is the sum I think you mean't to type.

C0BO says:
at: Thursday, November 15, 2012 2:14:00 pm said...

Woops, it's looks like you are right and that I have miscounted.

at: Sunday, November 18, 2012 3:18:00 pm said...

As a long time resident of Pimlico and an LT staff member for 44 years I dont think that route 24 was extended to Pimlico Station in 1912 and never has been. Try Pimlico Grosvenor Road,

Jay says:
at: Sunday, November 18, 2012 9:55:00 pm said...

I stand corrected :) What do you think of the overall post?

at: Sunday, November 25, 2012 3:35:00 pm said...

Why is the 24 such a prestigious route for Metroline? What makes it so special?

at: Saturday, December 15, 2012 3:43:00 pm said...

I think it is great that metroline got route 24 because I think metroline is the best bus company in the world

at: Saturday, January 12, 2013 6:26:00 pm said...

Metroline have drivers which are fast, friendly and reliable! :) I thought 16 was their flagship route?

at: Saturday, January 26, 2013 4:56:00 pm said...

Have just read a blog from Leon Daniels that the 24 is going to be the first route to be completely run by NB4L's.

at: Saturday, January 26, 2013 10:40:00 pm said...

Yup, anon, it's true. What will happen to VW/VWH's on 24?

at: Saturday, March 02, 2013 4:32:00 am said...

It is highly likely They may go to the 390 as this route serves Oxford Street, after the 390 I'd say the 4 but Metroline this seems quite unlikely as Metroline seems quite determined to get Enviro400s on the 4, after the 4 would then be the 17 and if they left HT all together I'd be quite surprised but I'd then say they'd move to PA and work on the 7

at: Monday, July 15, 2013 7:03:00 pm said...

Route 24 now has the Boris bus in service but at night time does it have the boris bus

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