Buses in London
Learn more about Buses in London
- This article is a general one on buses in London. For a specific article on the organisation responsible for running most buses in London, see London Buses.
Buses have been used on the streets of London since 1829, when George Shillibeer started operating his horse drawn omnibus service from Paddington to the city. The London General Omnibus Company or LGOC was founded in 1855 to amalgamate and regulate the horse-drawn omnibus services then operating in London. LGOC began using motor omnibuses in 1902, and manufactured them itself from 1909.
In 1912 the Underground Group, which at that time owned most of the London Underground, bought the LGOC. In 1933 the LGOC, along with the rest of the Underground Group, became part of the new London Passenger Transport Board. The name London General was replaced by London Transport, which became synonymous with the red London bus.
In the 1980s the government of Margaret Thatcher decided to privatise the bus operating industry in the United Kingdom, which at that time was dominated by London Transport in London, large municipally-owned operators in other major cities and the government-owned National Bus Company and Scottish Bus Group elsewhere. For largely political reasons the model followed in London was completely different from the rest of the country. In London a part of London Transport called London Buses was set up, with the remit to contract out the operation of services but to determine service levels and fares within the public sector.
This regime is still in place, although the ownership of London Buses moved from the central (UK) government-controlled London Regional Transport to the Mayor of London's transport organisation, Transport for London, in 2000, as part of the formation of the new Greater London Authority.
Main category: London Buses
Until the 1960s London went its own way, designing its own vehicles specially for London use rather than using the bus manufacturers' standard products used elsewhere. The last bus specifically designed for London was the AEC Routemaster. Since the turn of the Millennium, there has been a shift to low-floor double-deck and articulated buses.
Other buses used in London:
- Bristol VR
- Dennis Trident (Alexander ALX400/Plaxton President body)
- Dennis Dart
- Dennis Dart SLF (Plaxton Pointer/Alexander ALX200/Caetano Nimbus body)
- Leyland Titan
- Leyland Olympian
- Mercedes-Benz Citaro rigid/articulated/Fuel Cell bus
- MCW Metrobus
- Optare Solo
- Scania OmniDekka
- DAF/VDL DB250 (Alexander ALX400/Plaxton President/Wright Pulsar Gemini body)
- DAF/VDL SB120 (Wright Cadet/Merit body)
- Volvo Citybus
- Volvo Olympian
- Volvo B7TL
- Alexander Dennis Enviro 400
 Local Buses
Although the rear-entrance double-deck Routemaster is the archetypal London bus, their numbers have dwindled quite quickly owing to their age, their inability to accept wheelchairs or pushchairs and their requirement for a two-person crew. The first Routemaster (RM1) was 50 years old in 2004. Two Routemaster-operated routes were launched in late 2005 as working heritage services. These are route 9 from the Royal Albert Hall to Aldwych and route 15 from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill.
Most local bus services are now operated by modern low-floor buses, which may be single-deck, double-deck, or one of the new type of articulated buses, locally called bendy buses. With the introduction of the London congestion charge in central London and because at peak times the Underground is operating at maximum capacity, many bus service improvements have been undertaken, and central bus services are currently enjoying something of a resurgence.
Some local bus routes in the outer areas of London cross the London boundary. London Buses services that cross the boundary have standard red buses, and charge London fares, at least within the boundary. Buses from outside London that cross into London are in their operators' own colour schemes, and may not accept London fares even within the boundary.
 Night buses
Night buses began running as early as 1913, and they form part of the London Buses network. Originally they had their own (premium) fare structure and all the routes were distinguished by an N prefixed route number, for example the N21 running to Foots Cray or the N29 to Winchmore Hill and Enfield. Most night bus services operate from a central London terminus in Trafalgar Square.
More recently, under the influence of the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, night buses have adopted standard London bus fares. Some daytime bus routes, including an increasing number of orbital rather than radial services, have also started operating 24 hours a day, using the same (non-N prefixed) route number. All-night buses (whether on N-prefixed routes or 24-hour routes) are standard red buses. London's night bus services have seen passenger numbers soar in recent years - by mid 2005, up by over 80% over levels at the start of the 21st century.
 Tour buses
A common sight in central London is open-top buses (i.e. double-decker buses with an open upper deck), which provide tourist services with either live or recorded commentary. Most of these services allow passengers to embark and disembark at chosen stops along their route, continuing their journey on a later bus. There are several competing operators of such services and, although at least one paints its buses in the same red as London's local buses, they have no connection with London Buses. Fares are set by the operators and usually involve a flat fee for a day (or multiple days) usage; there is no need to pre-book and tickets can be bought from the driver and/or bus stop ticket sellers.
Other more formally organised tours use luxury coaches and generally need to be booked in advance through travel agents.
 Long distance coaches
Long-distance coaches link London with the rest of the UK and with other cities in Europe. Most of these services are run by National Express and their European affiliate Eurolines. National Express's predominantly white vehicles are common on the roads of central London, on their way to and from their terminus at Victoria Coach Station.
Recently competition for long distance traffic has been introduced by Megabus, a subsidiary of the large UK bus operating company Stagecoach. This company operates cheap services aimed at students and the like, which must be booked in advance on the Internet.
Other coach services link London to medium-distance destinations, and unlike National Express or Megabus provide walk-on fares. A good example of this is the service to the city of Oxford, where Stagecoach's frequent Oxford Tube service competes with both Go-Ahead's similar Oxford Espress service.
 Airport buses
National Express is also the principal airport operator, serving Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted with its National Express Airport brand. Unlike their longer distance cousins, these are walk-on services, which serve stops throughout central London rather than running to Victoria Coach Station.
London City Airport used to provide express shuttle bus services to connect the airport to rail and underground stations at Canning Town, Canary Wharf and Liverpool Street. These operated at a premium fare (compared with the parallel but slower London Buses services) but did not survive the extension of the Docklands Light Railway to the airport in late 2005.
 Terrorist incidents
Main category: July 2005 London bombings
- February 18, 1996: An improvised explosive device detonated prematurely on a bus travelling along Aldwych in central London, killing Edward O'Brien, the IRA terrorist transporting the device, and injuring eight others.
- July 7, 2005: An explosion occurred as part of a coordinated attack on London at 09:47 on a No. 30 Hackney Wick to Marble Arch double-decker bus operated by Stagecoach Group for Transport for London, which was following a planned diversion from its normal route in Tavistock Square, outside the British Medical Association (BMA) building on Upper Woburn Place, ripping the roof off the top deck and destroying the back of the bus. Thirteen people and the suicide bomber were killed.
- July 21, 2005: A suicide bomber attempted to explode a bomb as part of a second coordinated attack on London at 13:30 on a No. 26 Waterloo to Hackney Wick double-decker bus operated by Stagecoach Group for Transport for London, on Hackney Road at the corner of Columbia Road in Shoreditch. The device failed to detonate properly and there were no injuries.
 Ghost Bus?
A popular (and supposedly true) ghost story holds that a one-way street in London was haunted by a ghost double-decker bus driving the wrong way. It is believed that the bus crashed when the street had two opposing lanes. No recent sightings have been reported.
 See also
 External links
- London Bus - Transport of London
- London Bus Page
- London Bus Routes Home Page
- London transport EN/PL
- Toby & John's Local Transport History
- SE London bus website with many picturescs:Městská autobusová doprava v Londýně