Buses in London

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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.
A symbol of London: the Routemaster bus
Image:Wiki enviro 400 metroline.PNG
A new London icon? A new Enviro 400 operating for Metroline. Its curved front window makes it an ideal bus to view tall London iconic buildings such as Big Ben's tower and the London Eye on the 24 route

The London Bus is one of London's principal icons, the archetypal red rear-entrance double-deck Routemaster being recognised world-wide.


[edit] History

[edit] Organisation

Image:Bus stop - london.JPG
A representation of the design of the standard London bus stop - yellow squares mean "buy tickets before boarding" and blue squares denote a night bus

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.

The last LGOC horse-drawn bus ran on 25 October 1911, although independent operators used them until 1914.

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.

[edit] Vehicles

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:

[edit] Operation

[edit] Local Buses

Local buses within London form a network managed by London Buses, an arm of Transport for London, although most services are operated by private sector companies under contract to London 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] Terrorist incidents

Main category: July 2005 London bombings

[edit] 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[citation needed].

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Buses in London

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