Privatisation of London bus services

Privatisation of London bus services

Privatisation of London bus services is the process since 1984 of the transfer of bus services for public transport in London from operation by public bodies to private companies.

Since the 1930s, operation of London bus services for public transport had been under the direct control of a number of entities known as London Transport. During the 1980s services were privatised, and direct provision of bus services in London has been run by various private companies ever since.

As opposed to in the rest of the United Kingdom, the bus services in London, although still ultimately privatised, were not deregulated to the same extent. In London, specification of routes, fares and services levels were still specified by public bodies, with the right to run the services contracted to private companies on a tendered basis.

The privatised period produced for the first time buses in London painted in different schemes to the traditional red. This was reduced in a ruling in 1997 requiring buses to wear an 80% red livery (not including advertising boards).

Formation of London Buses

In 1984, in the general move towards deregulation, under the London Regional Transport Act 1984, responsibility for running London bus services transferred from the last public body running London's buses Greater London Council, to London Regional Transport (LRT). Under the Act, LRT divested operation of bus services into an arms length private company, created as London Buses.

With this change, the bus livery was altered from all over red with a simple white roundel [] [] , to a modified yellow and red roundel with the name London Buses in capitals, [ [ London Transport Museum LB roundel] ] and introduced a grey skirt and white mid-level relief line to the buses.

Introduction of competition

Under the 1984 Act London bus services were to be tendered. In 1985, the first private operators entered the market, with Boro'line (London) being one of the first. Controversially, these operators were not required to wear a red livery, meaning for the first time non-red buses running into the centre of London, such as high profile route 24 operated by Grey-Green. The only requirement was to display the London Transport roundel on the bus, to designate a London Transport tendered service. Ironically, several of the new private entrants were descendants of London Transport's former 'green' buses division, which operated outer London services that were passed to the National Bus Company's control as London Country Bus Services, in 1969.

The private competition was not without controversy, with objections to non-red buses leading to a change in the rules in 1997 to specify 80% red liveries. The tendering also caused problems with several operators needing to hire buses due to late delivery of new buses for newly won routes.

One such controversial route was the arrangements for tendering route 60 which was initially awarded to Capital Logistics. Difficulties in setting up the route eventually saw operation by 8 different operators and 10 different bus types in a short space of time, before the route finally gained a stable arrangement.

A collapse of a rather large private operator, Harris Bus, led to the formation of East Thames Buses by London Transport, as an arms length company to temporarily operate the routes. It has since been retained by the new Transport for London authority, for tendering for routes itself.

Break up of London Buses

In 1989 London Buses was separated into different business units, in preparation for sell off. The companies were created along geographic lines, with all but Centrewest having routes running into central London. The division names and a small graphic device was added to the buses, in white. An exception to this was the Westlink unit, which received a new livery altogether.

The separate units created were:

Unlike the other units, Centrewest quickly branded its buses into separate groups, in the main removing the London Buses roundel in favour of various gold designs, with just the central services remaining in a slightly altered roundel based scheme [] . The group brands were: "Challenger" [] , "Ealing Buses" [] , "Gold Arrow" [] [] , "Uxbridge Buses" [] [] , "Hillingdon local service" [] , "Orpington Buses" [] .

Intermediate operation

During this time of separate business unit operation by London Buses, many new bus types were also being introduced, with the introduction of new minibus and midibus designs. Several of these new services received specialist branding from normal unit liveries, such as:

* Camden Link []
* Harrier []
* Hoppa []
* Kingston Hoppa []
* Red Express []
* Skipper []
* Southall Shuttle []
* Streetline [] []
* Roundabout []

In the new era of private tendering, in an effort to compete with the new private operators entering the market, London buses set up some low cost units to compete for tenders, painted in non-red liveries. Most notably these were "Harrow Buses" [] [] and "Bexleybus" [] [] , to tender for routes in outer London areas.

These units were not overly successful, due to unreliable service, and industrial disputes due to lower pay rates than for the main London units. Their routes were quickly surrendered to other units or private operators.

Business unit sell-off

In 1994, the separate London Buses units were sold off. Competition rules restricted the amount of units that could be bought by one group. All the units were sold either to their management or employees, or to one of the emerging national bus groups that had been growing through acquisition of deregulated companies in the rest of the UK. The exception was London Northern, which was bought by MTL, itself an expanding company formed from the privatisation of the Merseyside PTE bus company.Upon sell off, all units received different liveries, with some retaining the logos received in 1985, and almost all either repainting into an all over red livery, or changing the skirt/roof colours.

The only unit not to be sold off was London Forest, which suffered from poor financial performance and industrial action. Not being viable as a separate unit, it was merged with the East London unit before sell off.

The sell off of the units proceeded as follows:

When Stagecoach withdrew from London bus operation, the new owner resurrected the old London Buses business unit graphic devices for their all over red liveries [] .

List of independent operators

In the period before the sell off of the main business units, London saw operation by several private companies who gained tenders for routes. Many of these either ceased trading, or were ultimately purchased by large groups, some of which also bought some of the ex London Buses units. Below is a list of private operators, some of which still operate.

* Atlas Bus
* Armchair
* Blue Triangle
* Boro'line
* Capital Citybus
* Capital Connections
* Capital Logistics
* Carousel Buses
* Centra
* Cityrama
* Connex bus
* Connexions
* Crystals
* CT Plus
* Docklands Buses
* Ealing buses
* Ealing CT
* Eastender Bus
* Ensignbus
* Epsom Buses
* Frontrunner
* Grey-Green
* Harris Bus
* Kentish Bus
* Kingston Bus
* Lea Valley
* Limebourne
* Locallink
* London Buslines
* London Coaches
* London Country
* London Easylink
* LondonLinks
* London and Country
* London Sovereign
* London Suburban
* London Traveller
* Luton and District
* Metrobus
* Mitcham Belle
* Nostalgiabus
* NCP Challenger
* Riverside Bus
* R&I Buses
* RML Travel
* Sampsons
* Scanbus
* Southdown PSV
* Sullivans
* Sutton Bus
* Tellings-Golden Miller
* Thames bus
* Thorpes
* Travel London
* Thameside
* Thamesway (Eastern National)
* Town Link
* Town and Country
* Timebus

ee also

* London Buses
* List of London bus routes


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