Open main menu

AEC Merlin on route 500 in Oxford Street in 1976
Preserved Leyland National with Red Arrow branding
London General Mercedes-Benz Citaro O530G Articulated Red Arrow bus on route 521 at Aldwych in June 2004
London General's Red Arrow articulated fleet at Waterloo garage in June 2006

Red Arrow is a brand name given to the high frequency commuter services on the London Buses network operating in Central London. The current Red Arrow services are routes 507 and 521, although the name was dropped from September 2009 to May 2016.[1]



London Transport had instigated a Bus Reshaping Plan in 1966 to examine bus service operation, and settled on replacing some double-decker buses with long single-decker buses, which would have extra capacity by implementing a 'standee bus' model as used on the continent, whereby the fixed seating in the bus would be minimised to that required off-peak, with hand holds fitted to allow maximum standee capacity at peak times.[2] These buses would also have dual doors.[3][4]

The concept was introduced with on 18 April 1966 with six AEC Merlin buses on a new express service, route 500, running between Victoria and Marble Arch, extended during shopping hours to Oxford Circus.[3] On 7 September 1968 LT introduced these new buses on more Red Arrow routes, 501-507, along with wholesale introduction on several other route networks around the capital.[3]

The Red Arrow Network as of 1972 was:[citation needed]

From April 1981, London Transport started replacing Merlin buses on the Red Arrow routes with Leyland National IIs. Further expansions, contractions and renumbering of the route network occurred, but the core Red Arrow network remained into the 1980s, and into London Buses operation with the London General business unit, as part of the first stage of the privatisation of London bus services.[citation needed]

On 2 June 2002, the remaining two Red Arrow routes 507 and 521, became the first London Bus routes to be converted to articulated buses. A fleet of articulated Mercedes-Benz Citaro O530Gs entered service from that date. Being commuter routes, and so little used outside peak times, these routes were suitable to test the articulated on, and resembled the original standee bus concept, now with off bus fare collection. Additionally, route 521 ran through the Strand Underpass making double decker operation impossible. The artics still carried the Red Arrow name, although it was much smaller and less pronounced than all the previous versions.[citation needed]

As of 2008, the peak operating requirement was nine buses on the 507 and 19 on the 521.[5] As part of the move to replace London's articulated buses, a commitment made in the 2008 London Mayoral election, the articulated buses on the 507 and 521 were replaced when their contracts expired in 2009.[6]

The articulated Citaros were replaced by new 12 metre rigid versions. On 25 July 2009 a weekend service was introduced on route 507, the first weekend service for a Red Arrow route. Route 521 converted to rigid operation on 1 September 2009. The new Citaros did not carry the Red Arrow name, as it was thought to be associated with articulated buses. This drew criticism, as there was nothing to distinguish the buses from normal services. Another criticism of bendy buses was the low number of seats, with only 49 per vehicle. A standard rigid Citaro has 44 seats, however the new ones for route 507 and 521 had just 21, with room for up to 76 standees, leading to criticism the new buses were "cattle trucks" and even more crowded than the buses they replaced.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Back to the Future as commuter routes celebrate half a century of service". Go-Ahead London. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  2. ^ A Report on London's bus services and London Transport's plans for reshaping them. London: London Transport Board. 1966.
  3. ^ a b c Arnold, Barry; Harris, Mike (1982). Reshaping London's Buses. Harrow Weald: Capital Transport. ISBN 0-904711-34-X.
  4. ^ Curtis, Colin (1977). Buses of London. London: London Transport. pp. 153–155. ISBN 0-85329-084-9.
  5. ^ Buses Magazine, August 2008 issue, page 5, Ian Allan Publishing
  6. ^ "The beginning of the end for the bendy bus". Greater London Authority. 5 December 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  7. ^ "Passengers call for the return of the bendy bus". The London Paper. 31 July 2009. Archived from the original on 3 September 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2009.

External linksEdit