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In contrast to some routes which seem to change every few years the 24 is one of the most stable routes in London. It started as Hampstead Heath to Victoria on 5.5.1910, and was extended to Pimlico on 19.8.1912. It has run between the same two terminals by the same route ever since, give or take a couple of one-way systems and a slight change to the terminal working at Pimlico. Its conversion to one person operated Titans took place in the autumn of 1986, though the route had seen doored buses in previous years including fleetlines from 1976 to 1979. The Titans did not last long though, as the route was lost to Grey Green from 05/11/88, making it the first central London route to pass to the private sector, the operator's grey and green Volvo Citybuses making a striking sight running down Whitehall past Downing Street hall of power.
Grey Green was the original bus operation of the Cowie group, which renamed itself Arriva in 1998. Grey Green's Stamford Hill base was subsequently closed with the allocation transferred to the expanded Tottenham garage of sister company Arriva London North (formerly Leaside). Arriva however lost the route to Metroline in November 2002, using new Volvo B7TL/Plaxton President vehicles. Requirements for new vehicles elsewhere were consolidated with an allocation of new Enviro400 double deckers on the 24 in 2005, these being the first of their type into service in London. Those buses have now moved to their originally planned home on routes 4 and 186.
Further re-tendering saw the route awarded to London General in 2007 – although it may seem odd for a south London operator to bid for a north London route, their Stockwell garage is actually no further from the south end of the route than Holloway is from the north end, and a good closer than the Grey Green or Arriva base. In fact crew changes are much simpler, using the Victoria Line from Stockwell to Pimlico station, although most buses start and finish their day's work at the Hampstead Heath end, meaning they trace most of the route out of service. London General also specified Enviro400 double deckers for the 24, making this route also the first to have a second batch of that type allocated new to it.
However, Metroline triumphantly won the route back in the next re-tender and took over operation on 10 November 2012. Although the route could quite conceivably have received a third batch of new Enviro400s, Metroline has instead gone for the Volvo/Wright Eclipse Gemini combination, which is currently the preferred new bus type for Holloway garage. Some of the buses are hybrids, but firstly to illustrate the conventional diesels we have B9TL VW1381 (LK62 DRV) on Grosvenor Road, effectively the section of the Embankment through Pimlico, on the first day, 10 November 2012. Buses observe a loop working here to turn around. If the blind display is correct, that is a VERY short working!
|Photo © Tom Bowell.|
Hybrids, which use a battery to store energy and improve engine efficiency, are now coming to London in larger numbers, and the majority are being used on central London routes. The 24 has gained an allocation of B5Ls, and VWH1364 (LK62 DKE) passes through Victoria on 26 November 2012. Branding is much more modest than on early hybrids, as they become more mainstream.
|Photo © RNAM200 (Robert Mighton).|
Metroline’s performance on the route before losing it had latterly been poor, apparently mainly as a result of congestion caused by bendy buses on route 38 turning right at Cambridge Circus. Two extra buses were added to the schedule to try to combat this problem, but that was not enough to stop the company losing the route. London General had the advantage of yet another bus added to the schedule, making 29 in all. For the new contract, it was decided to reduce the frequency to every 6 minutes (from every 5), but the PVR would be reduced only to 26, giving an extra 11 minutes on a round trip – at around the same time as the bendy buses were withdrawn! This was introduced early by London General, although the route currently uses 27 buses owing to a diversion at Victoria.
More interesting news is that the route will be the first to convert fully to "New Bus for London" vehicles in the summer – and appropriate choice, given the routes average (for central London) PVR and the fact that it has just started a new contract so will not be subject to further upheaval for a few years. The fate of the brand new buses currently running on the route remains to be seen!
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