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Metrobus started life with an operation centred on the Orpington to Croydon route 353. The company has gradually expanded from that starting area. Initially expansion was concentrated on the Orpington end of the network, the gain of route 61 pushing the company into Bromley, where indeed it is now the major operator. However, it is only more recently that the company has started to gain a more notable presence in the Croydon area, and that process was started by the gain of route 64 from New Addington to Croydon and Thornton Heath Pond.
Probably the reason that not many routes had been operated in the Croydon area is the location of the company’s main depot, in Orpington. Nevertheless, route 64 was won under London Transport tender from October 1997, specifying a peak vehicle requirement of 13 dual door double deckers. The 64 is the main route between Selsdon and Croydon, via Croham Valley, with lightly used projections east to New Addington and north to Thornton Heath, for the Mayday Hospital. The latter, interestingly, had not run during the morning peak on Mondays to Fridays when operated by South London Transport, though this was rectified when Metrobus took over.
A new contract beginning in August 2009 called for new buses, and integral Scania OmniCitys were selected. There was an initial problem in that they were built to full 14'6" height, unlike the previous buses, which had been around 13'11". As a result there were problems with trees along the route, and the new buses had to be used on the 119 instead. But the problems have now been cured and the 64 got its new buses after all. 959 (YT59 DYB) is one of the batch, and was seen at Addington Village Interchange on 5 February 2010.
|Photo © RNAM200.|
This is already the third batch of buses used by Metrobus, the contract having been re-awarded with new vehicles each time. Both the previous batches generated quite a stir by the choice of vehicles. Generally Metrobus had stuck to the mainstream manufacturers, so when the 64 was won in 1997 the obvious choice of vehicle would have been more Northern Counties bodied Volvo Olympians to match those already owned on the 261, but instead the bodywork order went to East Lancs for Pyoneer bodies for the 15 Olympians.
Five years later the buses were the first of a new type. Metrobus had become a fairly keen East Lancs customer, and indeed East Lancs again featured, but this time perhaps it was the chassis that was of most interest. Scania have built small quantities of high quality double deck buses in the past, but so far had shied away from producing a low floor model. However, they have now stepped in, perhaps as they felt they could now provide something superior to their rivals, and the result was the OmniDekka. Opinion is greatly divided as to the merits of all aspects of these vehicles – but they are certainly different!
Principally, the rear layout is different, in order to increase the amount of seating possible. Lower deck seating capacity has always been a problem with low floor double deckers, mainly due to the need to set aside wheelchair spaces and the inability to fit seats over the front wheels, but also because the staircase needs more steps, and not helped by London Buses’ somewhat impractical specifications. The Scania attempts to tackle that by moving the engine to a less intrusive position, and indeed Metrobus have managed to fit 29 seats, a figure rarely exceeded even before the advent of low floors. However, I gather the result is cramped and claustrophobic, so it may be that Metrobus or East Lancs have overdone it here.
These days the 64 runs from Metrobus's new garage in Beddington Farm, which still has many Omnidekkas for other routes, which still appear on the 64 from time to time. I have therefore added this photo (taken during the previous contract) of Metrobus 905 (YN55 PZG) – actually an Orpington machine for the 161, photographed in May 2006, before the Beddington garage opened. Of the original '64 batch' (451-468) a few have left the fleet, but most have gone back to Orpington garage to replace others to provincial work at Crawley garage, replacing Olympians.
|Photo © Adam Murray.|
Traditionally the 64 ran from Selsdon to West Croydon, operated from South Croydon garage, and was extended to Addington (Featherbed Lane) in 1936. The route was extended to Tooting Broadway via Mitcham around 1960 to help replace trolleybus route 630 (which otherwise became the 220), using new Routemasters, with Thornton Heath and Elmers End allocations. The route was split in 1987, with new route 264 taking the Croydon – Tooting leg, the 64 assuming its current form at that time.
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