Home | Bus routes | Operational details | Service changes | Operators & Garages | Photo gallery
Route 261 was Metrobus’s second major London Transport bus route contract, following the 61 which has since been lost. The route had been shortened the previous year and awarded to London Buses, and the decision by LT to re-tender the route so quickly therefore came as a slight surprise.
The 261 had been formed a few years earlier by amalgamating the middle section of route 94 (Brockley Rise – Lewisham – Grove Park – Bromley – Petts Wood – Orpington) with the southern section of route 47 (Shoreditch – Lewisham – Catford – Bromley – Farnborough), continuing to Orpington over the 51. The 47 was cut back to Bromley Common and the Petts Wood section of the 94 went over to new route 208.
To begin with, the 261 was crew-operated by Routemasters, but inevitable conversion to one person operation in April 1983 resulted in conversion to single deck Leyland National operation, as these were the only buses available at the time! The Nationals were replaced by new Leyland Titans in the autumn of 1984, easing crowding, although the 261 has always been one of those routes that could just about cope with single deckers, and more were to follow.
On 16 August 1986 history repeated itself, with the 261 cut back to Bromley Common (bus garage) and new route R1 taking over from there to Orpington (and on to Sidcup). This was part of the new ‘Roundabout’ local minibus scheme for the Orpington area, and was also the date when Metrobus won the 61.
Concerns about loss of through links between Farnborough and Bromley, reduced to just one bus per hour on Green Line route 706 (later Kentish Bus route 402), saw a proposal to introduce new Monday to Saturday route 261A. This was awarded to London Buses, but the tight schedule involved contravened their strict union agreements, so the route instead went to Metrobus as the 361, from the same date 16/08/86. This was an hourly one-bus service between Green Street Green and Bromley North, interworking with the 706 to provide a half hourly service over this section.
The Titans on the 261 did not last long either, as Metrobus took over on 21 November 1987. The route was further cut back to Bromley Common ‘Crown,’ the short section to Bromley garage having been operated only for operational convenience by London Buses. An unusual feature of the route remained however, with the enhanced Saturday frequency of 8 buses per hour as against 5 during the day on Mondays to Fridays. As a result the route required 14 buses on Saturdays compared with 9 during the week, but fortunately Metrobus’s commercial routes in the Croydon area were very heavily commuter orientated and most of the extra Saturday buses for the 261 could be sourced from these.
Metrobus had put in three options as to vehicles, either new single deckers (Leyland Lynx) or new or second-hand double deckers. Typically, LT went for the latter option, but Metrobus, to their credit, got some nearly-new buses in the form of 1983 single door Leyland Olympians with Roe bodywork new to West Yorkshire Public Transport Executive, just slightly older than the Titans they replaced. These lasted until 1996, when a new contract began which specified new buses. Meanwhile, a new Leyland Lynx (F80 SMC) did enter the fleet, in September 1988, and was often used on the 361 where its brisk acceleration assisted timekeeping.
From September 1987 a single journey on route 361 was back-projected from Green Street Green to Pratts Bottom, to supplement the 402. But from May 1989 the 361 was withdrawn in the early morning and late afternoon and all day on Saturdays. At these certain times journeys on the 261 were extended to Green Street Green, including the Pratts Bottom journey. An hourly service was maintained on Saturdays, and the new arrangements allowed a more reliable service on a day when traffic was especially heavy and also allowed more economical use of resources. However, it did mean an increase in the number of single deckers on the 261 on Saturdays.
But from November 1992 the 361 was withdrawn as were the Saturday shopping hours journeys to Green Street Green on the 261. Their replacement was a much enhanced service on Metrobus’s commercial route 358, which was also diverted to serve Bromley town centre. Early morning and evening journeys to and from the depot were however left in the timetable, and exceptionally these remained until the last timetable change this year, although the Pratts Bottom was curtailed to Green Street Green at the previous timetable change.
Metrobus have successfully retained the 261 three times since then, in autumn 1996, December 2001 and December 2006. In the 1996 change, the Saturday service was reduced to match demand more closely, with 6 buses instead of 8 per hour. This is still an increase on the 5 bph during the week, but meant that the route only required 10 buses (later increased to 11 for reliability) against 9 on Mondays to Fridays. However, the Sunday service was increased from every 30 minutes to every 20. New single door Volvo Olympians were introduced, these replaced by dual door versions, second-hand from London Central route 171, towards the end of the contract.
The 2001 contract saw in improved timetable with an extra bus for reliability, and an afternoon journey extended to Green Street Green for the benefit of school children, providing an opposite facility to the morning journey (which was cut back from Pratts Bottom to start outside the Metrobus garage in Green Street Green). The Sunday frequency was further increased to one every 15 minutes. Again new buses were specified, low floor and dual door this time. Metrobus has settled firmly on East Lancs for its double deck bus bodywork, and initially bought Dennis Trident chassis. The buses followed a batch of similar buses for the 161, but were the last of the type before the decision to standardise on Scania chassis for double deckers.
The 2006 contract change saw a more significant change in the shape of an extension to Princess Royal Hospital in Locksbottom, requiring one extra bus. As well as providing a more convenient service to the hospital, this was partly to offset a reduction in frequency on route 61. However the journeys to and from Green Street Green were all withdrawn – hopefully the 358 can cope with the displaced passengers!
Once again new buses were specified, presumably because the Tridents had been leased and the expectation would be for them to return to the lessors. However, a need to divert some of the new buses to effect an unplanned double deck conversion of route 405 meant some of the Tridents lingered on a little longer until more new buses could be delivered. Their replacements though are Metrobus's now standard double deck type, the Scania/East Lancs Omnidekka, and here number 946 (YN56 FEG) passes Bromley North station in January 2007. Passengers seem remarkably thin on the ground, given that this is usually the busiest part of the route!
|Photo © Adam Murray.|
Photo Gallery | Bus route list | Operational details | Service changes | Operators & Garages