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Route 407
27 November 2009

The 407 was formed in November 1991 to take over the southern leg of the 197, or 197A/B as it had by then become, between Croydon, Purley, Whyteleafe and Caterham (and in direct competition with South London Metro rail services!). The opportunity was also taken to withdraw the Wallington/Sutton branches of the 403, which became Warlingham and Croydon only – the 408 taking over the Sutton branch and the 407 the Wallington service. Despite the 4xx “Country” series number, initially operation was by South London using mainly Olympians from (South) Croydon depot.

Late in 1994 things were changed again: a new route 400 was introduced taking over the Wallington section on the 407, and the 407 took on the primary role between Croydon and Sutton. (The 400 has also already been withdrawn: see route 410.) At the same time the frequency was improved to 4 an hour, and it was at this time that London & Country gained the contract, furnishing it with a batch of Optare MetroRiders (M440-451 HPF, M452/3 HPG). However, these quickly proved inadequate to cope with loadings, and agreement was eventually reached with LT to replace these gradually with Dennis Darts, adding 6 seats to the specification!

The MetroRiders were cascaded out in batches. The first Darts to arrive, in 1995, were four 9m Pointer bodied examples (M160-163 SKR). At this time the Croydon/Beddington (CR) base was part of the LondonLinks unit controlled by Kentish Bus; hence the Maidstone registrations, Kentish Bus sharing office space with fellow British Bus company Maidstone & District. In 1996 these were joined by two similar ex-Kentish Bus examples (J220/1 HGY), displaced from the 286 (the rest of the batch went to Metrobus). Then in 1997 Kentish Bus lost route 42 to Limebourne, and the Northern Counties bodied Darts used thereon (L120-6/51 YVK) transferred to Croydon seeing off the last MetroRiders (though four were still based there for the 315).

But that is by no means the end of the story! The Croydon base has had quite a large variety of vehicle types over the years, and most of them found their way onto the 407 at some stage or other. These include:

However this chaotic muddle has now been swept away, as a dedicated batch of new Alexander bodied low floor Darts was introduced late in 1999, coincident with transfer of this base from the former L&C section of the business to the main London companies on 30/10/99. These buses represented a further increase in vehicle size – at 10.8m being the longest standard (as opposed to Super) Dart available – but, being dual door, not in capacity (33 seats vs. 35 on the previous 9m Darts and 29 on MRs). By the time these buses were delivered, the former LondonLinks Croydon base had come under control of Arriva London South, and these buses introduced the red livery to the base. Since then, the route has been transferred to South Croydon garage in a mutual swap of routes to improve inefficiency, route 410 going the other way to Beddington.

As of 31 October 2009 Arriva lost the route under tendering to Travel London, formerly part of the National Express group but recently sold to NedRail (railway operator of the Netherlands). They decided to re-brand the operation and chose the 407 as the launch route. The new name is Abellio London, Abellio apparently being a goddess of apple trees or something (I didn't really want to delve any deeper). The new name has been fairly quickly rolled out across the rest of the fleet, but showing the new name and logo on the first day is brand new 8517 (YX59 BYK) setting off from Sutton along the town's offside bus lane.

Photo © James Fullick.

Regettably these vehicles represent a reduction in capacity, as they are the shorted 10.2m length. TfL's specifications for single deck routes normally simply say that buses should have a capacity of at least 55, and the short version meets this requirement so there is no incentive for operators to provide longer buses. A rear view has also been provided, with 8520 (YX59 BYN) at the terminus in a foggy Caterham on the same day. The big "smile" on the rear is a distinctive feature of the Enviro family.

Photo © James Fullick.

The 407 has scheduled double deck workings on Mondays to Fridays to deal with schools loadings, and surprisingly the vehicle for this was not specified as new. Instead, a Dennis Trident from the existing Travel London fleet is used. Although not on the scheduled working, this operation is illustrated by 9774 (KU02 YBJ) crossing the tram lines in Wellesley Road, central Croydon, the same day. The lack of fleetnames is no doubt in preparation for the addition of Abellio ones when time allows!

Photo © James Fullick.

See also routes 197, 408, 403, 410, 286, 42, 315, 455, 108, 127, 367, 404, 409, 176, 57, 289, 166

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