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Route D6
18 January 2012

The D-series of Docklands local routes has been substantially reduced compared with its peak in the 1990s, largely in consequence of the full opening of the Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee Line. That explains the rather "gappy" numbering of the routes. The route which reaches farthest from the Isle of Dogs is the D6 to Hackney, which feels as if it ought to be double deck (it has been in the past).

Go-Ahead made major gains in tendering from 17 September 2011, picking up three of the four D routes which were previously operated by First Capital. Appropriately they are operated by the Docklands Buses unit – they are actually the first routes operated by this company to serve the original Docklands, thereby ending an anomaly that had existed for quite a few years! This leaves just the D3 with a different operator out of the D routes, run by Stagecoach London.

The D6 is thus now operated by Enviro200Darts, these being to the 10.8m length, hitherto relatively uncommon in London, but which should be seen more over the next few years as TfL tries to increase capacity without having to spend much more money. SE105 was seen in Mile End of 20 September 2011. Note the allover red livery, these being amongst the first buses delivered to Go-Ahead in this condition, the company having held out until the last possible moment with its relief colours.

Photo © RNAM200 (Robert Mighton).

The D6 is the former southern leg of route 106, having replaced that route between Bethnal Green and Poplar in 1989, with an onward extension into the Isle of Dogs. Initially the D6 only ran on Mondays to Saturdays, the 106 retaining its old routeing as far as Poplar on Sundays to cover, but otherwise being diverted at Bethnal Green to Mile End Gate.

The D6 routeing has not been altered since then. However, in late 1991 or early 1992 the route was won on contract by Capital Citybus, and the 106 and D6 routeings were standardised with the D6 introduced on Sundays, albeit only between Hackney and Poplar. A motley collection of double deckers was introduced with the route seeing quite a variety of different vehicle types over the next eight years — not an uncommon occurrence with that particular company.

A steadily higher proportion of the allocation became Dennis Arrows, first with four (413-416) acquired from dealer stock, then with further examples (from the 401-412) batch transferred from the ELX East London Line replacement service when that ceased. The route was one of the first batch moved into Capital Citybus’s new base in Hackney, Waterden Road, near Stagecoach East London’s existing base. Hackney has expanded considerably since then, proving quite a useful base for the operation of many routes.

When the D6 contract was renewed in 1999, it became subject to the then popular fad of converting it to smaller buses on a higher frequency. At least the variety – potentially confusing to passengers – was cleared as low floor Darts with Marshall bodies swept all double deckers away. Ironically an earlier victim of the same fad was the 106 in 1996, which has since reverted to double deck operation!

See also routes D3, D7, D8, 106

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