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A double deck route with a letter prefix is a relatively unusual thing, in London at least. The E1 used to be single deck, but heavy loadings at school start and finish times meant that double deckers were re-introduced some years back. There is also a very heavy commuter flow between the Greenford Avenue area and Ealing Broadway, terminus of the Central and District Underground lines.
Contract renewal in May 2009 saw the route specified for new Enviro400 double deckers, but their introduction was extraordinarily protracted over several months, apparently owing to a shortage of iBus equipment, the new TfL radio communications system. For several weeks only 3 buses were in service, and one of them was DN33576 (SN09 CDV), seen on 10 July 2009 pulling out of Drayton Green into Drayton Bridge Road - an acute angled junction for drivers to negotiate. Note the incorrect destination blind display specified by TfL – the last stop is actually Greenford Red Lion, one stop short of The Broadway.
|Photo © John Bennett.|
I have retained the previous photo as Greenford garage still has a fair sized fleet of the type for other routes. Those are standard issue First London Plaxton President bodied Dennis Tridents, such as TN32995 (T995 NLP, formerly TN995) on Tuesday 20 March 2007. The location is the top end of Greenford Avenue, just after the junction with Ruislip Road East – and the location of one of the big schools, behind the fence on the right. The bus had recently received an allover red repaint in accordance with latest TfL guidance – gone are the yellow and white markings, and even the yellow panels with red "f" symbols either side of the destination blind.
|Photo © John Bennett.|
The E1 was one of the flat fare routes introduced in the Bus Reshaping plans of 1968, designed to reduce the reliance on conductors in a variety of ways. The E1 took in the short 211 route from Greenford to Ealing Broadway, combined with an extension to Brentford via Hanwell, replacing part of the rather circuitous 255 route – and also adding the link between Boston Manor and Ealing during evenings and weekends, as the 255 had operated only between Brentford and Hanwell at those times. The 255 had been a very odd shaped route, running from Clapham Junction to Acton Vale via Putney, Hammersmith, Brentford and Hanwell! Not that the 211 was a lot better, as the otherwise fairly direct looking route between Greenford and Brentford took a lengthy detour via Ealing, almost doubling back on itself in the process.
The flat fare routes were initially operated using high capacity Swift single deck buses, although these unreliable and unpopular buses were soon replaced by Leyland Nationals or double deck types. I believe the 211 had been single deck anyway, though that would still have represented a reduction in seating capacity as the new Swifts seated just 25, but with large standee areas. However, the nature of the route meant long distance journeys were unlikely, with the two legs either side of Ealing each taking around 20 minutes end to end, so standing would not have been such a daunting prospect as on some of the routes.
The E1 was converted to double deck operation using DMS class Daimler Fleetlines, though these were little more successful than the Swifts. Then came the more modern Metrobus, which lasted the route for a few years more. But the route suffered a drop in capacity again in the 1980s fad for minibuses. Centrewest seemed to be particularly advanced with its fleet replacement programme, once boasting that more than half its mileage was run by minibuses. Those on the Ealing routes were Renault S75s with Wright Nimbus bodywork, new in 1990. Their introduction coincided with the split of route E1 at Ealing Broadway, the Brentford to Ealing section becoming the E8. However, these were quite inadequate for peak loadings, and very difficult for passengers with shopping, and the E1 was the first of the E-routes to lose these buses, they initially being replaced by Metrobuses.
In March 1996, Centrewest purchased London Buslines from the Q-Drive group, together with buses and a base at Southall. A decision to standardise Buslines as a single deck operation resulted in the Leyland Olympian double deckers being moved to the parent fleet and being repainted red. The first 6 moved at the end of 1996, for the E1, although 25 of the remaining 27 soon followed (the other two going to Beeline). The buses had a mixture of Alexander RH, RL and Northern Counties bodywork and were put to use on the 83 and E1 from Alperton, replacing Metrobuses. Of course, all have since been replaced by low floor vehicles.
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