Articulated buses in the United Kingdom

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A Wright StreetCar articulated bus in York

Articulated buses were rarely used in the United Kingdom compared to other countries, until the turn of the millennium. [according to whom?] This was historically due to the UK preference for the double-decker bus for use on high capacity routes. [according to whom?] As of June 2006, there were over 500 articulated buses in the UK,[1] although they are still heavily outnumbered by double deckers. The majority of this fleet was used in London, although in August 2008 it was announced these buses would be withdrawn by end of 2011.[2]


Until 1980 articulated buses were illegal for British roads due to their length. Following an exemption, the first trials in the UK used vehicles by MAN and Leyland-DAB.

MAN Bendibus, 1979[edit]

The first to carry passengers on a scheduled service (albeit without charge, due to regulations) was a MAN Bendibus demonstrator with City of Oxford Motor Services in late 1979.[3]

Leyland-DAB, 1979[edit]

Leyland-DAB articulated buses, built by the British-Danish joint venture, Leyland-DAB bus, in Denmark,[4] were the most intensively trialled first-generation vehicles introduced to the UK. Four models of their National bodied buses were imported, and used on extended trial by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), purchased in 1979.[5] These vehicles wore a green, red and cream livery, and, as well as Yorkshire, were demonstrated to other UK operators including Maidstone Borough Council Transport. An example was also exhibited by private London operator Capital Citybus with route blinds and markings for Red Arrow service.

Two of these National types were later sold to McGill's Bus Services of Barrhead originally for its Barrhead-Paisley-Renfrew service, and later for its Barrhead-Glasgow service after a weight limit prevented their continued use on the Paisley service, with the others going to Hampshire Bus in Winchester. Some later saw use as airport buses with British Airways, and then as non-PSV exhibit buses (in 2008); at least one of these buses was undergoing preservation by 2003.[6]

Following the trials and demonstrations, no UK operators decided to place orders for the Leyland DABs, except for South Yorkshire Transport in 1985, the bus operating company now divested from the SYPTE. SYT placed an order for 13 buses of the DAB bodied type, which saw service in a blue and cream liveried City Clipper circular service[7] and the X91 Fastline route. These buses survived privatisation of the passenger transport executives and saw service with the privatised operator Mainline in Sheffield and Rotherham lasting in Mainline service until 1999. They were also loaned for demonstration to London Buses, with one seeing service with the Selkent division in 1992.

Mercedes Benz O405, 1992[edit]

A single November 1992 built articulated Mercedes-Benz O405G was bought by Grampian Regional Transport, the forerunner of FirstGroup, as their bus RT1 (K1 GRT). This bus survived into 2008 as a unique member of the First Aberdeen fleet as fleet number 10046.

Modern era[edit]

An articulated Scania OmniCity with Cardiff Bus

Towards the new millennium, interest was revived in the more advanced, lighter, low-floor designs being introduced, and the first second-generation articulated buses were introduced by First Greater Manchester in 1998/1999 on route 135. Articulated buses were first introduced in London in the early 2000s. Later, FirstGroup, in collaboration with Volvo and Wrightbus, developed the Wright StreetCar. FirstGroup branded this the FTR concept, for use in the introduction of new bus rapid transit schemes. The FTR was used in York, Leeds and Swansea.

Use of conventional articulated buses has extended beyond London, into the other English regions, as well as Scotland and Wales. Cardiff Bus secured the first Statutory Quality Bus Partnership in the UK which prompted the introduction of high technology artics.[1] While Arriva London had the largest single fleet, in London, First operated the most artics in the UK, across its subsidiary companies.[1]

Use in London[edit]

The Red Arrow articulated bus fleet at Waterloo bus garage

The majority of UK articulated buses were based in London, driven by the tendering specification system of Transport for London, the regulation authority responsible for bus services in London. The introduction of articulated buses in London caused several issues, including safety and fare evasion.

By 2008, the London fleet stood at 393 buses. In August 2008, following the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, it was announced the articulated buses would be withdrawn as their five-year operating contracts came to an end, starting from May 2009.[2][8] Route 207 was the last route to operate articulated buses on 10 December 2011.[9][10]

With the main London operators of articualted buses (Arriva and the Go-Ahead Group) also having significant provincial fleets in the UK, many were cascaded to regional fleets. Arriva exported 68 to Malta in 2011 for use by its Arriva in Malta subsidiary.[11][12]

Use in Cardiff[edit]

Baycar service in Cardiff

In 2006, Cardiff Bus took delivery of 19 Scania OmniCitys for use on the Capital City Red services to Ely to increase capacity on a route previously operated by Super Pointer Darts and to improve infrastructure on the route, and the aim is that the Ely corridor will become the first Statutory Quality Bus Partnership in Wales. The buses operate every five minutes.[1]

The buses also operate every 10 minutes on the Baycar route between Cardiff city centre and Cardiff Bay in a blue livery.

Use in the West Midlands[edit]

In early 2000 Travel West Midlands (TWM) took delivery of 11 Mercedes-Benz O405 articulated buses for its route 67 between Castle Vale and Birmingham. In late 2003 Travel Coventry bought 10 articulated Mercedes-Benz Citaro vehicles for Primeline routes in Coventry; the earlier O405s joined the Citaros in Coventry, although one was scrapped after a depot fire. To replace the previous articulated vehicles on route 67 purchased eleven Scania OmniCitys branded for the route.[13]


The majority of articulated buses in the UK are Mercedes-Benz Citaros, with the remainder being standard Scania and Volvos, and the Wright StreetCar.

The types in use are:

Volvo have demonstrated a Hispano-bodied articulated bus in London, as have Scania with the OmniCity, but neither has secured any orders.


External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Bus and Coach News Archived December 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. June 2006 review of UK artics
  2. ^ a b Tom. "Articulated buses routes Debendification Confirmed". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  3. ^ Jolly, Stephen & Taylor, Nick (2003). The Book of Oxford Buses and Trams. Oxford Bus Museum Trust. p. 51. ISBN 0-9506739-2-7. 
  4. ^ "Bus Explorer Danish Bus industry". Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  5. ^ "National bodied Leyland-DAB artic in a state of dis-repair". Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  6. ^ Enthusiast page detailing the purchase of a National bodied Leyland-DAB artic for preservation[dead link]
  7. ^ Nigel, Boxley. "Image of the SYT City Clipper liveried DAB bodied Leyland-DAB artic". Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  8. ^ Buses Magazine August 2008 page 5
  9. ^ Final bendy buses banished from London Archived 3 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Greater London Authority 9 December 2011
  10. ^ Bendy bus makes final journey for Transport for London BBC News 10 December 2011
  11. ^ London's Bendy Buses to be Sent to Malta LBC 7 December 2011
  12. ^ London's old buses are driving Maltese round the bend The Guardian 13 December 2011
  13. ^ TWM Launch New 67 National Express Press Release. Retrieved 19 April 2011.