London Buses route SL7

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(Redirected from London Buses route X26)

OperatorLondon General
VehicleVolvo B9TL Wright Eclipse Gemini 2
PredecessorsRoute 726 (1970s–2005)
Route X26 (2005–2023)
Former operator(s)Quality Line
Tellings-Golden Miller
Capital Logistics
London Coaches
StartWest Croydon bus station
North Cheam
Worcester Park
New Malden
Kingston upon Thames
EndHeathrow Central bus station
Length23.75 miles (38.22 km)
Frequency8-20 minutes
Journey time76-129 minutes

London Buses route SL7, formerly London Buses route X26, is a Transport for London contracted Superloop express bus route in London, England. Running between West Croydon and Heathrow Central bus stations, it is operated by London General.


Metrobus Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaro on route X26 in Kingston upon Thames in December 2008
London General Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL in the livery of East London Transit in New Malden in April 2017

Route X26 has its origins in Green Line Coaches route 725, which started in the 1950s and ran from Gravesend and Dartford through Sidcup, Bromley, Croydon, Sutton and Kingston to Staines and Windsor. In the late 1970s route 726 was introduced as a variant, from Gravesend to Windsor via Heathrow Airport and Slough instead of Staines.[1]

By the 1980s, the sections of route between Heathrow and Windsor and between Gravesend and Dartford had been withdrawn. At that time the Green Line network was operated by London Country Bus Services, but when that company was broken up in 1986 route 726, which ran almost entirely within Greater London, came under the control of London Country North West (LCNW) and Kentish Bus & Coach. In 1991 LCNW planned to withdraw the route, but London Regional Transport stepped in and took the route over. LCNW continued to operate the route on a short term one-year contract. On 29 February 1992, London Coaches, a subsidiary of London Buses privatised in 1992, commenced operating the route using dual-purpose DAF SB220 vehicles.[2]

The contract changed from London Coaches to Capital Logistics in the late 1990s, and passenger numbers continued to decline. In 1997, London Transport attempted to withdraw the service,[3] but at the end of year it was given an 18-month reprieve after over 1,600 letters had been received in its support.[4]

Early in 1999 the service was cut back to run between Bromley and Heathrow only; the service became hourly, with no early morning or late evening service. Capital Logistics was bought by Tellings-Golden Miller on 1 June 1999, shortly after a new contract for the 726 had been awarded. New low-floor buses were specified, and seven Alexander ALX300 bodied Volvo B10BLEs were purchased.[2]

In April 2005 route 726 was renumbered X26 and the section between Bromley and East Croydon was withdrawn, rerouted to run via Teddington instead of Hampton Court, and many stops were removed to reduce run times and improve reliability.[5][6] The contract was awarded to Metrobus, which used Scania OmniCity vehicles.[7] London Buses hoped that the re-modelled route would attract more passengers and therefore specified large single-deck buses. It was initially intended to remove stops at Carshalton, Cheam, North Cheam and Worcester Park, but these were retained. The peak vehicle requirement (PVR) fell from six buses to four.[2]

On 22 November 2008, route X26 was doubled in frequency to every 30 minutes for most of the day, including Sundays, although the evening service remained hourly.[8] To cover for the increase in PVR while new vehicles were prepared, Metrobus hired Mercedes-Benz O530s from Wealden PSV, delivered directly from original owner Quality Line. The Citaros were returned to Wealden PSV and replaced with Scania OmniCitys from the Crawley Fastway network, refurbished and painted red; these were two years older than the OmniCitys that previously worked on the route.[9]

In June 2010, a proposal to reintroduce the former 726 stop at Beddington was rejected by Transport for London, despite support from many residents.[10] Upon being re-tendered, on 14 April 2012 the route passed to Quality Line with new Mercedes-Benz O530s.[11][12][13]

When next tendered, it passed to London General on 15 April 2017.[14] Double deck Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL buses that formerly operated East London Transit services were introduced after having their rear doors removed and additional luggage racks fitted.[15][16][17]

On 19 August 2023, route X26 was renumbered SL7, becoming part of the Superloop network of orbital express bus routes. The frequency was also increased to every 8-20 minutes.[18][19]

Current route[edit]

Route SL7 operates via these primary locations:[20]

It is currently the longest bus route in London with a distance of 23.75 miles.[21]


  1. ^ McCall, Albert William (1980). Green Line: the history of London's country bus services. Taylor & Francis. p. 123. ISBN 9780904568264. Archived from the original on 23 February 2022. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Aldridge, John (June 2005). "Slow death of a Green Line orbital". Buses (603). Ian Allan Publishing: 19.
  3. ^ Expresslink Bus 726 To Be Withdrawn London Regional Transport July 1997
  4. ^ Aldridge, John (January 1998). "Stay of execution for 726". Buses (514). Ian Allan Publishing: 12.
  5. ^ 726 bus route could have the X factor Transport for London 7 December 2004
  6. ^ X26, a new, accessible and more reliable service Transport for London 12 April 2005
  7. ^ Bus tender results Route X26 Transport for London 8 November 2004
  8. ^ "Orbital express bus route to double in frequency". Transport for London. 20 November 2008. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  9. ^ Aldridge, John (May 2009). "Citaro hire coming to an end". Buses (650). Ian Allan Publishing: 22.
  10. ^ Henderson, Jamie (28 June 2010). "MP strikes out at 'ridiculous' bus route cancellation". Sutton Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  11. ^ Aldridge, John (September 2011). "Setbacks for Arriva and Metrobus in latest awards". Buses (678). Ian Allan Publishing: 22–23.
  12. ^ Tender News Bus Talk issue 12 October 2011 page 5
  13. ^ Epsom £2.4m new bus order Coach & Bus Week issue 1010 2 November 2011 page 6
  14. ^ Bus Service Changes 11 March to 16 April 2017 Transport for London 24 March 2017
  15. ^ Tender success for Abellio and Sullivan Buses issue 742 January 2017 page 24
  16. ^ Go-Ahead London X26 Coach & Bus Week issue 1300 18 July 2018 page 9
  17. ^ Short Hops Buses issue 759 June 2018 page 24
  18. ^ Third London Superloop route to start as X26 becomes SL7 Route One 23 18 August 2023
  19. ^ Route X26 renumbered - 19 August 2023 Transport for London 19 August 2023
  20. ^ Route SL7 Map Transport for London
  21. ^ Marius, Callum (22 July 2021). "The London bus route so long it takes over two hours to reach its destination". MyLondon. Archived from the original on 20 February 2022. Retrieved 20 February 2022.

External links[edit]

Media related to London Buses route SL7 at Wikimedia Commons