Keeping London moving

Transport for London’s Annual Report for 2016/17 has shown that moving about in London by bus remains the preferred option for public transport users. Around 2.24 billion journeys were made on the classic red buses in the period between April 2016 and March 2017, almost one billion more than the number of total fares on the London Underground.

Metroline is one of the bus companies that handles this influx of passengers, carrying over 1.2 million people every day on its 99 routes. With over 1700 buses in motion across North, West and Central London, the 2016 London Bus Operator of the Year runs 19 per cent of all London’s schedule bus mileage, maintaining its position as the second largest bus operator in London. Metroline’s history began in 1989, and since 2000 it has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore-based multinational land transport company ComfortDelGro. Only a year later, Metroline became the first UK operator to enter the Irish market, when it established a partnership with the local Crosson Motor Group, which led to the formation of the private bus company Aerdart. Over the next few years, Metroline acquired new businesses, including the privately-owned London bus operator F.E. Thorpe and Sons Ltd in August 2004, and E.H. Mundy Holdings Ltd in November the same year. It then expanded its fleet further in 2013, when it acquired five new garages from First London – Alperton, Greenford, Hayes, Uxbridge, and Willesden Junction, thus adding 494 new buses to its services. As a result, today Metroline operates a total of 14 garages across London, and employs more than 5000 people, of which approximately 4500 are drivers and over 250 are engineers.

The operator has been an active participant in the implementation of TfL’s strategy to reduce the carbon emissions generated by public transport. For years now, a marked shift towards introduction of zero-emission vehicles has been observed, and by 2020, more than half of London’s bus fleet will be upgraded to meet the latest ultra-low Euro VI emission standard. The £86.1 million programme projects the installation of a new exhaust system in 5000 buses, which will significantly cut their emissions.

In another environment-friendly venture, Metroline upgraded 55 of its Euro V buses to ASDS technology, designed by Danish manufacturer Amminex. It has been claimed that this particular technology works well in slow, urban driving – precisely what London needs. Worth mentioning is the fact that the ASDS technology was installed without further changes to the vehicle or the catalyst onboard, a cost-saving decision that does not impose the need for an expensive catalyst exchange, while still achieving a major NOx reduction.

Metroline became one of the first bus companies to run hybrid vehicles as part of a wider trial initiated by TfL back in 2008, and those first five ADL E400 prototypes can still be seen in service at the operator’s depot in Cricklewood, running with 73 production models. Hybrid double-deck buses represent about one-third of Metroline’s fleet, as by the end of 2017, the company had around 600 of these in operation. One hundred and fifty of the vehicles in question are New Routemasters, also known as the New Bus for London. The first diesel-electric bus of this type entered service for Metroline on Route 24.

The brightest highlight for Metroline in this ubiquitous quest for environmental purification, however, remains the fact that in 2016, it took delivery of the world’s first zero emissions all-electric double-decker. The bus is able to complete up to 190 miles in city traffic conditions on a single charge, with recharging taking just four hours using cheap, off-peak electricity. The technical equipment of the vehicle includes BYD-designed and built Li-ion iron-phosphate batteries, delivering 340 kilowatt hours of power through a permanent magnet synchronous motor. Metroline operates a total of five electric double-deckers that have been serving Route 98 (Willesden Garage – Holborn) since May 2016. In the summer of 2018, BYD will deliver another 23 electric single deck buses that will be based at Metroline’s Holloway garage in North London. These will run on Route 46 (Lancaster Gate Station – St Bartholomew’s Hospital).

Metroline remains a frontrunner in the adoption of Green vehicle technology, and at the request of Transport for London, it has started working on hydrogen-powered buses. All of the vehicles will be double-deckers, and this operation can be examined as yet another step of the modernisation process going on among all buses criss-crossing the capital. According to the Mayor of London’s draft Transport Strategy, all 9200 buses across London will be zero-emission by 2037, at the latest.

Ushering in new and innovative technologies in public transport is a way not just to reduce the impact buses have on the quality of air in London, but also to possibly attract the younger generation to the engineering profession. The need to reinvigorate the primary and secondary sectors with young and qualified people is visible and Metroline operates a dynamic and award winning apprenticeship programme as it invests in London’s future. As businesses’ struggle with decaying skillsets has been well documented in the past several years. Now there is a cautious optimism that the presence of more activities that require high levels of computer literacy and advanced technological knowledge, will appeal to a greater number of youngsters and will lead them into the industry.

Took delivery of the world’s first Zero Emissions all-electric double-decker
Runs 19 per cent of all London bus services