Back to the Future as commuter routes celebrate half a century of service

today 15 May 2016 News

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Go-Ahead London today released images of a striking one-off livery designed to commemorate 50 years of commuter bus services.  A modern Mercedes-Benz Citaro used on Routes 507 (Waterloo to Victoria) and 521 (Waterloo to London Bridge) has been repainted into a colour scheme from April 1966 when the first in a series of express bus routes, commonly known as ‘Red Arrow’, were introduced in the capital.

Route 500 commenced operation on 18 April 1966 between Victoria and Marble Arch, with some journeys extended to Oxford Circus.  One-person operated with single-deck vehicles at a time when the bus fleet mostly consisted of double-deck crew vehicles, it quickly grew in popularity and proved to be the start of a frequent and high capacity network bearing the ‘Red Arrow’ name. 

While mostly traditional London red, the Citaro also includes a light grey relief band and it carries ‘Red Arrow’ lettering on both sides of the bus, in addition to period London Transport roundels.  The colour scheme was designed in-house and refurbishment work also took place within Go-Ahead London, courtesy of skilled engineers based at New Cross Garage Accident Repair Centre. 

The repainted bus is one of 46 vehicles deployed on the 507 and 521 services, which are used by around 29,000 passengers daily.  The vehicle will operate in service on Route 507 from next Monday, 18 April 2016, to coincide exactly with the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrow network.  On the same day one of the original AEC Swift buses, recently recommissioned, will replicate Route 500.

Go-Ahead London Managing Director, John Trayner, said: “Routes 507 and 521 form an important role in moving large numbers of people, predominantly commuters, between rail stations.  These innovative services have a long history of being at the cutting edge of both public transport planning and vehicle design.  The next stage in their evolution will take place later this year when we introduce a fleet of pure electric buses.  These vehicles are a fusion of British and Chinese technology and a fitting legacy to the pioneering work undertaken by my late colleague Phil Margrave”.

Pat Mahon, General Manager at Waterloo Garage added: “As someone who drove Swifts in my early career, I remember them with fondness, although they are a world away from the creature comforts provided by the Citaro.  In the 15-years I have managed the service from Waterloo Garage different ideas have come and gone, most notably the articulated buses.  Throughout this time one constant has remained and that is the dedicated professionalism of the staff.  They should be rightly proud of their output.  The repainted Citaro honours our past and also shows how far the service has come in half a century”.