BL51 on the indirect serviceCarshalton 2007

The BL

London Transport Bristol LH single-decker
BL51 running from Kingston garage displays the yellow blind panel that was supposed to alert the travelling public that the bus would take a roundabout route to its stated destination.  The complexities of the 215's operation in later years are such that I have not yet attempted the history of the route.
Photo Ian Armstrong collection
The next generation of red LT single-decker after the RF was represented by the Merlin (MB) and Swift (SM) classes, at one time the perceived solution to running an economic service in most of London.  They provided the new buses for the 'Reshaping Plan', introduced in 1968, having first been introduced on the central London Red Arrow services two years earlier.  The Merlins failed, partly due to unreliability, partly due to operational problems and partly because double-deck OMO became permitted and indeed encouraged by Government.  They didn't last long.
Meanwhile, the RFs were getting old, but there were certain routes that could not take larger buses - and neither could Kingston Garage, where the pits were unsuitable for 8' wide buses.  The choice was limited to one type - the Bristol LH, of identical dimensions to the RF.  In the views of some, they were a retrograde step, and (like most new buses in the 70s) they weren't as reliable as their predecessors.  But 95 were purchased in 1976-7, allowing RFs to be retired across London. 
In south London, they replaced RFs on Sutton's routes 80 and 80A (although much of their work was to be replaced within months by double-deck DMSs on the 280 and 280A), at Croydon on the 234A and at Kingston - although not, ironically on the last two RF routes, where the problem of the pits was solved by moving the allocation to Norbiton and introducing Leyland Nationals.


The BL network shrank as the GLC's Fares Fare policy was ruled illegal and lightly loaded routes were uneconomic.  Where routes were successful, they were upgraded to larger buses.  The last BLs operated at Edgware on the 251 in 1989, plus one on the Westlink services until 1991 and one with Orpington Buses in 1993-4.


Thanks to Ian Smith for much of the data on BLs.