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London Buses
An East Lancs Olympus bus of Metroline, a modern interpretation of the famous London red double-decker.
Parent Transport for London
Founded 1999
Headquarters 172 Buckingham Palace Road
Locale London, UK
Service area Greater London; Surrey; Hertfordshire; Essex, UK
Service type Bus transport network
Routes over 700 (100 night buses)[1]
Stops 19,000[2]
Fleet 8000[1]
Daily ridership 6 million per weekday[1]
Operator Various bus operating companies
Web site
An example of a London bus stop.

London Buses is the subsidiary of Transport for London (TfL) that manages bus services within Greater London, UK. Buses are required to carry similar red colour schemes and conform to the same fare scheme. Most services are provided by private sector operators.



Transport for London's key areas of direct responsibility through London Buses are the following:

  • planning bus routes
  • specifying service levels
  • monitoring service quality
  • management of bus stations and bus stops and other support services
  • providing information for passengers in the form of timetables and maps at bus stops and online, and an online route planning service
  • producing leaflet maps, available from Travel Information Centres, libraries etc, and as online downloads.
  • operating CentreComm London Buses 24hour Command and Control centre based in Southwark

Bus operations

Since September 2009, when the last directly controlled bus operating company, East Thames Buses, was re-privatised, all the actual bus services have been operated by a number of bus operating companies which work under contract to London Buses.


London Buses publishes a variety of bus maps. Some are traditional street maps of London marked with bus numbers. In 2002, TfL introduced the first "spider" maps.[3] Rather than attempting to cover the entire city, these maps are centred on a particular locality or bus station, and convey the route information in the schematic style of Harry Beck's influential tube map, capitalising on TfL's iconic style of information design. The arachnoid form of bus routes radiating from a centre earned them the nickname "spider" maps, although TfL refer to them on their website as route maps. The maps are displayed at most major bus stops, and can be downloaded in PDF format via the Internet from the TfL website.[4]

Legal status

The legal identity of London Buses is actually London Bus Services Limited (LBSL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. East Thames Buses was the trading name of another wholly owned subsidiary of TfL called, rather confusingly, London Buses Limited (LBL).

LBL was first created on 1 April 1985 in the process of the privatisation of London bus services, and acted as an arm's-length subsidiary of TfL's precursor organisation, London Regional Transport (LRT), holding twelve bus operating units (from late 1988) and other assets. The operating units were sold off in 1994/5, and their purchasers make up the majority of companies awarded bus operating tenders from the current London Buses (LBSL).

After 1994/5, the LBL company then lay dormant, passing from LRT to TfL. It was resurrected as a place for East Thames Buses to exist within TfL, separated by a chinese wall from LBSL, and acted as a London bus operator by proxy.


The local bus network in London is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world. Over 6,800 scheduled buses operate on over 700 different routes.[1] Over the year this network carries over 1.8 billion passenger journeys.

Ticket machines, fares and concessions

Ticket machine selling single and day tickets for London buses

Buses in the London Buses network accept both Travelcards and Oyster card products including bus passes, as well as single cash fares. Cash fares used to be charged in relation to length of journey (fare stages), but are now charged as single flat fares for any length of journey. From 2000, the flat fare was higher for journeys in Zone 1 than in outer zones, although from 2004 this difference was eliminated, the change coinciding with the introduction of Oyster card flat fares. Cash fares are considerably higher than Oyster fares for the same journey.

With the Oyster card pay as you go (formerly Pre Pay), users are charged a set amount for single journeys, although there is a "daily cap", which limits the maximum amount of money that will be deducted from the balance on a Pay as you go Oyster card regardless of how many buses are taken that day (from 4.30am to 4.30am the next day). Alternatively, weekly and monthly passes may also be purchased and loaded onto an Oyster card.

All children under 11 travel free. Children aged 11 to 15 travel free on buses with an 11-15 Oyster photocard. There are concessions for people aged 16 to 18.[5]

The Freedom Pass scheme allows those over 60 and those with a disability to travel free at any time on buses. People who have concessionary bus passes issued by English local authorities travel free on TfL bus services at any time.

On routes throughout London operated by 'bendy' buses and on route W7, passengers who wish to pay cash fares are required to pre-purchase tickets prior to boarding. All bus stops on those routes are equipped with ticket machines which sell single tickets and one-day passes. These route numbers are marked in yellow on bus stop signs with a notice to "buy tickets before boarding" as drivers are unable to issue tickets and also because passengers may board by any door. Furthermore, many bus stops within the West End of London fall into a "cashless" area. In other places, single tickets may be purchased directly from the bus driver. Most passengers use the Oyster Card, as the cash fare is double the Oyster fare.

Current operators

Companies operating buses under contract to London Buses

Abellio London | Arriva London | Arriva Shires & Essex | Arriva Southern Counties | Blue Triangle | CT Plus | Docklands Buses | East London | First London | London Central | London General | Metrobus | Metroline | NSL Buses | Quality Line | Selkent | Sullivan Buses | Thameside | Transdev London |

Also, see Bus garages in London for operating codes.


The various bus operators providing services under contract to London Buses operate a wide variety of vehicles, about the only immediately obvious common feature being their use of a largely red livery. However, London Buses in fact maintains a close control over both the age and specification of the vehicles. Particular examples of this include the use of separate exit doors, increasingly unusual on buses in the United Kingdom outside London, and, on double-deckers, the use of a straight staircase where most other UK operators specify a more compact curved staircase. Additionally, London Buses also specifies that vehicles operating in London use linen roller destination blinds, whereas in most other parts of the country, electronic dot matrix or LED displays are the norm on new buses.

Because of London Buses' close control on the age of the fleet, it is very common for London buses to be cascaded by their owners to operations in other parts of the country after only a few years' service.


An iBus screen on a London United Scania OmniCity double decker on route 482.

iBus is an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL)[6] system to improve London's buses using technology installed by Siemens AG.[7] The system tracks all of London's 8000 buses to provide passengers with audio visual announcements,[6] improved information on bus arrivals,[8] and to trigger priority at traffic junctions.[9][10]

Each bus contains a Windows-based computer[2] that has the details of all 19,000 bus stops in London.[2] As the bus approaches the stop, the on-board system will announce and display the bus stop name.[8] In addition it is able to give recorded announcements such as "please move down inside the bus"[11] and "seats are available on the upper deck".[12]

The iBus system aims to provide a better fix on bus locations than the old Selective Vehicle Detection (SVD) system.[9] iBus can locate every bus to an accuracy of about ten metres, or its distance from the nearest stop by around ten seconds.[2] It does this using several instruments:

The essential part of the system relies on GPS satellite data that roughly determine the location of a bus down to 100 metres.[7] Data collected from GPS is passed into a Kalman filter,[13] and other data including velocity[13] and temperature[13] is calculated on the bus and transmitted every 30 seconds via GPRS.[7] With the bus network map, this helps the Central System to make a "best guess" of the bus position and depicts the overall image derived from the data provided by all buses,[7] even in areas with poor GPS reception. The Central System[13] can update the countdown signs as before[13] that now has a more accurate prediction derived from all this data. Knowing the location of the bus, controllers have the means to regulate the service more efficiently,[8] and priority can be given to a bus at traffic lights.[9][10][13]

In the future, this data may be made available over mobile applications and the TfL website.[2]

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b c d Transport for London. "London Buses". Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "London buses headed in the same direction as Helsinki's high-tech transport system | Technology". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  3. ^ Mayor of London. "Transport Strategy - Buses". Archived from the original on 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  4. ^ Transport for London. "Bus route maps". Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  5. ^ "Children and students | Transport for London". 2010-01-19. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  6. ^ a b "iBus | Transport for London". 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Siemens AG - London". Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Background | Transport for London". Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  9. ^ a b c d e
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ "Benefits | Transport for London". Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h
  14. ^ "Broadcast Yourself". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 

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