The Last of First - Our First Tribute

"Farewell First, as they leave London on the 28th September 2013. This is a tribute post, to which I believe was a good company until 2009, when they started to screw up..."

"Since the Marshall Capital days, First London have always been my favourite operator. It was a successful operator and the news of its withdrawal from London service has left me astounded. A truly heart-breaking departure. Therefore, a tribute is in order."
-London Bus Breh

Created and commenced by LondonBuses72. Written and completed by the London Bus Breh.
Key for allocations: chassis / model (fleetcode) route.

The First London Routemasters.
Bishop's Bridge Road, Bayswater. ©Peter Doble.
Well, it was something that wasn't expected at all. The 3rd biggest bus company in London had to pull out of business, supposedly because of financial reasons. FirstGroup had 9 garages in London, spread out across until they were split between 3 subsidiaries.


Dagenham (DM)
DN33508 (LK08 FLA), an Alexander Dennis Enviro400 allocated
to routes 179, 252 and 365. The route is now with Stagecoach London.
Seen standing at Ilford's small bus station off Hainault Street. ©London Bus Breh.
This garage is part of First Capital East, which operated routes 165, 252, 365, 368 and 498. It also operated a number of school routes in the area. Whilst First London withdrew their North and CentreWest subsidiaries in June, their East services remained operational until today. Routes 165, 252, 365, 368 and 498 were the last of First London and whilst route 165 moved to Go-Ahead London, the rest made their way to Stagecoach London.

As of 22 June 2013, the allocations from this garage are as follows:
Alexander Dennis Enviro200s (DML) allocated to route 165 and 368
Alexander Dennis Enviro400s (DN) allocated to routes 252, 365 and 498

DMS44182 (LT52 WUD), a Marshall Capital with Dennis Dart
SLF chassis allocated to route 193. Both bus and route are now
with Go-Ahead London as of 22 June 2013.
South Street, Romford. ©London Bus Breh.

DML44075 (YX58 HVE), an Alexander Dennis Enviro200
allocated to route 498. The route is now with Go-Ahead London.
Romford Station. ©London Bus Breh.

Lea Interchange (LI)
WSH62995 (LK60 HPN), a Wright Pulsar hydrogen powered bus
allocated to route RV1. The route, along with route 25, was trialledwith a
Mercedes-Benz Citaro rigid O530G of hydrogen power in 2004. However, this
model and route now remains the only hydrogen powered in London from 2010.
The Strand, Aldwych end. ©London Bus Breh.
Being First London's division of Capital North's only bus garage, Lea Interchange (LI) was opened in 2007 as a replacement to the Waterden Road / Stratford Bus Garage that was closed to make way for developing and constructing the Olympic for the 2012 London Olympic Park and Paralympic Games. In fleet, the garage contains London's first and only hydrogen buses, allocated to route RV1. Lea Interchange is now a Tower Transit garage - and a fully capacitated garage as well, operating an abundance of routes: the 25, 26, 30, 58, 236, 308, 339, RV1, W14, W15 and N26, as well as newly awarded routes 425, N550 and N551.

First London's allocations to the above routes prior to Tower Transit takeover are as follows:
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DM) allocated to routes 339 and W14.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DML) allocated to routes RV1 and W15.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DMV) allocated to routes 236 and 308.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400 (DN) allocated to routes 25, 26, 30 and N26.
Dennis Dart SLF / Marshall Capital (DM) allocated to route 339.
VDL SB200 / Wright Pulsar 2 hydrogen powered (WSH) allocated to route RV1.
Volvo B9TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 allocated to routes 25 and 58.
Dennis Dart SLF / Caetano Nimbus (DMC) used as logistical spares.
Dennis Trident 2 / Plaxton President used as logistical spares.

BJ11 DVC / VN36118 is seen at Stratford Bus Station serving route 25 bound for Ilford.
Note this was Stagecoach London's only articulated bus route until contract was regained on 25 June 2011.
(C) LondonBuses72
DMV44228 (YX12 AEP), an Alexander Dennis Enviro200
allocated to route 308. Taken two days before opening ceremony
of the 2012 London Olympic Games, hence the crowds and police.
Stratford City. ©London Bus Breh.

Atlas Road (AS)

VNW32428 (LK04 HYH), a Wright Eclipse Gemini
with Volvo B7TL chassis allocated to routes 28, 31 and 328.
Atlas Road holds the highest amount of the bus model in London.
Seen diverted towards Kilburn Park Road via Maida Vale. ©London Bus Breh.
Opened on 1 October 2011 due to space being taken by the crossrail construction at Westbourne Park (X), this outstation of a garage is, on a sunny day, scenically located at the end of Atlas Road just off the Old Oak Common Lane. Atlas Road (AS) is home to routes 28, 31 and 328, as well as route 266 when acquired from Metroline last year and not forgetting night routes N28 and N31.
Volvo B7TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini (VNW) allocated to routes 28, 31, 328, N28 and N31.
Volvo B7TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini (VNZ) allocated to route 28.
Volvo B9TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 (VN) allocated to route 266.
Wright Gemini 2 DL (WN) allocated to route 328.

TN33197 (LT52 XAH), a Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident 2
chassis used as logistical spares. Routes 23, 28, 31 and 328 can be seen
using this model still, and here's a 28 using this logistical spare whilst
being unusually curtailed to North End Road, Lillie Road.
Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise. ©London Bus Breh.

VN37960 (BN61 MXG), a Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 with a Volvo B9TL
chassis allocated to route 266. During October 2012, after the purchase of the model
for route 266 and new DN and DNHs for route 23 at the main Westbourne Park (X), this allowed a couple
spare vehicles from previous batch purchases of the model to stray onto route 31, as well as the
introduction of WNs into route 328 allocation, much to their notice and excitement of locals.
Swiss Cottage. ©London Bus Breh.

WNH39002 (LK58 ECW), a Wright Gemini 2 HEV with a VDL DB300
chassis allocated to route 328. Where have these wondered off to? Five of these
hybrid prototypes were purchased for route 328 in 2008. They were withdrawn for
refurbishment in early 2013, however were permanently withdrawn after refurbishment.
Drivers did moan about how unreliable they were, so I suppose withdrawal was eminent ...
 and a relief. In their replacement is a new allocation of the four 2008 diesel buses of
the same bodywork and chassis from route 23 due to the purchase of Alexander
Dennis Enviro400 diesel and hybrids fully allocated to the route's PVR.
Kilburn High Road. ©London Bus Breh.

Greenford (G)
SN12 EHD/ DN33756 is seen at Ealing Broadway whilst serving route E1, bound for Greenford, Red Lion.
Note that this is an odd working from route 92.
(C) LondonBuses72
Greenford (G) was the biggest garage to be sold from First Centrewest to Metroline West. It is home to most Ealing prefix routes, with a standard fleet of Alexander Dennis Enviro's. Only route 282 still maintains Plaxton Presidents. Greenford runs routes 92, 95, 282, E1, E3, E5, E7, E9 and E10. 

Most buses at Greenford date as far as 2009, and here are the allocations:
Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident 2 allocated to route 282.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400 allocated to routes E1 and E3.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (8.9m) allocated to routes E5 and E10.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (10.2m) allocated to routes E7 and E9.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (10.2m) allocated to route 95.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400 allocated to route 92.

SN12 EGY/ DN33774 is seen on diversion in South Acton, bound for Chiswick, Edensor Road - This bus is serving route E3. Note that this is an odd working from route 92.
(C) LondonBuses72

YX11 AFE/ DML44185 on route E9 to Yeading, Barnhill Estate. Note that this is an odd working from route 95.
(C) LondonBuses72

LK03 NKZ/ TN33289 on route 95 to Southall, Town Hall whilst on Cornwall Avenue, located in Dormer's Well. Note that this is an EXTREMELY rare working from route 282.
(C) LondonBuses72

Hayes (HS)
EA11051 (LK05 FCM), a Mercedes-Benz Citaro articulated O530G
allocated to route 207. This route became the last London debendification
on 9 December 2011. The last ever bendy-bus service can be seen below.
Ariel Way, Shepherd's Bush. ©London Bus Breh.
Located at the end of Rigby Lane in Middlesex, Hayes (HS) is home to routes 195, 207, 427 and the N207. Now owned by Metroline West, its First London fleet can be seen below:

Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DML) allocated to route 195.
Scania OmniCity DD (SN) allocated to routes 207 and N207.
Volvo B9TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 (VN) allocated to route 427.

EA11040 (LK54 FKX), an articulated Mercedes-Benz Citaro O530G
allocated to route 207. EA11040 was the last bendy bus journey made in
London, leaving White City Bus Station at a couple of minutes past midnight.
That was taken a good three and a half hours after this picture was photographed!
White City Bus Station, White City. ©London Bus Breh.
SN36052 (YR61 RTZ), a Scania OmniCity allocated to route 207 and N207.
The night bus service used be operated with Alexander ALX400s with
Dennis Trident 2 chassis whilst the day service was an articulated allocation.
Oxford Street, Marble Arch, The West End. ©London Bus Breh.

Alperton (ON)
DMS220 (JGF 220K), a Daimler Fleetline allocated to route 18.
Alperton Bus Garage. ©David Jones.
Alperton (ON) is one of First London's oldest bus garages. The garage was opened in June 1939 adjacent to Alperton Station (served by the Piccadilly Line) to serve the large local area that had been constructed in the mid-1930s. During the mid-1970s, the garage was reconstructed, outstationing eighteen vehicles to the now closed Stonebridge bus garage. In the '80s, the fleet consisted entirely of AEC Routemasters and Daimler Fleetlines, until MCW Metrobuses began arrival and gradual replacements of the Daimlers from 1981.
In 1982, routes 83 and 187 (now with WJ) became one-manned as all remaining Routemasters were transferred away to other garages following the September 1982 service reductions. By 1994, Alperton was doing most of the maintenance and driver training services for CentreWest.
DML41376 (W376 VLN), a Dennis Dart Marshall Capital
allocated to routes 223 and 224. Has now been withdrawn.
Coronation Road, Park Royal. ©London Bus Breh.
Before withdrawal from this garage, First London operated routes 83, 223, 224, 245 and 487 with the Alexander Dennis Enviro200 being the mainstay of the garage with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TLs and Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TLs for route 83. This garage as of 28 June 2013 is now operated by Metroline West.

Before Metroline West takeover, the allocations were as follows:
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DM) allocated to route 223.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DML) allocated to routes 224, 245 and 487.
Volvo B9TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 allocated to route 83.

First London
DML44103 - YX09 AEZ
Route 487: Willesden Junction - South Harrow
©Lewis JN.

First London
VN37799 - LK59 FCP
Route 83: Golders Green Station - Ealing Hospital
©Lewis JN.

Uxbridge (UX)
LK08 FMO / DN33510 on express route 607 to Uxbridge.
(C) LondonBuses72.
The original Uxbridge Garage was constructed approximately half a mile out of town on the Oxford Road by the London General Omnibus Company in 1921. Throughout its first twenty (Give or take) years in service, single-deckers were the main buses homed by the garage.

A newer Uxbridge garage was built in late 1983, located next to the Uxbridge Underground Station. During the '90s, Marshall-manufactured products, as well as Wright-bodied Dennis Dart SLFs, were of preference to Uxbridge (UX) until the introduction of the Plaxton President, in which they purchased on the Dennis Trident 2 chassis (TN). The garage is well-known for beginning service of route 207 and the express route 607 in 1991, both of which were extended from Shepherd's Bush to White City Bus Station to serve the newly-built Westfield London shopping complex in January 2009.

The garage operates route 331, 607, A10, U1, U2, U3, U4, U5 ... no, there's no U6 ... and U10. It is now serviced by Metroline West.

But before Metroline West takeover, here's the last recorded fleetlist with First London:
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DML) allocated to routes 331, A10, U1, U5 and U10.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400 (DN) allocated to route 607.
Dennis Dart SLF / Caetano Nimbus (DMC) allocated to routes U2 and U3.
Dennis Trident 2 / Plaxton President (TN) allocated to routes U3 and U4.
Volvo B7TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini (VNW) allocated to route 607.

DMC41513 (LK03 NGF), a Caetano Nimbus on a Dennis Dart SLF
chassis allocated to route U3. Now with Metroline West.
Uxbridge Bus Garage. ©London Bus Breh.
First London
DML44155 - YX10 BFV
Route A10: Heathrow Airport, Central Bus Station - Uxbridge Station
©Lewis JN.

Westbourne Park (X)
TNA33386 (LK53 EZF), an Alexander ALX400 with Dennis Trident 2 chassis
that was allocated to route 23. Was, along with its competitor the Plaxton President
popular with First London from this garage. The majority of buses of both models have either
been withdrawn or transferred to First Capital East to mark the complete demise of First London today.
Seen on Bishop's Bridge Road, Bayswater. ©London Bus Breh.
Established in 1981 as part of London Transport's garage reconstruction programme, Westbourne Park (X) replaced two garages: the small and incommodious Middle Row (X) and Stonebridge (SE). Located on Great Western Road very near to Westbourne Park Station, not only is the bus garage famous for its unorthodox design being built underneath the elevation of the A40 Westway, but it was home to the AEC Routemasters allocated to routes 7 (now Metroline operated) and 23. Not forgetting the garage conceived route 414 in November 2004 (now Abellio operated). It was also First London's headquarters. Westbourne Park (X) operates routes 23, 70 and 9H.

SRM3 (650 DYE), an AEC Routemaster
allocated to route 9H.On the last day of Routemaster
service on route 7, the silver Queen's Jubilee bus was
reintroduced to service for one last time. Was used again
in London 2012 Olympics livery, and now serves heritage route 9.
Porchester Terrace North, Bishop's Bridge Road, Bayswater. ©Peter Doble.

AEC Routemaster (RM) allocated to route 9H.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DML) allocated to route 70.

Alexander Dennis Enviro400 (DN) allocated to route 23.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400H (DNH) allocated to route 23.

Plaxton President / Dennis Trident 2 (TN/TNL) used as logistical spares.
Volvo B9TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 (VN) allocated to route 295.

TN33180 (LR02 LYZ), a Plaxton President with Dennis Trident 2
chassis allocated to routes 23, 28, 31 and 328. Has now been withdrawn.
Park Lane, Marble Arch. ©London Bus Breh.
DML44320 (YX12 AMK), an Alexander Dennis Enviro200
allocated to route 70. Westbourne Park (X) had not housed a
single-decker for a decade until winning the contract to route 70.
Canal Way, Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury's, Kensal Town. ©London Bus Breh.

DN39113 (SN12 ARF), an Alexander Dennis Enviro400H
allocated to route 23. First London purchased their first and only batch
of the hybrid version to the Enviro400 for the 23. Fleetcoding is incorrect
for some of the vehicles in the batch, but rectified during Tower Transit takeover.
Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus. ©London Bus Breh.

Willesden Junction (WJ)

EA11002 (LK53 FAF), an articulated Mercedes-Benz Citaro O530G
allocated to route 18. Notoriously withdrawn from London service in 2010.
Euston Square, Euston. ©Steven Hughes.
Home to routes 18, 187, 206, 226, 228 and the N18, Willesden Junction (WJ) is First London's base for single-deckers (excluding route 18). Starting with the Dennis Dart Marshall Capitals, First London have since moved onto modernising their fleet to Enviro200s and this remains their flagship single-decker model. Also in fleet is the Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 on the Volvo B9TL chassis for route 18, but who can forget the bus garage also housed the bendy-buses for the route?

Below sees the last First London fleetlist of this article:
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DML) allocated to routes 187, 226 and 228.
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 (DMV) allocated to route 206.
Volvo B9TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 (VN) allocated to routes 18 and N18.

DML41419 (LN51 DXC), a Marshall Capital with Dennis Dart SLF
chassis allocated to route 187. This, along with DML41772 (X772 HLR),
were the last Dennis Dart Marshall Capitals of First to grace the streets of London.
The model was the most favoured single-decker in the First London fleet
until the introduction of the Alexander Dennis Enviro200 in late 2007.
Central Middlesex Hospital, Park Royal. ©London Bus Breh.

DML44048 (YX58 FPF), an Alexander Dennis Enviro200
allocated to route 228. The route began service on 17 January 2009,
therefore being the youngest yet most boring route of its garage. In fact
in 2011, the route was voted into the top ten of worst London bus routes.
Ladbroke Grove. ©London Bus Breh.
WM47400 (DRZ 6181), a Wright StreetLite allocated to route 226.
A demonstrator, this bus was London's first StreetLite and began service
in April 2012 for route 226. The bus has made frequent appearances on the 228
and even a couple on the 187! It left London service in February this year.
Park Parade, Harlesden. ©London Bus Breh.

First London began on 26 March 1997 when FirstGroup purchased then independent operator CentreWest and later Capital CityBus to form two First London subsidiaries: First CentreWest and First Capital. Both divisions were later rebranded simply as First London.

Garage withdrawals commenced in December 2007 when Orpington Bus Garage was sold to Metrobus. Not a significant transfer, First London kept on gaining the recognition and popularity they deserved. The next garage withdrawal saw Northumberland Park being sold to London General. This was more of a surprise, but no-one could have had even an inkling as to this being the start of the path towards the withdrawal of First London wholly.

Therefore, when news broke out in April 2013 that FirstGroup were to completely depart the London bus scene, we were all struck with astonishment. Metroline, an existing operator owned by the Singaporean ComfortDelGro, was to brand a new division called Metroline West which consisted of almost five hundred of First London's buses from Alperton (ON), Greenford (G), Hayes (HS), Uxbridge (UX) and Willesden Junction (WJ) garages. The remaining four hundred buses from Atlas Road (AS) and Westbourne Park (X), and Lea Interchange (LI) were sold to commence Australian group Transit Systems' first internationally based operator: Tower Transit.

In East London, a few buses remained until operations were ceased on 27 September 2013 after First London's remaining contracts with Transport for London expired.

So, the new and existing operators have been given a new or more roles to progress and succeed in. As we reminisce the great characters of the conductors that used to roam the popular Ladbroke Grove and West End Routemaster buses on the 7 and 23, the abundance of Marshall Capitals that conceived route 328 as well as many other First London routes across the suburban and local housing sections of our city, the prominence of WrightBus and their Wright-bodied Volvos, and the introduction to London's first hydrogen buses - how do you think Metroline West and Tower Transit are going to do to become just as successful as their predecessor? Or is this an opportunity for other London operators such as Arriva, Go-Ahead and Metroline to step-up their game?

FirstGroup, we have admired and have been inspired by your service to London and we thank you for providing us with great buses as well as great people. From the The West London Bus Blog, we wish you all the best in the future for your services elsewhere in the UK.

RM871 (WLT 871), an AEC Routemaster allocated to route 23.
Westbourne Park Road, Notting Hill. ©Peter Doble: Into the Sunset.

With many thanks to:
Peter Doble
David Jones
Steven Hughes.


  1. You forgot to mention the 295 in the Westbourne Park section :/, other than that good post

    1. I have spent so much time figuring out which garage and which batch of vehicles are actually allocated to route 295 that I completely forgot to add that route to the section. Thanks for the reminder and glad you enjoyed it.