London Bus Routes One By One is a five-book series that takes a snapshot of the extensive London bus scene, one route at a time. Capturing each and every one of the several hundred routes to operate in the capital is every enthusiast’s dream, whether it be riding on them or, as in this case, photographing an example of what kind of bus is on them.
Then as now, the scene is subject to rapid turnover, with today’s driving force being contract changes. Since tendering began in 1985, each London bus route has been offered out with a detailed specification on routeing and timetables; the company whose bid is deemed most cost-effective is then awarded a contract to run, it, with the choice of actual vehicle types and their interior design left up to them. Until recently, contracts have been for five years with an option to extend to seven for good performance, but, with the impetus being towards zero emissions by 2037, TfL are now phasing in seven-year contracts. In some cases, routes have stayed with their incumbents for multiple consecutive contracts, whilst others have ping-ponged between operators and others still have bounced back and forth between two local concerns.
This particular series captures the state of play as of late 2021, just before government wranglings and the sheer lack of operating capital threatened to devastate the network altogether. These books could thus have been much smaller, but as of 2023 the immediate threat is over and London’s buses can even tentatively start thinking about expansion again.
You’ll find the London Bus Routes One By One series and other titles by Matthew Wharmby here.