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All Posts, Transport

Author Guest Post: Matthew Wharmby

Even modern buses can manage twenty years in service if there are enough of them on aggregate. The Dennis Trident in London achieved that milestone, the last examples coming off service in 2019 after two respectable decades carrying Londoners around the city.

Stagecoach London divided its 998 Tridents, of two lengths but all with Alexander ALX400 bodywork, between East London and Selkent. 17961 (LX53 JZD) was one of the latter’s, new to Plumstead at the end of 2003 and seen on 16 July 2004 in Whitehall, where the 53 then started.
Stagecoach sold its London operations to Macquarie Bank in 2006 and then bought them back in 2010; in the interim, London buses had been mandated by TfL to be all-red, hence the repaint of West Ham’s 17932 (LX03 OTH), seen at Beckton on 25 March 2012.

New to London’s streets in 1999 following its development from the three-axle version commonplace in Hong Kong, the Dennis Trident spearheaded the push to low-floor operation in the capital, not only easing out the last examples of the MCW Metrobus and Leyland Titan after their own twenty-year-plus lifespan but consigning newer Leyland and Volvo Olympians to a sharply curtailed service period.

First in London liked the Trident and bought over four hundred, splitting them between its Centrewest and First Capital arms. One of the latter’s, Plaxton President-bodied TN 33121 (LT02 NWD) was new to Northumberland Park in 2002 to upgrade the 91 from Volvo Olympians, and on 24 May 2009 it is seen at Aldwych.
Metroline was a big Trident customer and shrewdly juggled orders with similar quantities of the competing Volvo B7TL so that the vehicles required would be delivered in good time to start contracts. New for the 139 and 189 at Cricklewood, Plaxton President-bodied TP 377 (LT52 KWV) was later transferred to the Brentford garage acquired with Armchair to take over the 237, and on 27 September 2009 is seen at the Shepherd’s Bush end of the Westfield White City complex.

Reliable and personable within the limitations of the low-floor format, the Trident competed with Volvo’s B7TL and DAF’s DB250RS(LF) for the seven years each were in production, and both Tridents and Volvos amassed over two thousand examples each, operated by several London bus companies from both the big corporate groups and smaller independents. Stagecoach alone had half of these, its tally missing the magic thousand by just two.

What is today known as Abellio began in 2000 as Connex Bus, which was later bought by National Express (as Travel London) and then renamed in 2009. 128 Alexander ALX400-bodied Tridents were taken by this firm, initially as a TA class before renumbering to an all-numeric sequence. Thus, Walworth-based 9816 (LG52 XYK), seen on Waterloo Bridge on 3 December 2014, was originally TA 116.
Most Tridents were bodied by Alexander (ALX400) or Plaxton (President), both of which ultimately came into common ownership, but East Lancs also continued to body small numbers, mostly for Metrobus and Blue Triangle. The latter’s TL 920 (PO51 UMV), seen at Romford on 27 January 2007, was originally known as DL 920.

Published by Pen and Sword in April 2021, The London Dennis Trident tells this successful modern type’s story in the capital from start to finish, with copious tables and over four hundred colour pictures.

16 August 2019 was intended to be the Trident’s last day in service, every example ever operated by a London company having been withdrawn by then other than one, Stagecoach East London’s sixteen-year-old 17811 (LX03 BXF), based at Leyton and seen at the isolated Yardley Lane Estate terminus of obscure outer-London route 215. It turned out to be needed for three more days yet, and after that was sold into private preservation.

Preorder your copy here.