All hail Enfield’s old buses

Sampson's Coaches began running route 217b, seen here at Enfield Town, in 1986
Sampson’s Coaches began running route 217b, seen here at Enfield Town, in 1986

Take a bus trip down memory lane with local expert Phil Hambling

London buses are all red, right? Well it hasn’t always been so.

Firstly, there were the ‘country area’ and Green Line buses operated by London Transport from 1933 until 1969. Routes such as the 310 from Hertford and 313 to St Albans and beyond brought a splash of green into Enfield for many years. The 313 actually turned red in 1982, losing its service west of Potters Bar and later extending to Chingford, while the 310 also continues to operate, but in Arriva’s corporate turquoise and terminating at Waltham Cross instead of Enfield Town.

For 52 years, these were the only non-red service buses to be seen in Enfield. However, before the colour red won supremacy over London’s bus network, the London Regional Transport Act 1984 would see the body responsible for the provision of bus operations in the capital split away from the bus operators themselves. Thus, in 1985, London Buses was born as an ‘arm’s length’ subsidiary of London Regional Transport, which had taken over from London Transport.

This new governing body was able to offer its bus services for competitive tender, with London Buses having to compete with the private sector for the right to operate the capital’s services. The results of the first round of tendering saw half of the other routes awarded to London Buses and six won by other operators.

Enfield would be at the heart of the action, as the first four routes to change hands commenced in July 1985, with two running through Enfield. Route 313 was passed to London Country and route W9 became the concern of Eastern National, which set up an outstation at Enfield Council’s base in Carterhatch Lane.

Over the ensuing years a plethora of operators would serve Enfield. Route 298 via Southgate commenced operation from London Country’s Hatfield garage in June 1986. Like the 313, this route would see operation by Grey Green from 1988 before Capital Citybus took over with bright yellow minibuses in 1992.

Eastern National would add to their Enfield operations from the autumn of 1986 by winning the contract for the 307 service, which took over the eastern end of route 107 and began operation in September.

Sampson’s Coaches won the contract to operate route 217b, along the A10, from May 1986. It was perhaps fortunate that this was their only contract award, as their performance was somewhat inconsistent and they had the service stripped from them two years later. London Buses returned to operate the route from its Enfield garage in July 1988, by which time the route was renumbered as 317.

Grey Green began running the 125 service, seen here at Southgate Underground Station, in 1987
Grey Green began running the 125 service, seen here at Southgate Underground Station, in 1987

From 1987, Grey Green also ran route 125, between North Finchley and Winchmore Hill, in a brown, white and orange livery. Thankfully the issue of having a livery very different to its colour-based fleet name was resolved in 1988!

Acton-based coach operator Pan Atlas commenced operation of route 112 from Palmers Green to Ealing in July 1988.

Eastern National had a major re-organisation in 1990 after it was sold to Badgerline Group – today known as First Bus – with its operations in London becoming rebranded as ‘Thamesway’. The company began running route 191 from Edmonton Green in May 1996, which compensated somewhat for the loss of route 307 a few months previously.

Nowadays, of course, all London operators are required to have their buses painted in standard red but, while the kaleidoscope of colours may have gone, the tendering process of Transport for London, awarding contracts to private operators, remains the norm.