Red Arrow at 50

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This Go-Ahead London General Mercedes-Benz Citaro has been pained in an earlier Red Arrow livery and given a fleet number reflecting the AEC Merlins that operated the routes throughout the 1970s. KRIS LAKE
This Go-Ahead London General Mercedes-Benz Citaro has been pained in an earlier Red Arrow livery and given a fleet number reflecting the AEC Merlins that operated the routes throughout the 1970s. KRIS LAKE

The 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Red Arrow services in London using high capacity single-deckers is on April 18, 2016. The first route using six Strachan-bodied AEC Merlins ran between Victoria station and Marble Arch and was introduced by London Transport as a result of its Bus Reshaping Plan which advocated replacing some double-deckers with long single-deckers.

From 1967 54 MCW-bodied AEC Merlins were introduced on a growing route network numbered 500-511, 513 and 521. The Merlins were replaced with 69 Leyland National 2s in the early 1980s with those buses being given a ‘Greenway’ refurbishment between 1992 and 1994 by then operator, London General. What is now Go-Ahead London General still operates the remaining two services.

In 2002 a fleet of 18-metre Mercedes-Benz Citaro Gs were introduced to what was a much reduced network. They were the first of a growing number of Citaro Gs that took over several of London’s main routes, but following the election of Boris Johnson as London Mayor they were progressively removed with the vehicles used on the remaining Red Arrow routes being the first to go in 2009. They were replaced by Citaro rigids and the Red Arrow brand was dropped.

Two electric BYD K9 e-buses were launched in late 2013 while a pair of Irizar i2es followed last year. A fleet of 51 Alexander Dennis-bodied BYD ebuses are set to replace the Citaros from August 27, 2016.