East London bus 18500/19000 "Spirit of London" (LX55 HGC)

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Spirit of London, pictured at the 2012 North Weald bus rally in the final livery it was wearing before being damaged by arson

East London bus No. 19000 (originally 18500) (reg. LX55 HGC) is named Spirit of London in tribute to the 13 people killed on a bus during the 7 July 2005 London bombings. It was built as a one-off replacement for the bus destroyed in the attack, and was the first production example of the Alexander Dennis Enviro400 double-decker. Unveiled on 3 October 2005, it has since operated across London for East London in a variety of liveries. On 19th October 2012 it was seriously damaged in an arson attack, but is being repaired.

Operator[edit]

Spirit of London has always been owned and operated by The East London Bus & Coach Company Ltd (ELBCC), as reflected by the legal lettering on the bus (on the nearside lower panelling); being used on London bus services under the route tendering system run by Transport for London, as well as appearing at several bus rallies or events. The ELBCC however has changed hands twice so far in Spirit of London's service life - having been a Stagecoach Group subsidiary since 1994, on 23 June 2006 it was sold to Macquarie Bank, who placed the ELBCC into a holding company the East London Bus Group (ELBG). On 15 October 2010 however Macquarie sold the ELBG back to Stagecoach, with ELBCC being retained as the legal entity of the re-aquired Stagecoach subsidiary. (One of the reasons for the creation of the ELBG holding company was that Stagecoach also owned the South East London & Kent Bus Company Ltd (Selkent), which they sold to Macquarie at the same time as ELBCC, with Macquarie placing both into the ELBG as separate entities).

Design/Procurement[edit]

Stagecoach (ELBCC) ordered Spirit of London at a cost of £160,000, as a one-off replacement for their bus that was destroyed in the London bombings while operating London Buses route 30. This bus was No. 17758 (reg. LX03 BUF), a 2003 Alexander ALX400 bodied Dennis Trident 2 double-decker.

When 17758 was built, the Alexander ALX400/Dennis Trident, having been developed in the late 1990s as a separate body on chassis combination offering, was now being produced as a single product under the TransBus International name. In May 2004 however Transbus had collapsed, with the Alexander and Dennis entities emerging under the ownership of a single new company, Alexander Dennis, who had while continuing the ALX400/Trident also embarked on designing a replacement for the combination. This emerged as the Alexander Dennis Enviro400 integral (body and chassis) product, and due to the timing of the order, instead of another ALX400/Trident, this one off replacement bus was chosen to be the first Enviro400 off the production line.

Spirit of London, plus ten others (19131-19140) (see Fleetnumber section), were the only Enviro400s delivered in London to the 10.8m length (seating 45 upstairs, 30 down), all others being either 10.1 or 10.2m (41/24).

Delivery[edit]

The completed Spirit of London was unveiled on 3 October 2005. As the first of a brand new design, it was then exhibited by Alexander Dennis at the trade show Coach & Bus Live 2005 held over 5/6 October at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre, it being an example of the 2-door London specification, alongside a single-door example built for Travel West Midlands as the standard design.

Registration[edit]

Rather than being given a cherished registration, Spirit of London was delivered with a standard UK registration plate, LX55 HGC. The 'LX' marks it out as having been issued from the London (Sidcup) DVLA office, while the '55' denotes it as having been registered between 1 September 2005 and 28/29 February 2006. The 'HGC' is a meaningless combination of 3 letters.

Fleetnumber[edit]

Spirit of London was originally delivered with the fleetnumber 18500, standing alone as a one off in a series otherwise allocated in the national Stagecoach numbering scheme for ALX400/Tridents. As such, the numbers around it were subsequently allocated to further ALX400/Trident deliveries - 18499 being delivered to Stagecoach London (Selkent) in March 2006 (reg. LX06 AHF), and 18501 delivered to Stagecoach Swindon (Swindon & District) in April 2006 (reg. VU06 KFP).

The number 18500 was kept for Spirit of London after the ELBCC was transferred from Stagecoach to the ELBG, When Stagecoach reacquired the ELBG however, the number was changed to 19000. This was to align it with where Stagecoach had started their national numbering for Enviro400 deliveries that had occurred after the sale of the ELBCC - 19001 had been allocated to reg. MX06 LUO, delivered new to Stagecoach Manchester (Greater Manchester South) in July 2006. (the ELBG had also stuck to this numbering scheme, with 10 Enviro400s delivered in December 2006 to Selkent being numbered 19131 (LX56 EAF) to 19140 (LX56 EBA)).

In livery terms, the fleetnumber 18500 was applied in white on all four sides - the nearside being placed over the front entrance door - the offside being above the driver's cab window, the front being above the windscreen (in the black area) on the nearside, the rear being on the red paintwork above the lower deck window, also to the nearside. After the change to 19000, the nearside/offside numbers stayed in the same position, but the front and rear numbers were moved - the front to a central position below the windscreen and above the Stagecoach fleetname (on the black panel that was originally red) - the rear in the same general area, but moved from the red paintwork closer to the centre of the rear window, into its black window surround area.

Garage code[edit]

Spirit of London was originally allocated to Stratford bus garage as a replacement for No. 17758, and so wore the depot code letters SD, applied in white. In February 2008 all operations from Stratford were transferred to West Ham after the garage closed following a compulsory purchase for London 2012 Olympics related redevelopment. Pursuant to this, the SD code had disappeared (at least from the offside) some time between 16 September and 15 December 2007 (during the same period that the offside 'Spirit' name had). The code for West Ham, WH, had been applied in all the relevant places by 12 January 2008.

Livery & branding[edit]

Due the transfers of the ELBCC between Stagecoach and ELBG, as well as changes in Transport for London's livery specifications, Spirit of London's livery has undergone a number of changes in its service life.

Launch[edit]

At the time of delivery, both the ELBCC and Selkent were trading simply as Stagecoach in London, with buses being painted in the second edition of Stagecoach corporate livery, which was based on a new swirling round white/orange/red/blue logo. In London (where Transport for London required buses to be largely red) this was implemented by augmenting the red with a blue skirt, plus orange and blue sweeps up the sides at the rear. With East London/Selkent having been dropped as trading names in the change to the second corporate scheme, the fleetnames were now simply 'Stagecoach' alongside the swirl logo, with the strapline 'in London' in orange added to fleetnames on the side.

Accordingly, the launch livery saw Spirit of London wearing allover red with a blue skirt with Stagecoach fleetnames and 'in London' strapline, but minus the blue/orange sweeps up the sides. The fleetname/logo were applied on both sides below the lower deck windows behind the front wheel arches, plus on the front below the windscreen, and on the rear on the engine cover.

Completing the basic colour scheme, the front lamp surrounds were finished in black, with the access panel sited between them being painted silver. The rear lamp clusters were also done in silver. A finishing detail saw a white line included along the offside across the staircase panelling, connecting the top corners of the lower deck windows.

Specific branding for Spirit in London saw that name applied in large white letters on the sides of the bus, between the lower and upper deck windows, towards the front. The name was also applied on the rear, on the engine cover above the Stagecoach fleetname. Other branding specific to the bus included a special London Mayoral style device behind the Spirit name, as the phrase “7 M1LLION LONDONERS” on a black rectangle, with the '7 M1LLION' place on one line, above 'LONDONERS' on the second, with the 1 and LONDON rendered in red & the rest in white. Completing the specific detailing was the manufacturer's branding, placed to the rear of the 7 Million sign, as 'Alexander Dennis' in white plus their logo.

2006 changes[edit]

Spirit in London remained in launch livery for the first few months of service. Prompted by the sale of ELBCC to Macquarie, the first changes to the livery came between 1 July and 6 August 2006 when the blue skirt was repainted red and the Stagecoach fleetnames/logos were removed.

As the ELBG began to adopt its own fleet identity (which for the ELBCC was a reversion to the pre-Stagecoach style of 'East London' fleetnames and a Thames barge logo, all in white), further changes occurred - between 26 September and 15 October 2006 the barge logo and East London fleetnames were applied, in the same place on the front and rear as the previous Stagecoach names, but in different places on the sides - the offside one being below the driver's cab window, the nearside one going above the front entrance door.

2007 changes[edit]

Spirit of London, pictured at the 2007 Cobham bus rally, now in ELBG East London livery but still without the Spirit name on the front

A few months later major changes were made which lessened the outwardly unique appearance of Spirit in London - some time between 10 December 2006 and 1 April 2007 the large 'Spirit of London' names were removed from the sides and rear, along with the Alexander Dennis and 7 Million Londoners branding, leaving a largely plain red bus. The 'Spirit' naming was retained, still in white, but in a much smaller form, and in a more stylised font. The offside/nearside names were also repositioned - moving down to the area below the lower deck windows, above the front wheel arches. Also similarly altered in font, the rear name otherwise stayed in the same position.

Neither the Stagecoach or initial ELBG livery had ever included the 'Spirit' name anywhere on the front of the vehicle. This was rectified sometime between 1 April and 16 September 2007 when the name was added in the space between the windscreen and the destination display (in the same colour and font as that now used on the sides and rear).

A minor detail change was that by 16 September 2007 the white line on the offside had also disappeared. More significantly, some time between 16 September and 15 December 2007 the 'Spirit' name disappeared from the offside (while remaining on the nearside & rear).

2010/11 changes[edit]

Having remained stable for the intervening years, 2010 saw further changes to the appearance of Spirit of London due to the re-aquisition of the ELBCC/ELBG by Stagecoach.

Some time between 5 September 2010 and 19 February 2011, the ELBG era 'East London' fleetname/logos were replaced by Stagecoach ones, albeit this time around smaller, and without the 'in London' orange strapline on the sides. The front fleetname and logo was placed in the same position as in the launch livery, but the side and rear logos were now re-positioned - the nearside being placed high above the front entrance door, the offside being below the driver's cab window, the rear being higher up under the rear window, moved inside the black window surround area.

In the same period, detailing changes saw the light surrounds and front grille area change colour. For the light surrounds, the rear clusters changed from silver to black, while the front clusters also turned red from their original black. Similarly, the formerly silver panel between the front headlamps was also turned red. Offsetting these changes, the panel directly below the windscreen was reversed from its original red, to black.

During these changes, the 'Spirit' name also disappeared from the sides and rear (leaving the engine cover blank), but was however retained unchanged on the front.

2011 changes[edit]

The 'Spirit' name was later restored on the sides (but not the rear), sometime between 27 February and 7 April 2011, in the same style as used in the previous ELBG livery (thus matching the one left on the front). They were not restored in the same place above the wheel arches however - the offside name going above the driver's cab window, the nearside going above the front entrance, below the Stagecoach fleetname.

A final change to this livery was the addition of a white 'Buses' roundel symbol after the bus's internal refurbishment sometime between 15 April and 29 June 2011, on both sides, below the lower deck windows between the wheel arches, as mandated by another change to the Transport for London bus livery specification.

Destination display / wing mirrors[edit]

Uniquely for an Enviro400 in London service, Spirit of London had originally featured LED lamp type destination displays. These were changed to the later Transport for London standard roller blind design sometime between 10 December 2006 and 1 April 2007 (the same period that saw the large 'Spirit' name/mayoral/manufacturer branding removed).

Spirit of London was delivered with fluorescent yellow wing mirrors - these disappeared very early on, being changed to black while the bus was still in the initial Stagecoach blue skirted livery.

2012 arson attack[edit]

Looking west along Selbourne Road, Walthamstow. Spirit of London burned while in the bus lane next to this subway ramp, which gives pedestrian access to Walthamstow Central station (out of shot on the left). Walthamstow bus station is behind the trees to the right.

In the early hours of Friday 19th October 2012 Spirit of London caught fire while operating route 69 (a 24 hour service) to Walthamstow Central station (from Canning Town). Fire engines attended the scene with Spirit of London ablaze in the westbound bus lane on the south side of Selbourne Road, outside the (eastern) subway ramp which gives pedestrian access to Walthamstow Central station. No passengers were on the bus at the time, but two 14-year-old girls who had been on it were charged with arson. The top deck was ultimately largely burnt out. Stagecoach assessed the damage, announcing it intended to repair Spirit of London at a cost of £50,000.