#AYearOfBuses 21: Red Arrow Waterloo – London Bridge

Route 521

For day 21 on #AYearOfBuses, we’re heading back to London for route 521 – one of the capital’s ‘Red Arrow’ routes.

Running between Waterloo and Victoria stations, Red Arrow 521 is run by London General with a fleet of battery-electric BYD K9s, and is one of two Red Arrow routes remaining (the other being the 507).

London Transport introduced the earliest iterations of the Red Arrow concept in the late 1960s, with the aim of running continental-style fast commuter services, linking key termini with places of work.

Back in 2002, the 521 was the first route in London (along with its sister, the 507) in 2002 to be converted to the rather ill-fated articulated bus operation using a fleet of Mercedes-Benz Citaros. With three sets of doors, off-bus ticketing and a monstrous standing capacity, the artics were clearly designed to be people eaters, but they were also widely ridiculed for having just 5 more seats than a standard rigid bus – and that’s before they’d started to spontaneously combust.

The bendies disappeared in 2009, to be replaced by rigid Citaros. For a short time, the Red Arrow name died with them, considered too tarnished by the fiasco to be taken seriously. Later, the 521 would become one of the first in a growing line of routes in London to be converted to full-electric operation – and the Red Arrow name lives on.


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