Underground staff buses

Page last updated 11 February 2014


As noted on the main staff bus page, staff bus services were also operated for Underground staff.  Buses provided by London Transport for its Underground staff in the early mornings complemented the staff trains, picking up and dropping off the staff who closed and opened up the stations.  Services were dedicated to the Underground line they served, either in whole or in part.   This page summarises the available information; more is always welcome.


Charlie Wyatt, in his excellent book 'Beneath the Wires of London', mentions that he sometimes returned home from Finchley at night by taking the last 125 to Muswell Hill garage and then the Underground staff bus, which left 10 minutes after the last 125 got in and went all the way to Sutton garage (see more below; it appears the through journeys finished some time in the early 1960s).


In the fifties and early sixties, RFs and TDs were often used on these services - there is a picture in the 1962 John Hambley book of a TD from Edgware at Piccadilly on such a duty.  Indeed, looking at the 'garage numbers' described below, it is notable that all of the garages in the main sequence operated single-deckers at that time.  However, after the early 1960s, at the time of increasing staff shortage, the use of service buses was replaced by operations by hired coaches.  These coaches were in turn replaced by staff taxis.


In 1963, the "Northern Line bus" running between Kennington and Morden through Clapham, Balham and Tooting along the line of the tube came out of Merton Garage - scans of two (damaged) 1963 timecards are here (AL1, Mon-Fri nights) and here (AL2, Sat nights).  The northern half of the line was apparently covered by buses from Muswell Hill and Tottenham (Edgware being served by staff trains). 


Doug Ely's contribution (below) notes that coaches were in use by the mid-1960s.   Andrew Colebourne records that a Northern Line staff notice from February 1982 shows more staff taxis than buses.


Notes from LT publications by Andrew Colebourne


The 'LT All Lines Timetable Notice No. 87/69'  gives the details of the railway staff bus and train arrangements from 10 Mar 69.   [The Northern Line timetable is attached as an example, with the final table of the document, which lists individual journeys, here.]


The notice identifies 117 individual bus journeys operated by coaches on hire from five operators (George Ewer, Mellows Hire, Edward Thomas, Valliant Direct and Whytes of Edgware).  [Mellows Hire, who seem to have provided the largest number of vehicles but are not widely know, seem to have specialised in this work.]


Each journey has a bus identification number.  The final table gives the "Garage Number" for each journey, effectively a garage code and running number.  Most of these have London Transport garage codes, so presumably they were formerly operated by those garages [see the example of Merton below].  The exception to the rule are those with the prefix EX and V, which appear to be workings that had been introduced or modified later, possibly after LT ceased direct operation.


The 'garage numbers' are:

AL1 to AL3 Edward Thomas

AR1 to AR5 plus AR5A Mellows except AR5A (Mon) Valliant

EW1 to EW3 Mellows

EX3 to EX6 plus EX6A. EX3 and EX4 are Whytes vehicles, EX5 Valliant, EX6/6A Mellows.

HH (no "running number", but one vehicle sufficient for the workings involved) Whytes

MH1 to MH12 plus MH1A (bus 61 Tu./Sat just has MH next to it in the table) Mellows

NX1 to NX3 Edward Thomas

T1 to T6 Valliant except T1 Mellows

TG (no "running number", but one vehicle sufficient for the workings involved) Whytes

V1 and V2 Ewer


[Looking at the Northern Line extract and the table, and comparing the workings with the 1963 timecards referred to above, it can be seen that the 1963 Mon-Fri working AL1 still operates in 1969 as journey 53 (now 10 minutes later), which the table identifies as 'AL1' but now operated by Edward Thomas of Ewell.  The section from Sutton Garage to Morden Station is still provided, but the garage working from Merton to Sutton is no longer needed, and the coach no longer takes its break at Walworth Garage.  AL1's return at 0433 from Kennington is now journey 60, but now terminates at Morden.]


That makes 43 individual workings.  Timetables differ on weekdays (i.e. Mondays to Saturdays) and Sundays. There could be some Sunday only workings and others that are Mondays to Fridays only or workings that are morning only or night only and could be covered by the same vehicle. For example, MH5 only works Saturdays and Sundays. It is notable that the LT garages whose codes appear had single deck allocations; MH has the largest number of workings.


It is interesting to note that the outer sections of the Metropolitan Line are covered by codes HH and TG - being journeys from Aylesbury and Watford - presumably previously provided by Country Area buses.  The TG working to and from Aylesbury covers the former Metropolitan Line stations beyond Amersham.  Items of interest in the Central Line timetables are the Eastern Region trains which run over the Epping branch and also the Victoria Line buses which run to/from Hainault via Woodford.


In some cases, the same journey is operated by a different vehicle on different days of the week. The whole schedule is pretty complex; MH5 does different things on Saturdays and Sundays as follows:


MH5 - Mellows Hire



Moorgate dep 0003 via Highbury & Islington and Drayton Park (Northern City) to Finsbury Park arr 0018 (bus 91)

Dead to Golders Green dep 0055 via Northern Line stations to Camden Town arr 0107 (bus 63)

Dead to East Finchley dep 0125 via Northern Line stations to Camden Town arr 0140 (bus 65)

Dead to Walworth Garage dep 0333 via Elephant and Castle (only) to Baker Street, then Euston Square, Baker Street (again), Finchley Road and Bakerloo Line stations to Neasden arr 0424 (bus 5)



Walworth Garage dep 0505 via Elephant and Castle (only) to Baker Street, then Euston Square, Baker Street (again), Finchley Road and Bakerloo Line stations to Neasden arr 0548 (bus 14)

Dead to Camden Town dep 0656 to East Finchley arr 0711 via Northern Line stations (bus 55).


Notice 356/70 giving the Christmas arrangements for 1970 shows staff buses from the same group of operators.


Notice 5/82 relates to Engineering work at Golders Green (Northern Line) on 14 Feb 82.  This shows more staff taxis than buses. The only bus is noted as "M5" running between Kennington and Morden and Clapham Common and Morden but there are no notes to identify what M5 means.  The staff taxis have G and J prefixed numbers and also noted 'RR' (runs if required).  One of the staff taxis does the journey from Sutton Garage to Golders Green.



Recollections of rail staff transport by Doug Ely


[These notes were provided by Doug before the 1969 publication considered above came to light; Doug's note provides some nice detail.]


Staff night travel facilities provided for Underground staff in the mid 1960’s consisted of a mix of staff trains and staff coaches; the actual method varying by line and time of night/morning.


To take two examples; firstly the Metropolitan & Circle group which had crews on night duties from both Neasden and Baker Street and possibly Hammersmith depots. They worked the last passenger trains on each line or branch into the centre and then back to a depot (not necessarily their home depot) often as a staff train calling at selected stations which remained open only for the purpose of staff coming off that train leaving the station.  Having had their meal relief these crews would then take out a train and do the same in reverse to get staff to the stations and depots in time to start the early shifts.  One such duty used to take a Circle line set of CO/CP stock down from Neasden to Uxbridge in the early morning, returning as a passenger all stations to Baker Street before entering Circle line service.  What was unusual was that the main Metropolitan services were normally operated by A60 stock, which was faster, more comfortable and in the winter, much warmer.


The second example, the Northern Line had a mix of both staff trains and coaches, with night crews at Morden, Euston and Golders Green, all of whom worked trains in much the same way as those on the Metropolitan.  The Northern also had at least one staff coach which ran from Edgware to Morden via the Charing Cross line stations after passenger services had finished with a return journey in the early morning.  This was contracted to a coach company whose name escapes me.  My only experience of using it came from on late shift having a train very nearly catch fire due to faulty electricals, and after limping off the running lines into the double length siding at Kennington and being inspected for damage after the last passenger service had gone north, we (the crew) had to limp the train up to Golders Green for repairs, thus stranding a Morden crew there!  We had to take the staff coach back and arrived at Morden at around 2.30am about 4 hours late and unable to get any further as I lived in Croydon at the time!  I seem to remember that we connected with another staff coach in Central London, presumably from the High Barnet branch.  I would think the coach services were let on contract, some could have  been run by LT buses, but it is more likely that some bus garages very close to Underground depots ran staff buses used by both sets of staff.  Edgware being a good example.


Finally, my experience with British Rail although short gave me an insight into their staff transport system.  Basically for Station staff it did not exist!   As most stations are open and accessible even when the offices are closed, staff simply get the first or last train to/from work if they do not live locally.  Train Crew are expected to travel to and from their depots themselves, either using personal transport or public where available.  There are however such things as staff taxis for train crew, and they come into play when staff either start or finish away from their home depot, which actually happens quite a lot.  These taxis however are only provided for that purpose and do not as a rule carry other staff to or from work.  Certainly in BRB days even travelling from home to work was not necessarily free for staff, it being necessary to purchase a season ticket at priv rates (25%) on which you were allowed the first so many miles of the journey free.