Questions about a heritage/vintage bus running day services
Request ID: FOI-2555-2223 Date published: 24 January 2023
Dear Transport for London
I have questions about heritage/vintage bus running day services provided by heritage bus firms and organisations. For example, Ensignbus held a special running day service in December 2022; they charged their own fares, and some vintage routes went in to the Greater London boundary and were not part of the London bus network.
I'm not asking about 'Londoner Buses' as they run a daily heritage tour service in Central London using vintage AEC Routemasters, and are licenced to operate under a London Service Permit, as mentioned in a previous FOI request.
1. Do heritage bus firms and organisations require permission from Transport for London to operate a vintage bus on an existing London bus route?
2. Can you publish the rules and procedures for heritage bus firms and organisations providing a vintage running day bus service?
3. Despite most of these vintage buses are not wheelchair accessible, why do you allow vintage running day services?
4. Do heritage bus firms and organisations have to pay Low Emission (LEZ) and Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) charges to operate a running day service on an existing London bus route?
5. Are they allowed to charge their own fares separate to the London Buses fares?
6. Will TFL continue to allow heritage running day services once London achieves their carbon neutral target (including full zero-emission bus fleet) by around 2030?
7. Do TFL and National Rail/Train Operating Companies allow use of vintage buses to be used on railway replacement services and strike extras on existing London bus routes?
TfL Ref: FOI-2555-2223
Thank you for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 11th January 2023 asking for information about heritage/vintage buses.
Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy.
I can confirm that we hold the information you require. Your questions are answered in turn below:
Question 1. Do heritage bus firms and organisations require permission from Transport for London to operate a vintage bus on an existing London bus route?
Answer: Owners of vintage vehicles have the right to use them on the public highway provided all legal requirements are met, and TfL as a Highway Authority has a duty to facilitate this. A voluntary code of practice for the operation of vintage buses in London not operated under contract to TfL or under the London Service Permit system exists to ensure that TfL is kept informed of heritage running days, that the operation of existing bus and coach services is not compromised, and that we have the ability to communicate with vehicles on free services if co-ordinating a response to an incident.
Question 2. Can you publish the rules and procedures for heritage bus firms and organisations providing a vintage running day bus service?
Answer: The voluntary code of practice states that
The vehicles to be used are in a mechanically sound and safe condition for operation in service
The vehicles are insured for operation of free bus services
No fares or donations will be taken
All drivers on routes available to the public hold a PCV licence of the relevant category
A notice with the following wording will be displayed at the vehicle passenger entrance “Passengers please note – this free service is not operated by Transport for London or London Buses. Passengers travel at their own risk and at the discretion of the crew”
All advance publicity, and any programme for the day will make clear that the services are not part of the TfL bus network
Emergency contract details will be supplied
Free bus services will so far as practicable keep out of the way of TfL bus services
The use of certain bus priority measures such as bus lanes and bus only streets may not be permitted, as some of these are only for local bus services. This will depend on the relevant traffic order. Similarly some bus stops are only available to local bus services.
TfL bus stations and other off-highway facilities such as bus stands may not normally be used except with express permission from local TfL management.
Question 3. Despite most of these vintage buses are not wheelchair accessible, why do you allow vintage running day services?
Answer: Part II, Section 4 of the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 allows for an exemption from the regulations for ‘a vehicle in respect of which twenty years have elapsed since the date of its first use on a road and which is not used to provide a local service or a scheduled service for more than 20 days in any calendar year.’ Accordingly, while we appreciate that heritage vehicles are broadly not wheelchair accessible, provided that services are operated legally, TfL has no powers to limit their access to the highway. The voluntary code of practice works to ensure that the operation of vintage running days does not compromise the operation of existing accessible bus and coach services in London. In future we will work with operators through the voluntary code of practice to establish if any adjustments can be made to services to achieve greater accessibility.
Question 4. Do heritage bus firms and organisations have to pay Low Emission (LEZ) and Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) charges to operate a running day service on an existing London bus route?
Answer: All vehicles constructed before 1973 are exempt from LEZ and ULEZ, regardless of use.
Question 5. Are they allowed to charge their own fares separate to the London Buses fares?
Answer: The code of practice for vehicles operating on running days outside of the London Service Permit (LSP) system specifies that no fares or donations should be solicited. If a proposed vintage bus service will charge separate fares and carry passengers for less than 15 miles then it is a Local Bus Service under the Transport Act 1985. The operator would therefore need to apply for a LSP, whether the service is to be operated on a ‘one off’ or regular basis. As a commercial bus service, it would not be required to be operated consistently with the London Bus fare structure. The services operated by EnsignBus in December 2022 (X21, X54, X55, X81) were operated under LSPs.
Question 6. Will TFL continue to allow heritage running day services once London achieves their carbon neutral target (including full zero-emission bus fleet) by around 2030?
Answer: This will be kept under review alongside the ongoing development of LEZ/ULEZ policy and national PSVAR regulations.
Question 7. Do TFL and National Rail/Train Operating Companies allow use of vintage buses to be used on railway replacement services and strike extras on existing London bus routes?
Answer: All buses procured by TfL on London Underground, Overground, DLR, Trams and Elizabeth Line rail replacement bus services must be PSV-AR compliant. Vintage buses are not acceptable.
If this is not the information you are looking for please do not hesitate to contact me.
Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal as well as information on copyright and what to do if you would like to re-use any of the information we have disclosed.
David Wells FOI Case Officer FOI Case Management Team General Counsel Transport for London