X26 WVL.jpg
OperatorLondon General
Peak vehicle requirement10
Night-timeNo night service
StartHeathrow Central bus station
New Malden
Worcester Park
East Croydon
EndWest Croydon bus station
Frequency30 minutes
Journey time80–130 minutes
Operates04:15 until 01:42

London Buses route X26 is a Transport for London contracted bus route in London, England. Running between Heathrow Airport and West Croydon bus stations, it is operated by London General. It is the longest bus route currently operating in London, covering a distance of 23.75 miles, albeit with limited stops.[1]


Metrobus Mercedes-Benz O530 at Kingston in December 2008
Metrobus Mercedes-Benz O530 at Kingston in December 2008

Route X26 has its origins in Green Line Coach route 725, which started in the 1950s and ran from Gravesend and Dartford through Sidcup, Bromley, Croydon, Sutton and Kingston to Staines and Windsor. In the late 1970s route 726 was introduced as a variant, from Gravesend to Windsor via Heathrow Airport and Slough instead of Staines.[2]

By the 1980s, the sections of route between Heathrow and Windsor and between Gravesend and Dartford had been withdrawn. At that time the Green Line network was operated by London Country Bus Services, but when that company was broken up in 1986 route 726, which ran almost entirely within Greater London, came under the control of London Country North West (LCNW) and Kentish Bus & Coach. In 1991 LCNW planned to withdraw the route, but London Regional Transport stepped in and took the route over. LCNW continued to operate the route on a short term one-year contract. On 29 February 1992, London Coaches, a subsidiary of London Buses privatised in 1992, commenced operating the route using dual-purpose DAF SB220 vehicles.[3]

The contract changed from London Coaches to Capital Logistics in the late 1990s, and passenger numbers continued to decline. By 1997, London Transport attempted to withdraw the service,[4] but at the end of year it was given an 18-month reprieve after over 1,600 letters had been received in its support.[5]

Early in 1999 the service was cut back to run between Bromley and Heathrow only; the service became hourly, with no early morning or late evening service. Capital Logistics was bought by Tellings-Golden Miller on 1 June 1999, shortly after a new contract for the 726 had been awarded. New low-floor buses were specified, and seven Alexander ALX300 bodied Volvo B10BLEs were purchased.[3]

In April 2005 route 726 was renumbered X26 and the section between Bromley and East Croydon was withdrawn, rerouted to run via Teddington instead of Hampton Court, and many stops were removed to reduce run times and improve reliability.[6][7] The contract was awarded to Metrobus, which used Scania OmniCity vehicles.[8] London Buses hoped that the re-modelled route would attract more passengers and therefore specified large single-deck buses. It was initially intended to remove stops at Carshalton, Cheam, North Cheam and Worcester Park, but these were retained. The peak vehicle requirement (PVR) fell from six buses to four.[3]

On 22 November 2008, route X26 was doubled in frequency to every 30 minutes for most of the day, including Sundays, although the evening service remained hourly.[9] To cover for the increase in PVR while new vehicles were prepared, Metrobus hired Mercedes-Benz O530s from Wealden PSV, delivered directly from original owner Quality Line. The Citaros have since been returned to Wealden PSV and replaced with Scania OmniCitys from the Crawley Fastway network, refurbished and painted red; these are two years older than the OmniCitys that previously worked on the route.[10]

In June 2010, a proposal to reintroduce the former 726 stop at Beddington was rejected by Transport for London, despite support from many residents.[11] Upon being re-tendered, on 14 April 2012 the route passed to Quality Line with new Mercedes-Benz O530s.[12] On 15 April 2017 it was taken over by London General with double deck buses introduced.[13]

Current route

Route X26 operates via these primary locations:[14]


  1. ^ Marius, Callum (22 July 2021). "The London bus route so long it takes over two hours to reach its destination". MyLondon. Archived from the original on 20 February 2022. Retrieved 20 February 2022.
  2. ^ McCall, Albert William (1980). Green Line: the history of London's country bus services. Taylor & Francis. p. 123. ISBN 9780904568264. Archived from the original on 23 February 2022. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Aldridge, John (June 2005). "Slow death of a Green Line orbital". Buses. Ian Allan Publishing (603): 19.
  4. ^ "Expresslink Bus 726 To Be Withdrawn". London Transport. 7 July 1997. Archived from the original on 4 August 1997. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  5. ^ Aldridge, John (January 1998). "Stay of execution for 726". Buses. Ian Allan Publishing (514): 12.
  6. ^ X26, a new, accessible and more reliable service Archived 15 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine Transport for London 12 April 2005
  7. ^ "726 bus route could have the X factor". Transport for London. 7 December 2004. Archived from the original on 5 April 2005. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  8. ^ Bus tender results Route X26 Archived 8 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine Transport for London 8 November 2004
  9. ^ "Orbital express bus route to double in frequency". Transport for London. 20 November 2008. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  10. ^ Aldridge, John (May 2009). "Citaro hire coming to an end". Buses. Ian Allan Publishing (650): 22.
  11. ^ Henderson, Jamie (28 June 2010). "MP strikes out at 'ridiculous' bus route cancellation". Sutton Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  12. ^ Aldridge, John (September 2011). "Setbacks for Arriva and Metrobus in latest awards". Buses. Ian Allan Publishing (678): 22–23.
  13. ^ Bus Service Changes 11 March to 16 April 2017 Transport for London 24 March 2017
  14. ^ Route X26 Map Archived 29 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine Transport for London