London trolleybus system
Preserved British United Traction trolleybus
on Regent Street in June 2014
LocaleLondon, England
Open16 May 1931 (1931-05-16)
Close8 May 1962 (1962-05-08)
Operator(s)London United Tramways
London Passenger Transport Board
London Transport Executive
Electrification550 V DC parallel overhead lines
Stock1,811 (maximum)

Trolleybuses served the London Passenger Transport Area from 1931 until 1962. For much of its existence, the London system was the largest in the world. It peaked at 68 routes, with a maximum fleet of 1,811 trolleybuses.[1][2]


Two west-bound trolleybuses in Romford Road, Ilford, in July 1955.
Two west-bound trolleybuses on Romford Road, Ilford, in July 1955
The last trolleybus on 8 May 1962

London's first 60 trolleybuses were introduced by London United Tramways (LUT), operating from Fulwell bus garage in South-West London. They were nicknamed "Diddlers" and commenced running on 16 May 1931 (1931-05-16).[1][3]

In 1933, LUT was absorbed into the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) along with other tram operators, the largest being London County Council (LCC). The LPTB decided to replace all trams with trolleybuses. This started in October 1935, with two more former LUT routes, and continued in stages until June 1940, when World War II caused the suspension of the programme. By then, nearly all the trams North of the River Thames had been replaced, however there were still some 1,100 trams servicing South London.[4] In 1946, a change in policy meant that all remaining tramlines would be replaced by diesel buses. As trolleybuses were bigger than diesel buses (70 seats compared to 56), this meant that more diesel buses were required. It was hoped, however, that this would result in fewer uncollected fares on the smaller vehicles.

In 1948, a new batch of 77 trolleybuses replaced the Diddlers, and those which had been destroyed by enemy action. A further 50 new trolleybuses were delivered in 1952 to replace the oldest vehicles, which were then 16 years old.

In 1954, it was announced that all trolleybuses were to be replaced by diesel buses, with the exception of the post-war vehicles, which would be retained until about 1970 and run over the original LUT routes. Conversion began in 1959, using AEC Regent III RT buses for the first three stages, and new AEC Routemasters for the remainder.[5][6]

A consortium of Spanish operators bought the post-war vehicles, some of which were converted to motor buses.. The former LUT routes were the last to be converted to diesel buses, on 8 May 1962.[1][2][3][7]


The trolleybuses were designed and built specifically to be worthy tram replacements. Like the trams, they were large high-capacity double deckers, with rapid acceleration. All but one had three axles (necessary as they were 30 feet long: at the time, two-axle vehicles could not exceed 26 feet), and were much quieter in operation than contemporary trams or diesel buses.[8] Trolleybuses were built on AEC, Leyland and British United Traction (BUT) chassis.[9]

Apart from the Diddlers and a few experimental vehicles, most London trolleybuses were near-identical. In 1941 and 1943 London Transport acquired 43 trolleybuses that had been ordered for South Africa but could not be shipped there because of the war.[10] These vehicles were allocated to Ilford depot. They formed three different classes and needed special dispensation because they were eight feet wide, six inches more than the then law allowed.

Some later pre-war vehicles made use of modern monocoque construction techniques to produce chassisless bodies, where the mechanical and electrical parts, including the traction motors, are affixed to the bodywork and not to a separate chassis.

One experimental vehicle was proposed to be the forerunner of a small fleet that would use the Kingsway Tramway Subway, but proved in tests, to be impractical. They were all six-wheel vehicles, of which one differed only in having 4-wheel steering and one ex-LUT 4-wheeler.

A handful of vehicles were destroyed during World War II, whilst a couple of dozen others were rebuilt after suffering damage from enemy action—at least one trolleybus was damaged and rebuilt twice.

The Q1 class were the only trolleybuses built for London after the War. A handful of pre-war vehicles were sold for further use in Penang (Malaysia), while most of the post-war ones were exported to Spain where they worked for various operators—some into the 1970s. A few were converted into motor buses.

Some London trolleybuses are now preserved in the United Kingdom by the East Anglia Transport Museum, the London Transport Museum, and The Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft.[11] One of the 1948 vehicles has also been repatriated from Spain.

List of trolleybus classes
Class Fleet No. Chassis Bodywork Comments
A1 1–35 AEC 663T UCC "Diddlers"; No.1 preserved (London Transport Museum)
A2 36–60 AEC 663T UCC "Diddlers"
X1 61 AEC 691T LGOC Experimental Pay As You Board, centre door only
X2 62 AEC 663T Metro-Cammell Lengthened wheelbase
X3 63 AEC 661T English Electric London's only 4-wheel trolleybus
B1 64–93 Leyland TTB2 BRCW
B2 94–131 Leyland TTB2 Brush
C1 132–141 AEC 664T Weymann
142–183 Metro-Cammell
C2 184–283 AEC 664T Metro-Cammell No.260 preserved (East Anglia Transport Museum)
C3 284–383 AEC 664T BRCW
D1 384 Leyland LPTB70 Leyland
D2 385–483 Leyland LPTB70 Metro-Cammell
B3 484–488 Leyland TTB2 BRCW
B1 489–493 Leyland TTB2 BRCW
D3 494–553 Leyland LPTB70 BRCW
E1 554–603 AEC 664T Brush
E2 604–628 AEC 664T Weymann
E3 629–653 AEC 664T Park Royal
F1 654–753 Leyland LPTB70 Leyland
X4 754 [a] LPTB Experimental Pay As You Enter (rear door) front exit, both fitted with folding doors
H1 755–904 Leyland LPTB70 Metro-Cammell No.796 preserved (East Anglia Transport Museum)
J1 905–951 AEC 664T Weymann
952 Metro-Cammell
M1 953 [b] Weymann
L2 954 [a] Metro-Cammell
J2 955–1029 AEC 664T BRCW
J3 1030–1054 AEC 664T BRCW
K1 1055–1154 Leyland LPTB70 Leyland
K2 1155–1254 Leyland LPTB70 Leyland No.1201 preserved (East Anglia Transport Museum)
K1 1255–1304 Leyland LPTB70 Leyland No.1253 preserved (London Transport Museum)
K2 1305–1354 Leyland LPTB70 Leyland No.1348 preserved (Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft)
L1 1355–1369 [a] Metro-Cammell
L2 1370–1378 [a] Metro-Cammell
X5 1379 [a] Metro-Cammell Experimental (modified class L2) with off-side doors to test the suitability of operating trolleybuses through the Kingsway tramway subway
L3 1380–1529 [a] Metro-Cammell No.1521 preserved (East Anglia Transport Museum)
M1 1530–1554 [b] Weymann
N1 1555–1644 AEC 664T BRCW
N2 1645–1669 AEC 664T Park Royal
X6 1670 [a] English Electric
X7 1671 [c] Leyland Tandem steering, single rear axle (dual wheels) drive; built as a Leyland demonstrator, February 1939, acquired September 1939
K3 1672–1696 Leyland LPTB70 Leyland
P1 1697–1721 Leyland LPTB70 Metro-Cammell
SA1 1722–1733 Leyland TTB5 Metro-Cammell 8'0" wide bodies
SA2 1734–1746 Leyland TTB5 Metro-Cammell 8'0" wide bodies
SA3 1747–1764 AEC 664T Metro-Cammell 8'0" wide bodies
Q1 1765–1891 BUT 9641T Metro-Cammell 8'0" wide bodies; No.1768 preserved (London Transport Museum); No.1812 preserved (Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft)
  1. ^ a b c d e f g Chassisless vehicles with AEC 664T running units
  2. ^ a b Unitary construction vehicles with AEC 664T running units
  3. ^ Chassisless vehicle with Leyland running units

List of routes

At its peak, the network was the largest in the world, running 68 routes. The following is a list of the routes that were withdrawn in the replacement programme which ran from 1959 to 1962.[12][13]

In July 1990, London Regional Transport introduced an express version of bus route 207 as route 607 between Uxbridge and Shepherd's Bush, mirroring the former trolleybus that carried the same number.

Proposed revival

In 2012, it was proposed that a trolleybus based on the New Routemaster be introduced to address pollution concerns along Oxford Street.[14]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Murray, Alan (2000). World Trolleybus Encyclopaedia, p. 73. Yateley, Hampshire, UK: Trolleybooks. ISBN 0-904235-18-1.
  2. ^ a b Short, Peter. "Former UK systems". British Trolleybus Society. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  3. ^ a b Joyce, J.; King, J. S.; and Newman, A. G. (1986). British Trolleybus Systems, pp. 84–95, 159. London: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-1647-X.
  4. ^ London Trolleybus Routes, Hugh Taylor, Capital Transport, 1994
  5. ^ Farewell to London's Trolleybuses, Michael H C Baker. Ian Allan Publishing, 1994
  6. ^ London Trolleybuses to Go Commercial Motor 7 May 1954
  7. ^ Last of London's trolleybuses Commercial Motor 13 April 1962
  8. ^ "Trolleybus (1981/528)". London Transport Museum website. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  9. ^ Preserved British Trolleybus Fleet List
  10. ^ South African Trolleybuses for London Commercial Motor 14 November 1941
  11. ^ Zebedee, John (30 November 2010). "A List of Preserved Trolleybuses in the UK". British Trolleybus Society. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  12. ^ Hugh Taylor (1994), London Trolleybus Routes, Capital Transport, ISBN 9781854141552
  13. ^ Trolley Bus Replacement program 1959 - 1962 London Buses
  14. ^ Return of the trolleybus Autocar 18 December 2012


  • Blacker, Ken (2002). The London Trolleybus. Volume 1: 1931–1945. Harrow: Capital Transport. ISBN 978-1-85414-260-3.
  • —————— (2004). The London Trolleybus. Volume 2: 1946–1962. Harrow: Capital Transport. ISBN 978-1-85414-285-6.
  • Fairhurst, Doug (2014). A London Trolleybus Experience. Clophill, Bedfordshire, UK: Irwell Press. ISBN 9781906919672.
  • Russell, Terry (1996). Croydon Trolleybuses. Midhurst, West Sussex, UK: Middleton Press. ISBN 9781873793732.
  • Taylor, Hugh (1994). London Trolleybus Routes. Middlesex: Capital Transport Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85414-155-2.
  • —————— (2006). London Trolleybuses - A Class Album. Harrow: Capital Transport. ISBN 978-1-85414-302-0.
  • Webber, Mick (1997). London Trolleybus Chronology 1931-1962. Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-2528-2.
  • —————— (2009). London Trolleybuses - a black and white album. Harrow: Capital Transport. ISBN 978-1-85414-333-4.
  • Wyatt, Charlie (2008). Beneath the Wires of London. Harrow: Capital Transport. ISBN 978-1-85414-325-9.

Media related to Trolleybuses in London at Wikimedia Commons