The MCW Metrobus is a double decker bus model manufactured by MCW (Metro Cammell Weymann) from 1977 until 1989, with over 4,000 examples built. The original MkI model was superseded by the MkII model (which had a symmetrical windscreen) in 1981/1982, although production of the original MkI continued for London Transport until 1985. The Metrobus was conceived as an integral product manufactured completely by MCW, but Alexander and Northern Counties also bodied some examples.
The demonstrator TOJ592S was lent to London Transport in December 1977. LT were so impressed with the vehicle they placed an order soon after. This prototype Metrobus is now in use by Midland Classic Limited of Church Gresley, Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
London Transport took 1,440 MkI examples between 1978 and 1985, numbering them as M1 to M1440. Two MkII prototypes were delivered to London Transport as M1441 and M1442 in 1984, but there were no further orders. In 1987 and 1988, 14 secondhand Metrobuses were purchased from Greater Manchester PTE, West Yorkshire PTE and Busways. London Transport's low-cost subsidiary Harrow Buses leased 29 new MkII Metrobuses in 1987, but had to return them to their lessor three years later. London Transport's Metrobuses were the mainstay of the double decker fleet between 1987 and privatisation in 1994, when most of them passed to seven of the new operators. They remained in service for London Buses until 2004, when the last examples were withdrawn.
The West Midlands PTE and its successor, West Midlands Travel (now National Express West Midlands), also took significant numbers of Metrobuses (around 1100), both MkI and MkII examples. There included 50 dual-purpose Metrobuses with high-back seats, purchased in 1986, although all but one are now withdrawn, with these having the seats replaced by normal bus seating. They were mainly used on limited-stop services. 14 guided-buses were delivered for service 65, which was the first guided-bus system in UK, although the experiment only lasted a couple of years. All of the 14 guided-buses were converted for normal bus use and all have since been withdrawn. Today, just 173 MkII examples are still in service with National Express West Midlands, as the company now calls itself, although they will all be withdrawn by March 2010, when the company wishes to have a 100% low floor bus fleet. For more information, please see West Midlands Metrobuses.
A notable Metrobus is Strathclyde Buses MB70 (G408OGD) which was the last Metrobus ever built as MCW went into receivership. However, this vehicle has now been scrapped by First Group. The final ones for Strathclyde were very badly constructed and probably not suitable for preservation.
In 1981, MCW provided prototypes of 3-axle, 12-metre long "Super-Metrobus" for both CMB and Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB). Two prototypes (ML1 and ML2) entered CMB services [ML2 was the only 3-door Metrobus in CMB's fleet] and KMB acquired three (M1-M3, later renumbered 3M1-3M3), all were bodied with MCW MkII body. In return, CMB purchased 82 more Super-Metrobuses (ML3-84) between 1983 and 1988, while KMB purchased 80 2-axle Metrobuses (M1-M80, with MkII bodies) between 1983 and 1985.
While KMB was not interested in the 12-metre version Super-Metrobuses, they did express their interest in an 11-metre 3-axle version (the CMB 11-metre version Metrobuses were 2-axle). 254 11-metre 3-axle Metrobuses (S3M1-254) were purchased by KMB between 1986 and 1989. 50 of these buses were fitted with Cummins engines, and another one (later numbered S3M145) was originally fitted with a Sütrak air-conditioner (as a prototype air-conditioned bus), but the air-conditioning unit proved unreliable and was subsequently removed.
Between 1987 and 1989, KCRC also purchased 59 2-axle Metrobuses for their feeder bus services. 39 of them (101-139) were brand new with MkII bodies, while another 20 (140-159) were second-hand buses bought from England (originally owned by South Yorkshire PTE) with MkI bodies.
Argos Bus purchased 6 Metrobuses for their non-franchised routes and private hire services between 1988 and 1989. They were from the same batch as those bought second-hand by KCRC.
KMB purchased 8 more 2-axle Metrobuses (M81-M88) in 1989. These buses were fitted with Cummins LT10A-B282 (282hp) engines and Voith D864G 4-speed gearbox, and were used on the hilly route 51 (between Tsuen Wan and Kam Tin, climbing Tai Mo Shan along its way). Later KMB converted some of the older Metrobuses with Cummins engine replacements, in order to avoid excess damage to buses running the hilly route.
It is rumoured that CMB was still asking MCW for more Super-Metrobuses when MCW ceased bus production in 1989. After CMB had learnt about the closure, it decided to buy 12-metre 3-axle buses from Dennis.
The MkI second-hand Metrobuses were the first to be withdrawn, and all of them have now been scrapped. Many of the KCRC ones were loaned to Citybus for few years before final withdrawal.
CMB removed its MC-class Metrobuses from the luxury routes after introducing Dennis Darts for the service in 1991, preserving the seating layout. These Metrobuses were allocated to non-luxury routes in the Southern District, Hong Kong, as well as route 13 serving the "Mid-levels". Although CMB was the first to introduce Metrobuses, it withdrew only 3 of them (all were accident victims) before the end of its franchise in August 1998. Its earliest Metrobuses were 20 years old at that time. New World First Bus (NWFB) purchased all the remaining CMB Metrobuses and Super-Metrobuses when it took over most of the CMB routes. These Metrobuses were then swiftly scrapped or (for most Super-Metrobuses) exported. As of 2007, there are still around 10 Super-Metrobuses from CMB providing tour service in Australia and the United Kingdom.
The former CMB ML1 was bought by Andrew Haviland, a private collector, and restored at the Sydney Bus Museum in Sydney, Australia. The restored bus went into its first service as an Australia Day 2007 shuttle in Sydney.
KMB allocated its 3 Super-Metrobuses to the New Territories for many years. For example, they were serving on route 61A (which connected Tuen Mun and Yuen Long new towns) right before the KCR Light Rail took over the services. After that, they were seen on route 36A (which connected a public housing estate in Kwai Chung to a ferry pier) until the route's decline in the mid-1990s. They spent a few further years as spare buses before being withdrawn from passenger service in 1996 and converted into training buses. They were finally sold and scrapped in 2001.
KMB started to withdraw its 2-axle Metrobuses in 1997. Some of them had their chassis damaged due to the fatigue caused during their service on the Tai Mo Shan route 51, which climbed to the highest altitude achievable by buses in Hong Kong. KCRC also started to withdraw their Mark II Metrobuses in the early 2000s. The last 2-axle Metrobus in Hong Kong (KCRC 134) was withdrawn in October 2005.
The 11-metre 3-axle Metrobuses in KMB were not withdrawn until summer 2002. The last Metrobus in Hong Kong (KMB fleet number S3M233, license no. EH8559) ceased operation on 8 May 2007.
Production of Metrobus was terminated in 1989 with the financial collapse of MCW. The Metrobus design was purchased by Optare in 1990, which had recently joined the United Bus group with DAF Bus. Despite owning design and production rights, the two companies heavily reworked the design to produce a new vehicle, the DAF DB250-based Optare Spectra, which was launched in 1991 and ceased production in late 2005.