London Buses route X26 is a Transport for London contracted bus route in London, England. Running with a limited stopping service between Heathrow Airport and West Croydon, it is operated by Metrobus. It is the longest London Buses route.
Route X26 has its origins in Green Line Coach route 725, which started in the 1950s and ran from Gravesend and Dartford through Bromley, Croydon, Sutton, and Kingston to Staines and Windsor. On 21 May 1977, route 726 was introduced as a variant, from Gravesend to Windsor via Heathrow Airport and Slough instead of Staines.
By the 1980s, the sections of the route between Heathrow and Windsor and between Gravesend and Dartford had been withdrawn.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 on 12 April 1986 route 726, which ran almost entirely within Greater London, came under the control of London Country North West (SL),& Kentish Bus & Coach (NF). On 29 June 1991, London Country North West planned to withdraw the route, but LT stepped in & took the route over.LCNW won the route on a short term 1-year contract. On 29 February 1992, London Coaches, a subsidiary of London Buses privatised in 1992, operated the route using dual-purpose DAF SB220 vehicles.
The contract changed from London Coaches to Capital Logistics on 4 April 1998, and passenger numbers continued to decline. In 1997 London Transport attempted to withdraw the service, but at the end of the year it was given an 18-month reprieve after over 1,600 letters had been received in its support.
On 27 February 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.
On 16 April 2005, route 726 was renumbered X26 and the section between Bromley and East Croydon was withdrawn, rerouted to run via Teddington instead of Hampton Court, and many stops were removed to reduce run times and improve reliability. The contract was awarded to Metrobus, which introduced new Scania OmniCity single deckers. London Buses hoped that the re-modeled 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.
Despite the reductions in its length, route X26 remains the longest Transport for London route at 23.75 miles.
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. To cover for the increase in PVR while new vehicles were prepared, Metrobus hired Mercedes-Benz O530s from Wealden PSV, delivered directly from the 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.
In June 2010, a proposal to reintroduce the former 726 stop at Beddington was rejected by Transport for London, despite support from many residents.
On 14 April 2012, the route passed to Quality Line operating from their Epsom (EB) garage with brand new Mercedes-Benz O530s introduced.
On 15 April 2017, the route passed back to Metrobus operating from their Croydon (C) garage and was converted to double deck operation using existing single doored Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TLs.
On 20 April 2020, the Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TLs were temporarily replaced by existing Enviro 400 MMC bodied Alexander Dennis E40Hs.
On 8 June 2020, the route was converted back to a full Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL operation.
Route X26 operates via these primary locations:
- Heathrow Airport Central Bus Station
- Hatton Cross Station
- Kingston Cromwell Road Bus Station
- New Malden
- Worcester Park (for Worcester Park Station)
- North Cheam
- Cheam High Street
- Carshalton High Street
- East Croydon Station (for Croydon Tramlink)
- West Croydon Station Bus Station