1986 was to be the year of deregulation, although the one exception was London, which continued with route tendering. The GLC, the home of local government in London since 1923, was abolished on 1st April and Aldenham was closed down on 15th November. Towards the end of the year, all opo buses were fitted with anti-assault screens to protect the driver.
The first route change programme occurred on 1st of February, when route 77 was one of the routes converted to opo, while the RM allocations at AL and SW were converted to DMS. At SW, crew Ds started to work alongside the Routemasters on route 2B on Sundays.
The gradual conversion of the Brixton routes from DMS to M was briefly completed on the 5th of March. However, from the 29th April DMSs were operating from Brixton once again. The M allocation at TC remained in the minority during the year.
Three routes began running with new operators under route tendering on 22nd of March, all being DMS operated, namely the 127 and 127A at TC and the 200 at AL. However, route 200 was operated with second-hand ex-London DMSs by Cityrama that carried a blue livery. On 12th of April, London Buslines won their second tendered route, the 195, which was operated by more yellow ex-London Fleetlines, a conversion from M to DMS!
From the 10th of May, Merton started to operate crew Ds alongside its Routemasters on the 49 at weekends. On 24th of May another tendered route using second-hand DMSs started, this being the 217B operated by Sampsons Coaches, and was another M to DMS conversion.
A new night route, the N54 that was DMS operated by Sutton garage, started on the 20th of June. The following day was the second route change programme of the year, the only new DMS allocation being at SW, which gained a Sunday only allocation on route 37. A non London Buses gain of DMS operation was the 145, lost to tender to Ensignbus, the route being converted from T to DMS.
Two more DMS routes were lost to London Country, the 293 on 19th of July, a route previously operated by Sutton and Merton, and the 197 on the 9th of August, which had been operated by Croydon. A large round of route changes on the 16th of August saw routes 61 and 361 pass to Metrobus under route tendering and, as was now common, second-hand DMSs were used.
The last big route change programme took place on the 25th of October when Elmers End garage was closed. The Sunday only allocation on route 75 and routes 194 and 194A passed to TC, with DMS and M on the 75 and 194A, and DMS and LS on the 194. To take on the new work, TC lost its allocation on the 157 to TH, which also gained a Sunday only crew D allocation on the 2B. The 68 and 155 were converted to opo, with the TC allocation on the 68 being DMS and M, while at Merton the 155 went from Crew D to opo DMS. Croydon�s new 194A allocation was converted to LS on 7th of December.
In an attempt at cutting costs to win route tenders, London Buses Ltd set up some low cost units. The first to operate DMSs was Kingston Buses Limited, trading as Kingstonbus, and based at Norbiton garage. The proposed revised pay and conditions were announced to the staff at NB in April and resulted in strikes and stoppages across south London. Kingstonbus was launched on the 27th of June, although strikes continued at NB until LBL threatened to close the garage, which resulted in a hasty settlement and NB staying open.
The first major route change programme of the year occurred on the 7th of February, when the rebuilt Streatham garage opened. Merton lost its allocation on route 49, which had included crew Ds at weekends, and Brixton lost routes 50 and 118 to the new Streatham. Brixton gained a Monday to Friday allocation on route 59, and route 109 was converted to opo DMS at Thornton Heath and mixed M, DMS and H at Brixton. With the loss of its crew work, TH also lost its crew D, Sunday only, allocation on route 2B. However, Stockwell gained a Sunday allocation on the 2B, which was operated by crew D and Routemasters. Brixton gained a large allocation on route 137, which was converted to opo on Sundays. Route 88 was also converted to omo on Sundays, using DMSs at Stockwell and Metros at Shepherds Bush. At Croydon, the 166 was converted from mixed DMS and M to LS operation.
Part of the 7th of February changes was the introduction of L class Olympians at Croydon, resulting in displaced DMSs being transferred to AL, SW and TH. Croydon still had a couple of Metros, though the last one departed by the 15th of March.
Night route N54 was replaced by an extension of the N88 on the 22nd of May, with Sutton gaining an allocation on the N88. The following day Stockwell lost its Sunday allocation on route 2B, which was converted to opo on Sundays.
The troubled Kingstonbus started its new contracts on routes 65, 71, 85 and 213 from the 27th of June, which resulted in Sutton losing its allocation on the 213. The allocation at Norbiton was made up of Metros and non B20 DMSs taken from the training fleet and given a mini refurbishment. Due to clearance problems at Kingston garage, the DMSs weren�t used on the 65 until October.
Route changes in connection with the closure of Wandsworth garage took place on the 11th of July. Route 44 was transferred to Merton, with Sutton gaining a Sunday allocation. Stockwell lost its Sunday allocation on the 44, which became a long route on Sunday i.e. Sutton garage to Aldgate. The N68 and the remaining allocation on the N88 were transferred to Sutton. Merton regained a Sunday allocation on the 49, which was converted to opo. Stockwell lost its allocations on route 77 and gained new allocations on routes 156 and 189. Croydon re-introduced DMSs to route 166, the route now being a mix of LS and DMS.
During July, DMS2281 at Croydon had its Leyland engine replaced with an IVECO one. Three months later, the experiment was judged a success and 99 more DMSs and Ds were to be converted at Croydon and Sutton. In August, DMS2291 was deroofed whilst on training duties. It was later properly converted to open top and used by Leaside District.
On the 22nd of August, changes were made to the routes in the Croydon area, with new route 264 taking over the northern end of the 64 on Mondays to Saturdays, and replacing the route completely on Sundays. The 264 was operated by Merton on Mondays to Saturdays, and by Croydon on Sundays. Changes to the southern end of the 64 and to route 130 resulted in the 130B being withdrawn and the introduction of new express route X30 at TC. To balance the changes, Merton lost its allocation on the 157 to Croydon.
From the 31st of October Sutton garage began operating three routes on behalf of Surrey County Council. The 508 operated on Sundays, the 520 operated early mornings and evenings on Saturdays and the 522 operated early mornings and evenings on Mondays to Saturdays. The Sunday service on the 522 was also operated when the route was extended to Gatwick Airport.
On the 21st of November the southern end of route 19 was replaced by new route 219, which was operated by Merton with DMSs. Part of Merton�s allocation on the 155 was transferred to Stockwell.
Two more local area tendering schemes took place during 1988, at Bexleyheath and Sutton. As with Kingstonbus the previous year, they both experienced problems. The operation at BX, known as Bexleybus, introduced a blue and white livery and numbered its vehicles in a sequence from 1 upwards, without type codes. 14 standard DMSs re-acquired from Clydeside Scottish were numbered 77-90, and had all been converted to single door. 17 withdrawn standard DMSs were re-instated and were numbered 91-107. Suttonbus introduced a variation to the red livery, with a mushroom coloured skirt and yellow relief band. Sutton used its existing B20 buses.
The Bexleyheath scheme started on the 16th of January, when new Leyland Olympians and the DMSs started to operate on routes 96, 99, 178, 229 (one late journey only), 269, 272, 401 and 469. Minibuses and single deckers were also operated from the re-opened Bexleyheath garage.
Changes to route 159 on the 14th of May resulted in Croydon getting a new allocation on route 50, which was operated by L and DMS types. Thornton Heath gained new peak hour only route 389 at the same time.
Two summer only routes were operated by DMSs, the first to start being route 600 on the 16th of July, which was operated by Sutton and served Chessington World of Adventures. On the 24th of July route 333, the Lea Valley Leisure Bus, began operation with open top DMS2291. Both routes lasted until the 4th of September.
Limited school route 189 was withdrawn on the 6th of August, but was re-introduced from the 6th of September. The route also passed from Stockwell garage to Brixton garage.
The Sutton scheme was due to have started on the 29th of October. Route 213, which was now operated by Kingstonbus, was withdrawn between Sutton and St. Helier, while the replacement was due to have been from a diversion of route 154. With the scheme on hold, Sutton ran a Shuttle 213 to cover the missing section. Another part of the scheme that did go ahead on time was the conversion of Surrey County Council routes 508, 520 and 522 from DMS to Metrorider minibuses.
The Sutton scheme finally started on the 26th of November, the DMS routes being the 80, 93, 151, 152, 154, 157, 163 and 164. Joint allocations with other garages ceased, so Sutton lost its Sunday only share of route 44, but gained the 152, 157 and 163. Merton gained the 280 from Sutton and the Stockwell allocation on the 155, but lost the 264 to Thornton Heath, while the Sunday only Croydon allocation on the 264 was also transferred to TH.
On the 5th of December, in preparation for privatisation, London Buses Limited was divided into units. Wandle District were divided into London General, which consisted of A, AF, AL, GM, RA, SW and VB garages, and South London, consisting of AK, BN, N, TC and TH garages. London General adopted a B-type bus for its logo, and South London used Tower Bridge. The new corporate livery of a grey skirt and 2� wide white relief band had been introduced the previous month. The buses at Bexleyheath, Norbiton and Sutton were not to receive the �tape-grey� livery, as it became known. The new units became operational on the 1st of April 1989.