On 18 November 2013 it was exactly 50 years since the first Dartford Tunnel was opened in 1963, built under the River Thames, linking Thurrock in Essex with Dartford in Kent. It is the most easterly crossing of the Thames, being 16 miles from the centre of London. A second tunnel was added in 1980, and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge was opened in 1991, the tunnels taking traffic north, and the bridge bringing it south, all forming part of London’s orbital road system. But what interests me more than the tunnels or bridge is the ill-fated cycle bus service which ran through the tunnel for cyclists.
From the early planning stages it was thought that cyclists meandering along in heavy traffic would not be safe and, more to the point, would slow down vehicles moving through the narrow passageway of the tunnel. It was therefore decided that a fleet of special buses, running from 06:00 until 22:00 would give cyclists a lift, providing a safe and convenient journey for them to the other side of the river.
Specifications were drawn up by the Ministry of Transport, and invitations to tender were issued in August 1961, with Strachans Coachbuilders winning the contract to build 5 new double-decker, cycle carrying, buses. Plans and photographs of the buses can be found in MT 102/228 and MT 98/107.