M5, built by Metro-Cammell-Weymann (MCW), was one of a batch of 5 Prototypes wich comprised the standard London double decker of the 1980’s, the other being the Leyland Titan. Following a collaboration with Scania in the mid-1970s which had produced the partially successful ‘Metropolitan’ bus, MCW decided to go it alone and produce a new type of integral double-decker, intended to break the monopoly of Leyland and launched in 1978 as the ‘Metrobus’.
London Transport had contributed a great deal to the design of Leyland’s Titan but was nonetheless reluctant to ‘put all its eggs into one basket’. It had borrowed a Metrobus demonstrator for evaluation at the end of 1977 but such were the pressures on spending that LT had to accept the risks of ‘teething troubles’ and effectively test the new design whilst in service. In February 1978, therefore, LT therefore ordered a large batch of Metrobuses. The first five were intended for ‘pre-production’ evaluation and these started to enter trial service in November that year, one of which been our M5.
A total of 1,440 MKI Metrobuses were purchased by LT between 1978 and 1986 and, following the premature cessation of Titan production and the run-down of the Routemaster fleet, the Metrobus became in 1987 London’s largest class of bus. Despite some problems with floor corrosion, the Metrobus was a popular and reliable workhorse. Large-scale withdrawal of the rival Titans began well before that of the Metrobuses and the newly-privatised London bus companies of the mid-1990s still saw these vehicles as highly-valued, dependable buses. Withdrawal of the Ms finally gathered pace in 1998 but it was to be 2004 before the last examples came out of front-line London service, eventually killed off by the requirement for low-floor buses. One route, the 240, had been continuously operated by Metrobuses for over 22 years!