London Buses is the subsidiary of Transport for London (TfL) that manages bus services within Greater London, UK. Most services are provided by private sector bus operators, although this is not particularly obvious to passengers, as buses are required to carry similar red colour schemes and conform to the same fare scheme.
Bus operations - The actual bus services are operated by a number of bus operating companies which work under contract to London Buses. Although most of these operating companies are private-sector organisations, one company, East Thames Buses, is actually owned by Transport for London, and managed at arm's length so as to avoid conflicts of interest. Although this originally came about due to the default of a private sector operator, it seems now to be deliberate policy, possibly partly to act as an exemplar for other operators as to how TfL wishes bus services to be run.
TfL manages the bus system by tendering out routes to private companies. This means that TfL set the routes, frequencies, fares and even the type of vehicle used, and companies bid to run these services for a fixed price for several years, with incentives and penalties in place to encourage good performance against certain criteria.
Legal status - The legal identity of London Buses is actually London Bus Services Limited (LBSL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. East Thames Buses is the trading name of another wholly owned subsidiary of TfL called, rather confusingly, London Buses Limited (LBL).
LBL was first created in 1984 in the process of the privatisation of London bus services, and acted as an arms length subsidiary of TfL's precursor organisation London Regional Transport (LRT). LBL acted as an arms length holding company of LRT to hold ten bus operating units and other assets. The operating divisions were sold off in 1994/5, and their purchasers make up the majority of companies awarded bus operating tenders from the current London Buses (LBSL).
After 1994/5, the LBL company then lay dormant, passing from LRT to TfL. It was resurrected as a place for East Thames Buses to live within TfL, allowing a chinese wall to separate it from LBSL, and act as a London bus operator by proxy.
London's bus network is extensive, with over 6,800 scheduled services every weekday carrying about six million passengers on over 700 different routes. Catering mainly for local journeys, it carries more passengers than the Underground. In addition to this extensive daytime system, a 100-route night bus service is also operated, providing a 24-hour service.
The bus system has been the subject of much investment since TfL's inception in 2000, with consequent improvements in the number of routes (particularly night services), their frequency, reliability and the standard of the vehicles used.
Muralidhar Rao (source - Wikepedia)