Issue nr. 171
Monday, September 13th 2021


First catching up with those items held over from the last issue which I hope you find interesting.

We have a nice memory of United Counties from four contributors led by Tony Bungay.  I am sure this bring back many memories for those older readers.

Gavin Francis give us a nice report on his visit to the Epping Ongar GreenLine Running Day which took place on September 5th. It certainly produced some wonderful entrants for visitors to view plus some nice train events.

Further follow up comes regarding the new Redline X20 Aylesbury-Oxford service now developing.

Gavin Francis caught up with Oxford Open Door

attended by some nice COMS buses from the museum on September 11th.

AEC Regent L166 seen in New Road.

AEC Reliance 756 seemingly in the middle of an anti-vax demonstration in Gloucester Green.


South Mimms Tour coaches by Gavin Francis

A variety of operators use South Mimms as seen on September 5th.




As readers will see there is a wide variety of operators and coaches every Sunday. 


Green Line Running Day - Bus Rally

Gavin Francis pictures what was seen at Ongar including the trains on September 5th

The entrance at Ongar

Many other ex London Transport buses and coaches were in attendance.

The trains are also special and offer both steam and diesel.

For more details go to the link below :

Certainly the weather was very kind


Jack Cooper and pictures from St. Giles Fayre.

As normal for the event many services were re-routed to terminate or pass through Broad Street as the pictures below show.

361 is seen at South Parks Road diverting due to St Giles Fayre on September 6th.

Several Stagecoach service seen at temporary loading points in Broad Street on September 6th.

West's 853 service also had to use Broad Street as seen in this picture of 28683 passing The Kings Arms.

David Beynon

Diamond also in Broad Street with a 250 working on September 7th.

363 and 607 also with 2 road services on September 8th.


Stagecoach with a wide variety of services in Broad Street.

Quite an  amount of traffic and differing services in this picture include Thames Travel and Oxford Bus P&R in the background.

Graham Low

Oxford's 366 also seen Broad Street with a 2 road service.

Jack Cooper highlights Oxford Bus attendance at Abingdon Air Show

......................with the Red Arrows.

902 looked very smart promoting the BRAND the BUS competition.

A nice to touch at the show was the appearance of City Sightseeing 202.

Alperton Garage in London closes with Mark Wakefield

Last Saturday was the last day of Alperton garage being open, with the final two routes in the 83 and 483 moving into Perivale East tomorrow morning. This move will also involve the former First LK59 plate Gemini 2s being withdrawn and replaced by newer VWs and VWHs from around the fleet. 

Saturday was the last day of Alperton garage being open, with the final 2 routes in the 83 and 483 moving into Perivale East tomorrow morning. This move will also involve the former First LK59 plate Gemini 2s being withdrawn and replaced by newer VWs and VWHs from around the fleet

Mark sent some interesting pictures including one of local interest from the buses to be seen on Saturday, September 11th.



High Wycombe was represented by Guy ECW GS13 with appropriate destination setting.

Many thanks to Mark for some nice pictures.

 A most rewarding story happened to an Oxford tube driver last Saturday evening when he was on his way to London as reported below.

Oxford tube driver saves escaped dog from the fast lane of the M40

Richard with the dog he rescued

A HEROIC bus driver has been praised after he saved a dog who escaped onto a motorway.

Oxford tube driver, Richard Pimm, was driving his coach down the M40, near junction five, on Saturday night when he noticed a Labrador running down the outer lane. Mr Pimm said: “I was going out about my business, picking up my passengers and driving down the motorway – the next minute all the traffic started skidding. I was wondering what was going on – being a bit nosey – and then I saw the dog in the outer lane. I am a massive dog lover, and even though I had 50 people on my coach, and I had to think about their health and safety, I pulled the coach over into the hard shoulder and told my passengers I had to go get this dog. I could not let it get killed and no one else was bothering to pull over and help the dog.”

Mr Pimm managed to stop the oncoming traffic, get Paddy, an award-winning Red Fox Labrador, safely onto his bus.

He said: “The police were uninterested as there was no accident, and all I knew is that I had 50 passengers on my coach and the hard shoulder was not a good place for us to be. So, I took Paddy to London with me, and he brought all the passengers together. People were Facetiming their families to show the dog, someone found a bottle of water and another person found treats in their bag. He was a bit shaken up, but he seemed really well trained. After they arrived in London, I took Paddy on a walk before getting him back on the coach to return to Oxford."

At the end of the driver’s shift, he decided the best option would be to take Paddy to the vet to see whether he was micro chipped. Mr Pimm said: “It turned out he was micro chipped, and it killed me to leave him, especially as was hoping he wasn’t so I could keep him.”

Paddy was soon reunited with his family – who travelled from Stokenchurch in Buckinghamshire to pick him up.

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director at Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, said: “Our drivers work hard every day to serve our community but it’s times like these that really shine a light on just how fantastic our team members are. I speak on behalf of everyone at Stagecoach when I say that we are very proud of Richard for going above and beyond to reunite Paddy with his owners.”

Such a lovely story to report from our local area. Ed.

Adam Wareham

I couldn't resist adding this picture which Grahame sent to me this morning. It is Oxford Bus but entitled "A single to Oxford please!"

Pictured by Adam Wareham. 

Ciaran Bird

I liked this picture which adds more than the bus to the scene in Woodstock on September 6th.

Gavin Francis

Showing some of the fabulous building to be seen in Oxford, Thames Travel's 452 is seen in Broad Street on September 11th. 

Fleet news and developments




Updated fleet list for Arriva Midlands, The Shires and Southern Counties

Arriva fleet lists/SR Enthusiast Fleet 6 Sep 21.xlsx

Gary Seamarks

3018 on rail replacement 28/8 with Matt Robinson driving,
the chimney's in the backdrop are due for demolition on Showbus day, the end of an era, in Bedfordshire.

Regarding Showbus, as stated above the Chimney's (x4) are coming down on that day between 11 am and noon and I will try and do that first and stay later at Showbus.

Stewartby brick works
At its height, Stewartby was the largest brickworks in the world. In 1936, Marston Vale was home to the world's biggest kiln and 167 chimneys, producing 500 million bricks per year, and employing over 2,000 people. During the post war housing boom, there was an enormous demand for bricks to help reconstruct Britain.

Seen in Buckingham 3867 is working the X60 on September 4th.

Recently arrived 4400 is seen in Thame with a 280 service on September 4th.

Seen from the Marble Arch Mound Green Line  7214 is at the top of Park Lane on September 9th.

Mark Turner

A bus that arrived in Hemel since last page, it’s 6488.

Paul Coley

Despite what was stated in your Arriva Aylesbury update last Monday, Volvo Gemini 4025 was still alive and kicking in service this afternoon (Friday, September 10th).

Seen entering Orwell Drive on route 9. 

Peter Edgar

ARRIVA’s 5460 promoting a visit to Oxford seen in Thame.
I know it is similar to the one above but in a different location! Ed.

Thomas Walker

Arriva Sapphire ADL Enviro 400 YY14LHE 4401, recently transferred from Derby route 38,
in Central Milton Keynes on the 150 to Aylesbury.

Wrights 4211 also seen at Milton Keynes working route 3 on September 4th.

More photos are at:

Tony Bungay

All taken in Aylesbury past couple of days 

4400 on 280 to Oxford, slightly ironic as soon after photo an Oxford branded vehicle turned up on the 300! With 4400 on the 150

The previous day, September 8th same journey 19.00 hrs was worked by 1002.

3730 And 3927 both on 500, 3927 was new to Wycombe for the 31 service as 3867.

As mentioned Arriva have mounted a leaflet campaign for the 280, using Royal Mail leaflet Delivery Service. What I felt would have been useful on it, a summary time table is not featured! Instead people are referred to using the Arriva App. Something I understand has had issues!

Not such a good start for a recent arrival at Hemel for the 500.

Being recovered by Lantern 6488 is seen in Aylesbury on September 11th.

Jack Cooper

Seen in Broad Street is ALX400 X37XAW on September 6th during St Giles Fayre. 

Gary Seamarks

13812 near Victoria, a closer look will reveal the 'Official Stamp' still reads Cambridge ! Seen on September 9th.

Gavin Francis

I have seen a lot of Star Tours of Wembley coaches on the M40 and around VCS lately. They may have taken over from Thandi who I understand have parted company with Flixbus.

Star Tours operate this new 21 plate Tourismo BF21EWB seen in Elizabeth Street September 7th.

Ridleys are working this 021 service to Liverpool on September 10th.

Jack Cooper general update

214 & 219 transferred from Carousel to Oxford Bus today, with 244 & 245 going to Carousel. 248 is also fully branded for Thames Travel, now all the repaints are complete there is not a Brighton liveried bus in the fleet anymore!  

The 11X is to be operated by Sprinters from the PickMeUp fleet, this will be 971-975, with 976 being used by Thames Travel on the 46. 975 is currently still on loan to East Yorkshire for the Just Go service, similar to the Oxford PickMeUp.

A long serving driver with Oxford Bus is seen with 971 and an 11X working on September 7th by Graham Low.

Alexander with an interesting note

Yesterday, September 9th, I saw an OBC StreetDeck parked at the Westgate stop. The first time it was displaying 'Not in Service' but the second time it was showing a display I'd never seen before; Commute and Reconnect I think it was. 

Jack Cooper caught the same bus with the display mentioned by Alexander.

Gary Seamarks

terminus for link40 is Thame and 870 with 887 are seen in the town on September 4th.

Kevin Fuller

I had a trip to the American sounding 'High Wycombe Coachway' on September 2nd, and took a few pictures. which may be of interest: 

The Coachway is the terminus of Carousel's new route 34, operated using Mercedes minibuses, and here is 977 waiting with the 11.05 departure. 

MAN / Enviro 200 421 is seen taking a turn on the Park & Ride service 8 - usually StreetLites are used on this service.

Pete Cabin

Nice touch is 978 working route 27 on September 13th by Pete Cabin.

Readers should look out for 244 and 245 now transferred to Carousel. 

Rhys Cutting

I'm hearing that Oxford Bus Group city11X is slated to be allocated four (or five if things get messy) of the six Mercedes-Benz Sprinter City 45 vehicles 971–6 by October. Route 46, run under the 'Thames Travel' brand, will clearly retain one of the set. I've seen 971–3 appear on city11X already for a couple of days so they're getting off the mark nicely! I am unaware of any repaints for either 21–5 nor 971–6 which is a shame.

At the time of writing Volvo B11R Plaxton Panther (CF14OXF) has been the only one of that set to continue operating the route since 971–6 arrived on the scene. As for what will happen with 
Volvo B11R Plaxton Panther vehicles 21–5 once they're fully replaced is unknown and the best information I have about them is that they'll be used for "Special Things" whatever that means. I doubt it is anything 'airline' related since their engines are Euro 5 not Euro 6 which means penalties if they enter Heathrow Airport. Of course they could be exhaust trapped and repainted for something like route X50 and/or route 102. Not sure if Heathrow is back funding things properly yet but if it isn't airline related "Special Things" doesn't really make any sense to me.

An interesting note from Rhys, time will tell but the Sprinters are now seen working the 11X.

Gavin Francis

The flagship of the Oxford Bus Hybrid fleet 301 HY11BRD seen working the 4A on September 11th.

Much in use for 35 road in recent weeks, above 844 and 846 by St Giles on September 9th.

Ciaran Bird

Brookes micro Hybrid 372 seen in Woodstock with 500 service on September 6th.

Jack Cooper

Once again a Brookes micro Hybrid 371 seen working 5 road turning into Speedwell Street
then 605 seen leaving the train station on September 10th.

MMC 602 is seen with an 11X working in St Aldates on September 10th.

The wandering route changing StreetDeck 662 is seen working the 4A on September 10th.

Orange 691working  its branded 8 road service in St Aldates on September 10th.

This time 844 is working the 11X in St Aldates on September 10th.

Here working 15 road 845 is seen in High Street on September 6th. 

Jack Cooper

Seen in St Aldates after a long repair, 34 on September 10th.

Kevin Fuller

I had a trip to the American sounding 'High Wycombe Coachway' on September 2nd, and took a few pictures. which may be of interest: 

Oxford 40, Mercedes Tourismo coach with all over advertising wrap for the Ashmolean Museum
calls in at the Coachway on its way to Heathrow Airport.



On Monday, September 6th a P&R liveried StreetDeck 669 was on the X3 17:26 part journey to the ring road only.

356 is seen turning into Speedwell Street with a 400 service on September 10th.

673 is seen leaving Magdalen Street West followed by another sister on September 10th.

Jack Cooper

632 looking clean and tidy passes through Frideswide Square on September 10th. 

Jack  Cooper

904 is seen heading for Didcot from the train station in Oxford with an X2 on September 4th.

Belying its 13 year age, Scania 914 looks very smart when working the X38 for Henley in St Aldates on September 10th. 

Ashley Toms

New arrivals were pictured by Ashley last week.

Two new arrival are J222LML and T600MEC seen above with a well travelled DAF/East Lancs YJ57BNB
seen at the depot on September 9th. 

Gavin Francis

More contractors seen at work.

It is suggested that this company has been acquired by NEx. Here is T3JBT near VCS on September 10th.

Kings Ferry Tourismo BF68ZFE working the 401 on September 7th.


SN53AVK is seen in Aylesbury working route 61, once an Arriva service, on September 10th. 

Gavin Francis

Caught in Stokenchurch this afternoon, September 13th.

L983MSC at The Kings, Stokenchurch  working school service 946.

Very smart, this ex Metroline E400, LK55KKZ, is seen working school service 945.

Seen at Waterloo Bridge on October 29th 2016 when it was Metroline 689, its first life.

Gary Seamarks

Seen on September 4th is MX09HJN working the 120 now replaced by the X20. Next is MX60GXJ also in Thame.

Ex Whitelaws SW16BUS adorned with X20 branding also seen in Thame on September 4th. 

Graham Low

The same bus as in Thame, now back to Aylesbury passing Queen Lane on September 7th.

Jack Cooper

Again SW16BUS heading for Oxford through Thame on September 10th.

Tony Bungay

ADL 200MMC SF66ARV working the 17 to Bicester on September 9th, it also appeared on the 60

Hazel Richardson

September 12th when one of Red Rose's Enviro 200 MMCs made an appearance on the 501.

GW65GSW is seen here in Hemel on it's way to Watford with the route number on a paper blind.

I believe this may be the first time an MMC has appeared on the 501 ?

Paul Coley

Seen entering Orwell Drive Red Rose Scania E14RRT on route 10.

Both of the route 10 machines have been re-branded to include Stoke Mandeville Hospital, as the route was supposed to extend there from Monday. However, Bucks Council have published an update for this and route 7 saying that, due to driver shortages, these Red Rose routes were seeing less buses than usual. Route 10 is seeing the same number, but they are keeping to the old route and not continuing to the hospital (so effectively saving one bus, needing 2 as usual, not 3 for the extension). Nothing about this as I write on the Red Rose website, just the headline route extension that was supposed to start on Monday!

Tony Bungay

Seen in white well travelled PA04CYC (ex London United VLE21) is seen Aylesbury on September 9th.

Jack Cooper

Gold MMC 10991 branded for Swindon heading through Frideswide Square to Swindon on September 10th. 

Ciaran Bird

10439 is seen in Woodstock with an S3 Service on September 4th.

Loaned Manchester E200 36109 is seen at Wootton Turning Circle on September 6th.

Gavin Francis

With the move of the City Sightseeing to a bay in front of the sales shop, plus diversions due to St Giles Fayre
The S1 is seen in Gloucester Green at Bay 14 on September 7th.

Graham Mildenhall

Just on my way home a few minutes ago and found myself following 37401 on rail replacement - would have been rude not to stop and grab a couple of pictures. You might like to include one on the page as it's off of it's now pretty regular S4 route! 

Seen at Heyford Station, Sunday, September 12th 2021.

Well done Graham, a nice spot! 

Jack Cooper

E400MMC 10435 working its normal route 1 at Frideswide Square on September 10th.

Unusually working the 10, the haunt of Oxford's remaining Hybrids, 10680 is seen in St Aldates on September 10th.

Hybrid 12011 seen unusually working the 1 in St Aldates on September 10th. Slight slip of the pen in allocations?

Great to see the correct branding with 15758 working the S5 from Magdalen Street West on September 10th.

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Kidlington on Tuesday, September 9th when Dart 34471 turned up working the H4.
And I thought this was a Gold route !!!!! Ed.

Ciaran Bird

MMC 10874 is seen along the A34 near Water Eaton with an X5 Service on September 3rd.

Gary Seamarks

10881 and 54311 in Buckingham on September 4th.

Not much else to report locally with the schools returning, except that Centrebus no longer serve Biggleswade and East Beds, the town route is now a Chiltern Travel contract for 1 bus, and the one to Potton has been revised and placed into a 'new' Stagecoach East route 72 Biggleswade-Potton-Sandy- Bedford runs hourly and takes 70 minutes end to end, against the 73 which omits Potton and takes about an hour, this has been revised from every 30 minutes to hourly at the same time. Grant Palmer still operates the 74 via a more direct route between the two towns , again hourly in about 38 minutes. 

Jack Cooper

Nice to catch 11279 displaying "BUS RVERSING" as it backs off Gloucester Green on September 4th.
Note the destination nearside display showing a different "DO NOT BOARD".

Thomas Walker

Stagecoach X5 ADL Enviro 400 MMC YX67VDN 10876 struggling across the Witan Gate junction on Midsummer Boulevard
 after traffic tailed back across the junction due to a blockage at Avebury Boulevard on an Oxford service.

11279 at Milton Keynes on September 9th.

More photos are at 

Ex Oxford Hybrid 12020 caught fire whilst in service from Hyde Road depot on September 6th.

Photos from the scene show the charred back of a bus as it is parked up at a bus stop

Read in Manchester Evening News:           

Fire services responded to a bus that caught fire in Little Hulton

A main road in Salford was closed after a double-decker bus caught fire.

Crews from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) scrambled to Old Lane in Little Hulton following reports of a vehicle fire shortly after 4.30pm on Monday (September 6).

Two fire engines from Farnworth attended the scene where crews used four breathing apparatus, four hose reels and a thermal imaging camera to extinguish the fire.

At around 5.30pm, Stagecoach tweeted that diversions were in place in both directions of Old Lane via Manchester Road West due to the incident.

The diversions resulted in the 38 bus service being affected as a number of bus stops were unable to be reached.

At 6.14pm, Transport for Greater Manchester tweeted to say the incident had been cleared and the 38 service had resumed to normal.

Gavin Francis

12020 when almost new seen in service at Oxford in June and July 2011.

12020 transferred to Manchester and seen in Piccadilly in May 2017.

By September 2021 12020's career had come to the end.

Peter Winstanley

This company now known as Ribble Motor Service has repainted anE400 MMC in a commemorative livery.

Rather a nice touch is Scania 15305 in red and cream remembering Ribble seen on September 8th.

Gary Seamarks

A nice aerial shot of 50425 in Park Lane taken from The Mound on September 9th.

Jack Cooper

Astromega 50237 is followed by 50442 in St Aldates on September 10th. 

Gavin Francis

One of the oldest Elite i's 54202 seen resting in Elizabeth Bridge on September 10th.

Nimbus 2000 54272 heading for Bristol from Elizabeth Street VCS on September 9th. 

Gary Seamarks

Scania 203 with a nice registration plate - UH55UNO in St Albans on September 8th. 

London operators

Gavin Francis

Bliss Travel

Nice little Mercedes Mercedes Benz 1023L Indcar Next WJ65EMK, seen in Buckingham Palace Road on September 9th.

19134 shows of a multi coloured display on September 9th along Buckingham Palace Road.

Tony Bungay re-visits UCOC part 2

Now forming a part of the National Bus Company, United Counties entered the 1970’s seemingly having had little change. Unfortunately not just for the Company but for most of the Bus industry as a whole, the problems stretching back to the latter 1950’s of Staff retention, falling passenger levels  etc would accelerate in the 1970’s together with the problems of ageing fleets, spare part shortages, and considerable industrial unrest all over the United Kingdom, which in turn led to more unreliability. On top of all this inflation levels increased, meaning costs for New vehicles, spares, wages followed, The bottom line in all this being Fare increases became more frequent which together with missed journeys accelerated the decline in passengers, a well and truly vicious circle!   

This was an era where the political desire was to create bigger operating companies to in turn give or at least appear to give a more unified Network, one example of this being the creation of Public Transport Executives (PTE’s) in some of the larger cities which bought together or under the control of, various Municipal companies as well as well as parts of some of the Larger Bus Companies and indeed a number of British Railway Services. 

For the people of Luton while not part of any directive, they saw the takeover of their Municipal Operator Luton Corporation in 1970, including it’s Routes and vehicles. There had for many years been an operating arrangement between Luton Corporation and the other large company in the town, under the umbrella of Luton and District.

As a comparison United Counties having operated around and into Northampton, had what may seem incredible in these post Deregulation days, conditions along which roads it could do it’s first set down/pick up on journeys to and from the Town Centre. While over the years the restrictions on some roads had eased, it still gave the local Municipal Northampton Transport the monopoly within this area. As with many towns in the area Northampton had expanded outside these boundaries  and was continuing to expand, so United Counties was able to gain extra custom, though further agreements  saw some of these services become jointly operated with Northampton Transport! 

The takeover of Luton Corporation while bringing more revenue to the company, also meant more different vehicle types it had to keep running. With types as mixed as Leyland’s, Dennis Lolines, Albion Lowlanders, on a plus note however the single deckers were Bristol RELL/ECW vehicles so externally at least fitted in well.   

Bristol RELL/ECW 354 was actually ordered by Luton Corporation

It did not arrive until after United Counties had taken over, one obvious difference being it was Dual Door. The vehicle is seen in Church Street working a Luton Local service in June 1984. In 1986 it passed to Sampsons coaches and was scrapped in 1988 

A number of initiatives had come or were to come into effect around these times, one was the Bus Grant that enabled operators to update their fleets with New vehicles but only needing to pay eventually half the cost, providing the vehicles complied with the set specification and were used at least 50% of the time on stage carriage work. Another and possibly more important one, was giving councils the powers to contribute financially to Services they felt needed retaining. While the purpose of this article is to give a basic history and not make comments on political ideas, the writer couldn’t help thinking that like the introduction of free travel for initially the over 60’s, a useful and laudable idea, but seeming to overlook the important fact that it has to be paid for! As the councils have to either raise the money or get given some in a form of grant by the government for the means to pay, which as we all know never seems to be enough.

This was also the era of the introduction of corporate identity, with the railways being branded British Rail and the some what Regional Liveries in use being replaced with a New Blue/Grey colour scheme and a Logo obviously so successful it remains in use at Rail Stations today!

Likewise the National Bus Company embarked on a similar action, so from 1972 nearly all Service Buses of it’s constituent Companies were to be in either Leaf Green or Poppy Red Livery broken by a White relief band, with standardised lettering for the fleetname. Vehicles classed as Dual Purpose, generally a Bus Type Body with Coach seats were in a half and half scheme, the top half from the waistrail being white the lower half the companies fleet colour. Initially companies such as East Yorkshire were able to use Dark Blue but not for long as it turned out!

As mentioned in the previous piece since the 1930’s United Counties operated a number of long distance Coach Services and as a result of this were part of what was called Associated Motorways, this being an organisation where a number of operators such as Midland Red, Royal Blue etc pooled their Services. This and other such Services operated by the NBC companies were completely rebranded under the National Express Banner, all vehicles being painted White with a Large NATIONAL fleetname in alternate Red and Blue Lettering with the operating companies name in smaller red letters, and as in the case of British Rail a large Company logo, in this case a mirrored letter N also in Red and Blue, incidentally the same symbol appeared in front of the fleetname on Buses although until later in the 1970’s in plain White.

Logically United Counties would henceforth wear the Leaf Green colour on New vehicles and as older ones were repainted so seeming not too different (at least to the ordinary passenger)! The Coaches of course would become overall White not always in keeping with older vehicles such as Bristol MW’s. 

These photos of the earlier ECW coach bodied Bristol RE’s should have perhaps appeared in part1, but have been included here to show pre  NBC Livery and the later original overall white Livery.

Number 276 is seen leaving Bedford in December 1981 working former Birch Brothers service to London
 now numbered 250, this vehicle Was scrapped in 1984.

Number 252 seen in original Livery at Woburn Showbus having become preserved, and undergoing restoration,
this vehicle has had various Owners over the years including a spell with Dreadnought Coaches and is now reportedly in store.  

Bristol FS6B 662 is seen arriving at  Showbus Hillingdon in June 1978,
showing the NBC style livery that was applied to companies Buses from 1972.

This vehicle also has later NBC Red/Blue Logo on white square, 662 was scrapped in 1981,(Copyright The Bus Archive)                  

New vehicles of the early 1970’s were invariably Bristol RE in Bus and Coach seated versions and more Bristol VRT in SL2 version, with initially flat but later curved windscreens, these  vehicles which until 1981 would be the standard Double Decker. From 1973 however the company would start to get a New class of Single Deck Bus developed jointly by British Leyland and The National Bus Company. named and no surprises here, the Leyland National. A quite revolutionary vehicle at the time, it featured a lower entrance step and wider entrance for better ease of access and what appeared to be a fairly roomy interior, it was after all intended to be a high capacity vehicle with a large standing capacity in addition to 49 seated.

Less successful was the use of a turbo charger and the heating was from the distinctive roof mounted pod at the rear of the vehicle, seeming to forget the fact that warm air rises! The National was constructed at a purpose built factory in Cumbria, a decision made by the Labour Government of the late 1960’s for the very good reason of creating employment, the possible downside mentioned in some books being that the workforce come from an area where engineering had not been a large employer. Certainly the National entered Service with a number of National Bus Companies and quickly got a less than good reputation  to the point they got the name ‘Cumberland dustbins’, reportedly however it seems Leyland tested the prototypes in various countries and even crashed one into a block of concrete to test structural integrity, but not it seems on the roads of the UK to see how it would perform in service! Initially at least  the Leyland National was a highly standardised product, painted in the NBC operators overall colour without the white relief band that the companies had to add themselves. In addition the seating option was hard green leather, a feature that famously did little to impress passengers when similar vehicles entered Service on Green Line Route 721!  

While not a brilliant photo, it shows United Counties second Leyland National 451
proceeding down a snow swept Market Square in Aylesbury in mid February 1985.

It would appear to be a recent transfer from Milton Keynes, as a poster for CityBus Tickets applicable to Milton Keynes is carried, it would at this time be United Counties oldest National as the first number 450 had been badly damaged by fire and not repaired.

Number 477 stands on the forecourt of Aylesbury Garage in August 1985.

The writer remembers walking past this vehicle and smelling the newness of the paint, hence the photo as it was absolutely immaculate, would an 11 year old vehicle these days be kept to this standard?

The garage New to Eastern National was vacated in the early 1990’s and after a spell as a car park is now all to predictably apartments. Perhaps a sobering thought, but if the train of events concerning the routes operated by this Garage at the time of the photo and indeed even the change of ownerships had not taken on other services. Then in 2021 the sum total of routes operated would at the very best be 3!   

It goes without saying the taking in of more non standard vehicles from such as Luton Corporation and Birch Brothers, some of which were far from new plus having older vehicles itself placed big demands on the engineering side of the company, which again suffered from staffing levels plus as mentioned earlier difficulty in getting spares. To this end the company was required to hire vehicles from various other operators in an effort to maintain services.  

The Arab-Israeli war of October 1973 and the resultant cut in production of oil started a upward cycle of price increases, which again impacted. Indeed while in the event things never got quite that far, the Conservative government of the time distributed Fuel rationing coupons. The widespread industrial unrest of these times, culminated into a number of strikes, most famously by the National Union of Miners, who’s action cut coal supplies and resulted in what became known as the 3 day week in order to help conserve power supplies,  

A failure by United Counties at this time, seemingly perhaps seen as no big deal, and perhaps greeted with joy by some! Was it’s inability to provide in time a Rail replacement Bus Service.

Now in 2021 could well have some consequences for the Company who evolved from it. The Railway in question being the only passenger carrying section of what had been known as the Oxford – Cambridge Line. Although not one of the railway lines suggested for closure by Doctor Beeching. The British Railways Board later in the 1960’s decided to close the line in some what piecemeal fashion, with the Bedford (St Johns)– Cambridge section being closed and most of the track lifted, except for a short stub to a power station which incidentally was alongside United Counties Bedford Garage. The section from Bletchley to Oxford being retained for freight and Diesel units going from Aylesbury to Bletchley for maintenance. The Bletchley – Bedford section remaining for passenger use, and it was this British Rail wanted to close, as no replacement Bus Service could be sourced in the required timescale it delayed the closure process.

The election of a Labour government in March 1974 by chance put in place the facility to subsidise the Rail service as a social need, so the line remained open, while local support groups and eventually various local authorities campaigned to improve the service and reopen some if not all the line. The considerable growth of Milton Keynes being an additional draw. After nearly 30 years had elapsed since the above, and many studies in between, plus reopening to passengers of the Bicester – Oxford section in the 1990’s the formation of East – West Railway Company became a reality, and at the time of writing large amounts of work are going on to reopen/up grade the line. As far as the writer knows, and he could be wrong, the route East of Bedford has not been fully determined.    

In an effort to improve the age of the fleet and replace the number of crew operated the Bristol ‘Lodekka’ in the fleet, so as to move to now days what is called one person operation, as indeed virtually every bus company large or small needed to do to reduce costs at the time. It needed to  obtain newer vehicles. Needless to say, even with existing orders in place there were delays in deliveries. However  United Counties was able at fairly short notice able to obtain a number of light weight Bedford vehicles in short and long versions with bodies by Willowbrook. Two manufacturers it had not sourced before, but due to the delays in receiving Bristol VRT’s and Leyland Nationals it made their availability appealing. The company could no longer purchase it’s stable Bristol RE as Leyland had made them unavailable except for Northern Ireland and export. Some of it’s final Bristol RE’s having Plaxton Coach Bodywork a big change from the usual ECW 

United Counties Bedford YRT/Willowbrook 108 working in Shrewsbury!

Well yes and No! In this photo it is actually being used by Valley Motor Services In Shrewsbury for service to Montgomery, But other than no fleetname, the NBC Livery and even Logo on front remain! Wonder if any locals when this vehicle first appeared here thought it was a Crosville vehicle!  United Counties withdrew the vehicle in 1981, seen here at Barker Street Bus Station Shrewsbury September 1984. This vehicle later worked in Yeovil.  

Showing the original NBC Dual Purpose Livery Bristol RELH/ECW DP 289 proceeds towards Aylesbury Bus Station,
working Service 565 from Halton Camp and Wendover.

One of three slightly different routes to serve these places every hour, for a number of years it’s modern day equivalent was Arriva 50 latterly 8 which with the withdrawal of Arriva’s S8 at end of August severs this lineage. Of course the 50 still lives on under Red Rose, 289 later went to North Yorkshire for non PCV use, being scrapped in 1990 

 number of these vehicles when new wore white National coach Livery and could be used on longer distance or excursion work. A fact that would seem unthinkable to todays National Express users!

Showing what would be considered more expected coachwork United Counties Bristol RELH/Plaxton 221 stands in Buckingham Street Aylesbury

This is across the road from the companies Aylesbury Garage. Interestingly the Service number in the destination blind is the vehicles fleet number, the below windscreen green plate indicates it is a Milton Keynes based vehicle. It features the wording Express added to the National Fleetname a feature introduced after deregulation of the long distance coaching services in 1980. 221 would later see Service with Luton and District and then Battrick and Brown in Blackburn, being scrapped in 1991 

United Counties Bristol VRT SL2/ECW 968 stands in Leighton Buzzard High Street, ready to work Service 516 back to Aylesbury in September 1985,
shows the curved windscreen fitted to later production SL2 models.

Number 968 was actually a second hand vehicle for United Counties, having been acquired from West Riding as their number 803. It was scrapped in 1989. Services 515/516 were at the time intermediate journeys between Heath and Reach and Aylesbury to give an hourly Service with the X15. Their present day successors would be Arriva 150/ Z & S 165 and latterly Red Rose 101.  

A slightly more unusual  vehicle to enter service with the company in the early 1970’s was the shorter length
Bristol RESL/ECW shown here as 392 (originally 421) working a local Service in Luton in June 1984. The vehicle was scrapped in 1986.

Showing the earlier flat windscreen front of the later ECW bodied Bristol RELL’s is 310,
turning into Walton Street Aylesbury March 1984, working local Service 552.

This vehicle would have an operating diagram on this duty of operating 3 different local services an hour. Routes 552/553/554. In 2021 a large amount of the service shown 552 is now devoid of any service, except for a section covered by Arriva 9/Red Rose 10/Redline 11, equally the 553 middle section is also devoid, with Redline 4/Star 5 covering one part, and Redline 2  the other. The 554 having fared better, but still covered by 3 services along it’s original length Redline 2 and 14 and Arriva X60/Red Rose 60.Number 310 would later go for non PCV use and be scrapped in the mid 1990’s 

In St Neots Market Place in July 1984, Bristol VRT SL2/ECW 786 shows the original front fitted to the these vehicles as opposed to that of 968.
The vehicle is working Service 152 to Bedford which goes via the picturesque village of Kimbolton and Riseley, rather than the more direct main roads.

As mentioned in Part 1 United Counties upgraded most of their SL1 and some SL2 vehicles to some extent SL3 standard. This vehicle would later be sold to Crosville Wales and be scrapped in 1990 

Also still present in St Neots in July 1984, side by side were these Timetable cases,
the one on the left still displaying the pre NBC Fleetname style, having avoided what is on the one on the right!

As has been already mentioned in this article, the Oil price hikes of late 1973 and other factors, caused the general UK economy to suffer, leading to the inevitable company closures and job loses. One such high profile event was the collapse of the Court Line Holiday Company in the Summer of 1984. Perhaps lesser known was Court Line also operated a number of Bus Services in the Hemel Hempstead/Dunstable/Luton area which also went down, though a few months later. United Counties would take on the Services and vehicles, but only after the local authorities involved agreed to cover the financial costs.

The company at the time was suffering from increasing losses, due to a large number of reasons. 

While these days it has become quite rare to find a Bus Station operated and owned  by the Bus Company. The costs of maintaining and operating such sites, has made such places unattractive for commercial reasons generally, though Town Centre redevelopments and Health and Safety issues have also played a large part.

United Counties over the years had built a number of Bus Stations, perhaps the top one being the one it had built in Derngate Northampton, later into the 1950’s and 1960’s it had also built other facilities large and small, one alongside  Kettering Garage as well as Bedford, Corby and one at it’s Stony Stratford Garage amongst others. Throughout the 1960’s into the 1970’s many Town Centres were redeveloped with generally pedestrianised shopping centres. With the councils in question wishing to have a purpose built Bus station quite logically as part of the development. (Car ownership although growing, is a fraction of today)!

In the case of United Counties substantial Northampton facility, which had of course considerable financial value. While not directly affected by the construction of the New Northampton shopping centre, the inclusion of a New Bus Station alongside as proposed by the Developers and the Council and the desire to have obviously have Buses use it, led to a lot of discussion by all parties involved including United Counties.

Eventually in 1976 the New facility was opened, essentially being a Bus Station in 2 halves, with nose in loading Bays on one side and a Drive through type road on the other. United Counties using the nose in Bays and Northampton Transport using in the main the Drive through road, as it was the same as picking up/setting down in the street. The facility being connected to the Shopping Centre by escalators and a Tunnel like walkway, which included the Enquiry Office. Above the Bus Station structure were offices used for a while by Barclaycard.  

A rather poor photograph showing the in the main United Counties side of Greyfriars Bus Station.
 Bristol VRT’s including 2 Northampton Transport Alexander bodied examples.
And Leyland Nationals predominate, although a solitary Bedford is also visible,
as is the Bus Wash at the far end in March 1980 (Copyright The Bus Archive)

The other half of Greyfriars Bus Station was a drive through facility used by Northampton Transport and Express services,
as shown by Leyland Leopard/ECW 173 in June 1984.

Having worked National Express service 455 from London, the vehicle wears a   modified National Express Livery in which it was delivered and the fleet number is now a stencil, as opposed to the long used coloured metal plate. This vehicle remained with United Counties until 1993

Showing the layout at passenger level with Sixtieth Anniversary Liveried 828
standing for it’s next turn on Service 335 to Milton Keynes via Blisworth – Towcester and Potterspury.

United Counties own Bus Station in Derngate was of course vacated and later become the sight for Northampton’s Derngate theatre and some years later a United Counties vehicle would indeed return to that site!

For those who have read Part 1 with the photo again of VR 828, the caption mentions what eventually became of Greyfriars, it’s successor being built nearby and the first day of opening causing traffic chaos in the town centre, due to the facility being unable to handle the volume of buses, resulting in queues forming to access the passenger bays. (There are a number of short videos on the internet showing the end of Greyfriars) 

Bedford Bus Station was built by the company in the late 1950 and although having undergone some changes over the years by the time these photos were taken, was generally unchanged. The first view taken in July 1980 of the parking area, shows by then the standard NBC line up of Bristol VRT and Leyland National. Though a Bristol FS is still present, as they were still in service in ever decreasing numbers! Though as it turned out this would not be the last time rear entrance/crew operated  buses would be used by United Counties in Bedford!

Bristol VRT 837 shown, would later be part of the Luton and District later Arriva Fleet, going to Holmeswood Coaches in 2000, being scrapped by 2002.

Another view looking towards the passenger area and company offices behind Bedford Garages
Bristol VRT SL1/ECW 756 departing for Hitchin via Arlesley on Service 182.

This vehicle was one of few SL1 VR’s not upgraded by the Company to SL3 spec, again going later to Luton and District and being withdrawn in 1989. Behind with the between decks wraparound is Aylesbury Garages 938, before it worked the long 141 Service back to Aylesbury via Ampthill - Woburn Sands -  Leighton Buzzard. This vehicle again later became part of Luton and District later Arriva Fleet, after which it went for non PCV use in Cornwall 

Bristol VRT SL2/ECW 809 loads at Kettering Bus Station working local Service 260 in June 1984.

The Bus station was built alongside Kettering Garage a good number of years after the Garage! Off the photo to the right would be the covered waiting concourse, café, enquiry office etc. The Bus Station was closed as a result of the sweeping changes of April 1986, only to reopen later, reconfigured as a drive through facility as a result of local pressure. The site was closed again in 1989 and redeveloped, when a much smaller basic replacement facility was opened. VRT 809 was withdrawn by United Counties also in 1989, and went onto Coachman of Cowplain  and then Cowdrey of Gosport, being scrapped in 1986  

While United Counties nor for that matter beforehand Eastern National never had their own purpose built Bus Station in Aylesbury. The main Terminus in the town being Kingsbury Square. Again as in many towns in the 1960’s the centre’s were redeveloped  as already mentioned with Northampton. In Aylesbury’s case the Bus Station being located underneath the shopping centre. This was fairly common during this period with Birmingham, Luton, Slough, High Wycombe amongst others being similar, Luton for example as indeed Slough being under car parks and High Wycombe as part of the Thames Valley/Alder Valley garage.

One thing they all had in common was despite being undercover so the passengers were protected from the rain, as can be seen from the photo’s they were dark and obviously at the time when diesel emissions were of less concern, also at times quite polluted! The photos show VRT 938 before its wraparound advert had been fully applied (seen at Bedford above) working Town Service 551 now primarily operated by Redline 2/4 and VRT 874 also with a wraparound on service 565 to Halton Camp, now primarily Red Rose 50 latterly Arriva 50/8 in parts. The use of the then fairly new 1000ASA colour film makes the facility look brighter then it is!   Number 874 would later become part of Luton and District and was scrapped in 1997. The photo shows Aylesbury Bus Station in it’s original form with most services picking up along the edge, though at busy times Buses in some sections had to double park and passengers had to walk on the concourse to board. The area in the middle was used for layover parking and a couple of drive through bays for Coach Services and tours and at the time of this photo Services 536 and X15. The present passenger waiting area and nose in boarding bays are now built in what was this area. As a further point United Counties Town Services did not use the Bus station for many years, instead using stops in Kingsbury Square and nearby Market Square.

The writer does wonder given the replacement and closure of many similar type Bus stations, whether the much criticised facility at Aylesbury will end up getting Listed status!!!! The County Offices alongside built at the same time is reportedly listed. 

A more basic facility was also provided again by the local authority at Bletchley featuring nose in bays and basic shelters and seating for passengers. The photo while not showing the passenger area, shows how busy the facility was for services on a mid March morning in 1983. Standing out being VRT 800 in Sixtieth Anniversary livery. 

In the late 1960’s the go ahead was given for creating a New City called Milton Keynes, basically being built on land between the at the time mainly Railway town of Wolverton, the old coaching town of Stony Stratford (both of which were linked at one time by a tramway) and the more modern town of Bletchley with the M1 motorway to the North. Obviously within this area were a number of villages which over time become absorbed into the City. As is well known the City was designed on a grid principle with the road network being either  vertical or horizontal hence the prefixes V and H on street names. Within this road network the residential and industrial areas were created. The main thing being that Milton Keynes was designed for the private car! It became apparent that there would always be people for whom the use of a car was not always an option, in which case some other form of transport would be needed.

To this end the Development Corporation and United Counties worked together to provide a network of services to serve the ever growing City. Due to the design of the City the services were required to serve the main roads as many residential areas were not easily accessible for the vehicles then in use. All this created much extra work for United Counties, one consequence of which required it to open a larger base in Bletchley to replace the smaller facilities it had previously used.

As would be expected the expansion of the City, funding from the Corporation etc entailed constant changes to services to match the situation. One feature to set the City services apart from other services that in the early days at least Stony Stratford Garage mainly operated was the prefix MK with the Route Number to give a more local identity. 

Another feature of Bus operation also appeared at this time, generally driven by local authorities to see some form of Public transport  made available to areas where there was either none or very little, or which was difficult to access by larger vehicles. This was the use of the Minibus  which due to it’s size was more suitable.

Operation took a number of different forms such as a vehicle operated by the Community, fuelled and maintained by the Bus Company and costs paid for by the Council, such as an Eastern Counties involved operation in North Norfolk, where the vehicle carried the fleetname National Norfolk.

United Counties was involved in a similar Community scheme in Northamptonshire. In addition another development involving Minibuses was what was known at the time as ‘Dial a Ride’ or in more recent times demand responsive. The idea being that a passenger could phone to be collected and taken to where they wanted to go within the area operated by the scheme provided they gave sufficient notice before their intended journey. Milton Keynes as previously mentioned was seen as an ideal place to try out such a scheme due to the residential areas being difficult to access. Therefore such a scheme was put in place with funding from various organisations and operated by United Counties, a similar system was also tried in Harlow and operated by London Country.

Both schemes eventually ended as they were expensive to operate in relation to the income generated.

United Counties was also involved with another Minibus scheme in Leighton Buzzard, where Bedfordshire County Council wished to see better services to the residential areas of the town. So for this purpose an experimental trial was set up involving both the council and United Counties, the vehicles carrying both names!

On this occasion it is pleasing to record that the scheme was highly successful and the services operated were retained and subsequently adapted over the years. 

In his book ‘The illustrated History of United Counties’ Roger Warwick writes (I have for purposes of space condensed his article to basic facts) That despite being part of The National Bus Company, the Company at times had certain types of vehicles imposed on it rather than what it wanted. In one instance being asked for it’s preference on a Bodywork order and getting something totally different! 

So as the 1970’s progressed and indeed the older vehicles such as Bristol MW’s and Bristol LD/FS and FLF were rapidly reduced, the latter to phase out crew operation as quickly as possible. Not all New vehicles helped Fleet standardisation!  

Number 230 seen in Market Square Aylesbury originally wore National White Livery.
In this 1985 view it is wearing the later style of Dual Purpose Livery United Counties adopted.  

Needing to have more modern coaches, the only ones being some Bristol RE/Plaxton mentioned earlier. The Company received some Leyland Leopards with Duple Dominant Bodywork, yet another type for which it had to contend with.  This vehicle moved to Luton and District in 1986. Later going North to Battrick and Brown before ending up with Pilkington's in Accrington.

These were not United Counties first Leyland Leopards however as previously 5 had come into Service with yet another type of Bodywork, in this case Alexander ‘T’ type. Again quoting Roger Warwick  from his book, the vehicles were felt to be more Dual Purpose than Coach and were never popular with the Company moving from Garage to Garage! In August 1982 number 228 is seen stood outside Aylesbury Garage (copyright The Bus Archive).

This particular vehicle was indeed probably very unpopular with one crew at Aylesbury about this time.

 The writer recalling that it was taking a turn on the twice weekly 537 to Northampton (Crew operated). It became unserviceable for the return journey, so the crew were required to operate the return service with a Coach which required the conductor to open and shut the door. The idea being at Buckingham they would connect with Service 536 and transfer any through passengers before returning to Northampton to collect 228. However before the days of mobile phones, the conductor had to use the phone box in Whittlebury to inform Aylesbury what was happening, this delay meant they missed the connection and had to pursue the Bristol VR on the 536 across country another 7 miles to Winslow to make the connection! They then still had to return to Northampton! Number 228 eventually went to United Automobile Services.

Showing the SL3 version of the Bristol VRT, the most successful and final type, is number 904
seen in Kingsbury Square Aylesbury in June 1984 on the long 141 Service to Bedford.

Whereas overtime many Bus Garages have at times adopted a vehicle and given it a ‘Showbus ‘ status in respect of it’s appearance. Number 904 was indeed a ‘Showbus’ from the beginning even though the unpainted panel below the Driver would contradict appear to that! It was the ‘Showbus’ on the ECW stand of the 1978 Motor Show. The driving staff at Aylesbury Garage nicknamed this vehicle the ‘Bouncer’ for it’s unfortunate ability to bounce the passengers around on the Top deck!  Number 904 allocated to Aylesbury from new, remained there until 1986 when it was exchanged for Luton’s Coach seated 918. It was last reported some years ago of being in use as a Mobile Home.

Service 141 had just over 2 months to go before it was cutback to Leighton Buzzard – Bedford, at this stage it was basically a 2 hourly frequency, but prior to 1981 had been hourly and many years earlier some journeys operated beyond Bedford to Huntingdon and St Ives.

Ford 1014/Duple Dominant Bus Body Number 59 seen in Preserved status at Buses Festival Gaydon in 2018,

This was one of 10 received by the Company in 1976, and as stated in the statement taken from Roger Warwick above, was an example of the type of vehicle the Company did not want but was obliged to have by The National Bus Company!

This was not the only type of vehicle either, United Counties already some Bristol LH/ECW vehicles dating from the early 1970’s on which it was none to keen 

Going back to general events concerning the Companies operations. The closure in late 1976 by London Country of it’s Luton Garage, saw the transfer of 2 services to United Counties. As again mentioned earlier throughout the 1970’s various Acts of Parliament had given Local Authorities more of a say in the running of Bus Services including financial help. To this end United Counties had to deal with Local Authorities in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire in the main. Each Local Authority had differing views, and this reflected in the support they gave. Again to quote from one of the Books by Roger Warwick. Northamptonshire at this time was cutting support, Beds, Cambs, and Leicestershire broadly covering costs of vulnerable services, Buckinghamshire excluding Milton Keynes generally not providing enough financial support which in turn led to regular reductions. Hertfordshire operations were however profitable. 

Support of Bus services had to some extent 2 hurdles, firstly there was the attitude of Central Government and the funding it was prepared to give Councils and secondly the political make up of the Councils themselves.

A changing in the ruling Party in Northamptonshire led to a substantial cut in funding, which in 1978 the Company was required to implement a large number of Service alterations in the County, with many reductions as well as renumbering’s and the closure of Bus Garages at Daventry, Desborough, and Rushden. In addition obviously there was a reduction in vehicles, in which the Company used the opportunity to dispose of it’s unwanted Bristol LH’s to Crosville Motor Services.

Suffice to say this had not been the first major Northamptonshire revision and far from the last.

Other service developments in 1978 saw the replacement of the MK prefixed routes in Milton Keynes, with Route Numbers in the 400 series. Likewise a service between Milton Keynes and the County Town of Aylesbury was introduced on a regular basis as 386/387, essentially replacing 2 separate existing services. There had for a number of years been a very limited service on a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons between these places, to provide a link to Hospitals in Aylesbury. 

As we draw towards the end of the 1970’s, at this point it is perhaps worth providing some financial figures to give an insight what United Counties and indeed all businesses had to contend with. Once again figures are taken from the books by Roger Warwick

In 1972 a Bristol VRT cost the company £10,940.00, the Company made a Profit £156,154.00

By the end of 1974 a Bristol VRT now cost £16,477.00 and the company made a loss of £759.000.00

In 1979 a Bristol VRT now cost £49,539.00, although on the plus side after a number of difficult years the Company recorded a Profit of £554,221.00

Perhaps a way of getting these figures into context, and this is an approximation, a gallon of petrol cost about 25p a gallon in 1973 and roughly about 70p 2 years later      

In 1979 the Company decided to give Milton Keynes Services a more prominent branding, and to this end the Logo Milton Keynes Citybus was adopted for services in the City, being applied on all items, from  timetables to Buses 


Heading towards Aylesbury Bus Station Bristol VRT/ECW 959 displays the prominent  Milton Keynes CityBus Logo while working Service X15 from Reading to Northampton in early 1985.

959 would later pass to Brighton and Hove and ultimately Western Greyhound. In 2019 it was reportedly derelict in a scrapyard in Cornwall. 

This article concludes almost the same as it opened! Early 1979 has gone down in British History as the Winter of Discontent, with many unions coming out on strike, images of piles of uncollected rubbish in City streets gained maximum publicity, A Fuel tanker drivers dispute in one instance, made London Country Bus Services suspend it’s Sunday operations.

No doubt all of this aided a Conservative Party win, in the General Election of spring that year. Certainly a lot less obvious at the time would ultimately be the impact of that parties policies on not only United Counties but the entire Bus industry in the coming decade!

Graham Low

The recent double decking of X5 Oxford to Bedford services reminds me of Renowns and Lodekkas on the equivalent of this route in the 1960s.

I attach views of a COMS AEC Renown/Park Royal in Bedford and a UCOC Bristol LD6B/ECW in Oxford.   

Mick  Payne

I’ve been away and have only just caught up with recent bus pages. Thought readers might like the attached picture.

Eastern National 3992 (MPU53) Leyland PD1 with ECW body

It is about to depart Gloucester Green with a 7D to Bedford. The photo is attributed to R.H.G. Simpson and appears in volume 2 of The Years Between – The Eastern National Story 1909 to 1969 by Crawley, MacGregor and Simpson published by OPC in 1984.  I obtained this book some years ago as it went someway to satisfy my curiosity  about the development of bus services in Aylesbury Vale and North Bucks. Eastern National routes 7 and 7B date back at least as far as 1929. The 7 went from Bedford to Stony Stratford via Olney. The 7B took the more direct route via Stagsden. The 7 went on to become United Counties route 130, the 7B became route 132. At various times during the 1930s Eastern National used the numbers 7A, 7C, 7D and 7E for local routes around Bedford. Only the 7C to Stevington survived  to become United Counties route 133. 

The Bedford to Oxford service was originally operated by a Mr Gammond under the name “Blue Coaches”. It proved to be particularly lucrative all the more so because the train service between the two towns more often than not involved a change at Bletchley where connections were not good. From time to time City of Oxford, Eastern National and United Counties made overtures to Mr Gammon who finally agreed to sell in early 1942 to a consortium of the three companies. Each paid a share proportional to the mileage operated in their territories.  City of Oxford as majority shareholder agreed to provide the service, numbered 70 from Gammon’s garage in Bedford. This didn’t work out for the Oxford company so later that year Eastern National took over and numbered the route 7D. It’s not at all clear why 7D was chosen since the route was in reality a lengthy extension of route 7. Maybe something to do with the receipts being pooled amongst the three companies. By 1946 City of Oxford (as route 70) was running the service jointly with Eastern National. It seems at the time United Counties were running some “shorts” exclusively within their territory, presumably Stony Stratford – Buckingham. Following the transfer of the Eastern National Midland area, United Counties used the route number 131.  

And so it remained until March 1984 when agreement was reached to divert the service at Newport Pagnell to Milton Keynes city centre and Bletchley reverting to the original route at Buckingham. The route continued to run four times daily and twice on Sunday. The Sunday journeys and one morning journey from Bedford ran as route 131. All the others ran as route 132 via Stagsden so as to maintain the overall journey time. I lived in Bletchley at the time and as far as I can recall City of Oxford used the numbers 131/132 as appropriate. The arrangement was however short-lived. I cannot remember how short-lived but I have a leaflet showing a revised service from 7 March with no year given. This shows a joint service by Buffalo Travel and Rainbow Coaches with only one throughout journey on weekdays but two on Sunday! At other times the service was between Milton Keynes and Oxford via Bletchley with some “shorts” only going as far as Finmere maybe because Rainbow was based at Brackley. Later on Paynes of Buckingham took over, the Buckingham – Oxford section ceasing following the introduction of the X5.

Paul Bateson

The 1980s seemed to identify with the Leyland National as seen in the picture of United Counties 526 (SBD526R) at Gloucester Green on March 3rd 1985.

Editor's comments

These delightful reminiscences are from four regular contributors and a great deal of research has gone into those from Tony Bungay and Mick Payne. Very many thanks to all of you, I am sure readers will enjoy these memories.

Michael Wadman

For several years Terry’s Coaches of Hemel Hempstead ran a local service in the town. G910KWF was a former East Midland Iveco Daily / Reeve Burgess, and N76KVS a Mercedes 811D / Plaxton new to Seamarks, both seen in Marlowes on May 2nd 1998 and September 1st 1999 respectively.


Challenger ran a fleet of Sherpa minibuses on several services. D111WCC and  D116WCC both came from Crosville Wales and are seen in St Albans on November 9th 1993 and July 10th 1993 respectively, whilst D820PUK was new to the short-lived United Transport operation in Manchester, and is seen on service 18 in central Milton Keynes on April 29th 1995. A peculiarity of Challenger was that the fleetname was only applied to the nearside of the vehicles.


And finally a reminder of when Cheney Coaches ran several of the Banbury town services. W1CTS and W3CTS were Dennis Dart SLF with SCC bodies, looking very smart in Bridge Street on August 5th 2000.

21 years later Stagecoach now run these local services.

Many thanks to Michael for an interesting piece.

Paul Bateson

Oxford's 110, a Leyland Tiger with Duple busy work seen at Gloucester Green on March 17th 1985.
It is working the X34 to Southampton via Newbury along the A34 trunk road.

This picture is interesting since megabus now follow a similar route with the M34 but extended much further north, originally carried Oxford City Link livery spent part of 1985 painted in National Express stripey livery for use on the Newcastle service. However during July 1986 it emerged from the paint shops in a new 'Oxford Coaches' livery. Thus the picture above may have been taken at the end of its London-Oxford livery !

Martyn Sacaloff

His Facebook page has some interesting vintage vehicles taken at Northampton on September 11th:  

Thomas Walker in the USA in 2021

I'm back in the UK in 10-day quarantine now! After Turkey I spent three weeks in the US, mostly on business, but I managed to get a lot of bus photos too. I thought I'd give you one from each town/city I visited and saw buses. Captions below:

MBTA Neoplan USA AN440LF trolleybus no. 4105 in Watertown, Massachusetts, having arrived on the 71 from Harvard, July 19th

Marble Valley Transport District "The Bus" Gillig Low Floor 29' no. 134 in Rutland, Vermont, on the Hospital Route, July 30th.

Advance Transit Gillig Low Floor 29 no. 1914 at Dartmouth University on the Green Route Hanover, New Hampshire, July 30th.

CTA New Flyer D40LF no. 1727 at Chicago Union Station on the 130 to Museum Campus, Chicago, Illinois, August 3rd.

Kenosha Area Transit Gillig Low Floor 40' no. 4056 on West Route 2, Kenosha, Wisconsin, August 3rd.

Madison Metro Gillig BRT HEV 40' no. 010 on route 4, Madison, Wisconsin, August 4th.

Former King Country Metro (Seattle) Gillig Phantom ETB 40' trolleybus no. 4123 at the Illinois Railway Museum, Union, Illinois, August 6th.

Milwaukee County Transit System New Flyer D40LFR no. 5314 on the 30 to Mill Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 8th.

A full gallery from my USA trip is here:

Many thanks for those interesting pictures showing some of what the USA has to offer. 

Gavin Francis

Follow on from the picture last week Gavin notes PHOENIX T508PBS at OXPENS COACH PARK on October 4th 2008. 

Hugh Jaeger writes about competition along the Aylesbury - Oxford corridor

Hugh is Chair of Bus Users Oxford.

Redline X20 

I have now photographed what I suspect is Redline's complete fleet for route X20. Taj Khan has acquired four Enviro200 MMC's from Whitelaw's in Lanarkshire. All have had their Whitelaw's branding removed but retain Whitelaw's silver colour.

Two of the four buses mentioned.

Taj has had three of them branded for Redline and route X20. Their registration marks are GW16 BUS, JW16 BUS and SW16 BUS. I have photographed these three in Thame and Tiddington, and uploaded the photos to a new album on Bus Users Oxford's Facebook page.

Taj's fourth Enviro200 MMC from Whitelaw's has registration mark SF66ARV. On Tuesday 7 September I found it on Red Rose routes 17 and 27 in Bicester. At the time, it had no branding. 

I estimate Taj needs four buses in service to run a regular half-hour headway on route X20. Does he plan to brand SF66 ARV to match Redline's other three silver Enviro200's? 

Roger French has already ridden route X20 and blogged about it. His blog considers the competition between Taj's companies and Arriva.

Redline goes for the Oxford market

As far as I know, Taj has three bus companies: Redline, Red Rose and Red Eagle. Between them they have just over 100 buses. Arriva is one of Britain's biggest bus operators, with nearly 6,000 buses. But size is not everything so we will have to see what happens. 

Arriva 280 

I have now taken better photos of Arriva's two Enviro400's from Derby, branded for route 38, running on route 280 in Thame and Tiddington. Ray Stenning's original Sapphire livery does look best in the sunshine!

Seeing the old livery again takes me back to 2013, when Arriva re-launched route 280 as one of its first Sapphire routes. Arriva held a PR event in Aylesbury, with the usual speeches, and a sponge cake in the shape of an Enviro400 that was cut by the Deputy Mayor. 

It was a hot, sunny July day. My one regret was that I was not quick enough with my camera to catch Ray Stenning when he jumped fully clothed into a nearby ornamental fountain and splashed himself down to cool off! 

I have not seen Ray's reaction to Arriva's "Jump onboard and explore Oxford" advert on Enviro400 5460. But two of Ray's design principles seem to be (1) never cover any part of any window and (2) a livery should complement the forward motion of the bus.

Arriva ADL E400 5460, showing branding for the 280, in response to Redline's competing X20,
seen at Queens Lane on September 7th by Graham Low.

5460's white vinyl silhouette of Oxford's skyline partly covers nearly every window in the lower deck. And the strong vertical lines of Oxford's architecture make the white vinyl image look very static. I do not expect Ray to be complimentary! 

Thanks to Hugh for an interesting take on the latest developments. 

Ciaran Bird

Not Oxfordshire but I thought some viewers may be interested in this find while I was on an Explorers Camp in Bournemouth.

Seen is Imperial Coaches' Enviro400 MMC SK21FKB on August 24th

David Ive

I have attached a few in case they are of interest/use for the website. They are as follows;

Cambridge Busway Volvo B8L ADL Enviro400XLB 13905 at St Ives.

First South Yorkshire 37231 Volvo B9TL Wright Eclipse Gemini leaving Doncaster Bus Station in former Rotherham Corporation livery.

First South Yorkshire 37232 Volvo B9TL Wright Eclipse Gemini leaving Doncaster Bus Station in First's Doncaster local livery.
The red and purple are an acknowledgement of a former Doncaster Corporation livery.

East Yorkshire 797 Volvo B9TL Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 in Goole.

Stagecoach East Midlands 19142 ADL Enviro400 passing through the Priory Arch,
a reconstructed Medieval gate adjacent to Lincoln Cathedral.

First Norfolk & Suffolk 36907 Scania N250UD ADL Enviro400 City in Wisbech Bus Station.

Ross Newman

Purfleet in August as follows : 


From Stagecoach Cumbria : Tridents S817BWC / V196 / 198 / 199MEV    Solo KX51CTE   Volvo B12M  YS02YXT.

From Carters Heritage : Tridents LK05GFV / GGV.

From Maymist Coaches Volvo B9R  FJ60HYK.

From Rotala : Mercedes 814s : KX60DWF / DWO / KX09SOU

From Lothian : B9TLs SN09CTK / CTO SN08BYH / BYK / BYL / BYM / BYO / BYP / BYR / BYT / BYU / BYV 

From Tower Transit : Volvo B7TLs LK04HYG / HYH    Darts LN51DWJ / KP02PUF / PVO / PWN / PWO

From Metroline : Volvo B9TL’s LK59FCP / CXC.


Solo YJ60LRN : A2B , Cambridge. 

Volvo B9TLs  SN09CTK / CTO : Happy Als, Liverpool.

Volvo B9TL’s  BN61MXA, MXB, MXD, MXE, MXH : Atlantic Travel, Manchester.

Scania YN56FBA :, London.

Volvo B9TL SN08BXY : Heyfordian , Bicester.

Scania YN08DHE   Volvo B7RLE SK07CGU : Ipswich Buses .

Volvo B7RLE SK07CGU : Jacks Coaches, Middlesborough

Volvo B7TL  WR03YZM : Barway Services , Ely.

Volvo B7TL  KP51WAU : Internic Ltd, Bournemouth.

Volvo B7TLs  W733/734 DWX : Marchants Coaches, Cheltenham .

Enviro 400s : SN11BSY/BSZ/BTE/BTO : Redbridge Council.

Volvo B7L LX05GEJ : Seven Sisters Bus and Coach, Eastbourne.

Olympian P270VPN : Sussex Buses, Shoreham

Enviro 400s : LJ08CYP / SN11BRF / SN11BPZ : Warrington's Own Buses.

Scanias YN08DHG / DHJ  YN56FCG/FCJ  : Weardale Motor Services , Co Durham.

Scania YT59PBU : XLP , London.

Enviro 400 LK08DXV : Ricardo UK , Shoreham, W Sussex.

Volvo B9TL’s LK59FCP / CXC are on long term hire to HCT, London.