Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith, on 4th November 2000, updated 25th February 2005: best on 800*600.

The Volvo B6 in Greater London

Yes, I do know that Volvo B6s are NOT Dennis Darts. Nevertheless they fit neatly into the genre, being an attempt by Volvo to buy a slice of the enormous market that Dennis had opened up for replacement of midibuses and Nationals.

None of the traditional "red" bus companies bought them, but they were bought in respectable numbers by Capital Citybus, Kentish Bus, Luton & District and London & Country. Bodies came in a 9.0m Dash version from Alexander, a 9.9m Paladin version from Northern Counties, and a 9.8m Pointer from Plaxton.

Capital Citybus: Alexander Dash, 671 - 680

drawing of Capital Citybus Volvo B6/Dash Capital Citybus bought ten short Volvo B6-41 with Alexander Dash bodywork. They arrived in February 1994 for the 236, where they took over from Mercedes minibuses.
Initial livery was yellow.
  • 236: Finsbury Park Stn - Canonbury - Dalston - Hackney - Homerton Hospital - Hackney Wick

After the takeover by First Bus they went into red and yellow livery. In October 2000 they needed new homes, having been replaced on the 236 and W11 by low-floor DMLs. Six went to First Orpington Buses at St Mary Cray, for use on the Bromley Park and Ride route B99. The others were transferred to Centrewest, finding temporary duties on the 295 until that too received new DMLs. At the end of 2000 they departed eastwards to Clacton and Colchester.
VB676, Bromley Glades, 3 November 2000 VB676, Bromley Glades, 3 November 2000

First Orpington VB6 676 at The Glades, Bromley, on 3rd November 2000 on the Bromley Park and Ride Service B99.
VB676, Bromley Glades, 3 November 2000 VB676, Bromley Glades, 3 November 2000

After Christmas the Orpington and Centrewest refugees were supposed to go to Leicester, but most went instead to Eastern Counties at Colchester.

Capital Citybus: Northern Counties Paladin, 681-686

drawing of Capital Citybus Volvo B6/Paladin Capital Citybus bought another three in 1994, this time 9.9m long Volvo B6-50s with Northern Counties Paladin bodies. Seating 39, they were for use on Docklands route D5, serving Crossharbour Asda.

They were joined in spring 1996 by three more, required initially for the 396. These were second-hand, having been used by Flightparks at Gatwick Airport. They had enormous luggage racks, which Capital Citybus retained, restricting seating to 31.

All six were replaced in East London by low-floor buses, and were moved within the First Group to Northampton and then Leicester Citybus.

  • D5 : Mile End Stn - Limehouse - Marsh Wall - South Quay - Crossharbour Asda
  • 396: Ilford Broadway - Gants Hill - Newbury Park - Little Heath - Goodmayes

London & Country: Plaxton Pointer, 512 - 516, 3601-5, 3614-5

London Country 512, Croydon, September 2000 Arriva KS 515, Hawkhurst, July 2003
512 enjoys a rare dry sunny day in September 2000, passing through the crux of Croydon still in L&C livery, on the 405. By July 2003 515 had reached Hawkhurst, with Arriva Kent & Sussex.

In February 1994 London & Country took delivery of five Volvo B6-50s with Plaxton Pointer bodies. These went to work on the 405 in London & Country's smart green / green / red livery, and have stayed there until green buses became just a memory in Surrey. The colour faded a bit, and they lost their London & Country fleetnames from the sides.

They were joined in late 1999 by some similar buses transferred from Maidstone & District (Arriva Kent & Sussex), in Arriva aquamarine and cream.
When Arriva gave up its Merstham and Crawley services in April 2001 the Volvo B6's were reassigned. The original London & Country buses (512-516) were transferred to Guildford, while those that had come from Maidstone & District went back there, 3601-5 going to Gillingham and 3614-5 to Maidstone. The Guildford buses departed to Arriva Kent & Sussex in November 2002.

Kentish Bus: Northern Counties Paladin 201 - 212

drawing of Kentish Bus Paladin VB6 Kentish Bus bought twelve of the 9.9m Paladin bodies on Volvo chassis alongside their larger order for shorter Paladins on Dart chassis. They arrived in early 1994, in Kentish Bus livery of maroon and primrose.
A major distinguishing point from the similar Paladin Darts is the step in the window base-line giving a sloping-foot long window in place of the Darts' short window.

They went to work on the Blackwall Tunnel route 108 between Stratford and Lewisham.
drawing of Londonlinks Paladin VB6 They were displaced by Harris Bus Excels in April 1997 and moved to Londonlinks at Croydon (CR). They looked good in two-tone green and red for the 411 and 127, receiving route-branding for the latter. Staying at Beddington Farm they were paper-transferred to Arriva Croydon & North Surrey on a management reshuffle in June 1998.
A shake-up of Croydon & North Surrey saw them move to Arriva West Sussex in late 1999 / early 2000, at Merstham and Crawley. But Arriva's problems in Surrey did not go away, and in March 2001 Merstham and Crawley closed. Some of the Volvos were loaned briefly to Metrobus, who took over at Crawley, then some went to Guildford, and the rest to Arriva Kent Thameside at Northfleet.
Arriva V209, Croydon, September 2000 Arriva V209, Croydon, September 2000, rear

V209 in Croydon, September 2000. The smart Kentish Bus and Londonlinks liveries have given way to bland Arriva national style.

Luton & District: Northern Counties Paladin

drawing of Arriva The Shires Paladin VB6 Luton & District were relatively large buyers of the Volvo B6, with thirty-five. Twelve were bought in early 1994, with another twenty new ones following in September. Another three were acquired second-hand at that time, one from Stevensons (with Pointer body) and two from Mott, Stoke Mandeville.

Initially VN317-327 went into Luton & District green and grey livery, with VN317-325 based at Watford for the 331, 347 and 348, and VN326-7 at High Wycombe for the 362, 367, 369. VN328-336 went into Luton red and cream, with VN328-9 at Aylesbury for the 61 and 501, and VN330-336 at Luton.
Arriva the Shires 3111, Stevenage All acquired The Shires' distinctive blue, yellow and stone when the company was rebranded. At this stage the buses were given local brandings. One oddity was VN326 (3126), which donned blue and yellow livery for the 74 and 75 to Heathrow from High Wycombe, jointly operated with Beeline. 3134 suffered the indignity of an overall ad.

Arriva's need to put its distinctive mark on everything resulted in them receiving turquoise and champagne livery.

Stevenage, June 2001. Volvo B6s share the bus station with other buses. 3111 wears an overall ad, while 3106 and 3109 wear standard Arriva livery. RT2083 is resting between turns on the Hertford & Stevenage Running Day, while DML219 is on Rail Replacement Duty.

Arriva the Shires 3109, Stevenage Arriva the Shires 3106, Stevenage

drawing of Arriva The Shires Dash VB6

Arriva The Shires: Alexander Dash

Then in the second half of 1998 another seven arrived, transferred from Arriva Scotland West. These were long B6s, but with Alexander Dash bodywork. Livery was Arriva National. They settled on the 322 between Hemel Hempstead and Watford.


drawing of Regal Busways VB6

Regal Busways: Marshall C36

Regal Busways startied operating in Harlow and Epping in 2002, from a base at Cooksmill Green. In July they acquired two B6s from Cambus, and painted them in a smart cream and maroon livery. These were for operation on the 211, 212 and 213 Waltham Abbey services, taken over from Arriva.


drawing of Ensignbus VB6

Ensignbus: Alexander Dash

In late 2003 Ensign Bus, the Purfleet dealer in secondhand buses, had a significant throughput of B6s from various Stagecoach companies, notably Red & White in Wales. Their operating division, Ensignbus, also successfully bid to operate a service on behalf of the railways, who were closing the railway tunnels between Gravesend and Higham for relining. This would take a year, and require bustitution for the entire period. Ensignbus, along with other operators, obtained the contract, and provided a fleet of buses dressed in Southdown green and cream. The Ensignbus contribution, which was also used on shopping pit services X80 and X90, was largely provided by a half-dozen Dash bodied Volvo B6s taken from sales stock. In January 2005 the contract finished on time, and the B6s moved on to other pastures (one to Regal), their place on the X80/90 being taken by ex-Airlinks low-floor Darts.

Excellent pictures of the Kentish Bus / Londonlinks B6s can be found in Ken Lansdowne's Picture Gallery

bus histories. photo references. Volvo B6.



Ian's Bus Stop Dart index. Marshall Darts. MM.