Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith, This page created 15th October 2006, updated 12th January 2015. Best on 800*600.

Kentish Bus / Arriva Kent Thameside: Dennis Dart SLF

Kentish Bus 184-191

single door 10.7m AKT In February 1997 Kentish Bus, already part of the Cowie group and jointly managed with Maidstone & District, bought eight 10.6m Dart SLFs with Plaxton bodywork, two (184 and 185) at Dunton Green for the 432 (Sevenoaks - Otford - Kemsing) and six for the 498 from Northfleet garage. They were finished in the very smart Kentish Bus green and yellow livery. Kentish Bus was formally renamed Arriva Kent Thameside in November 1997, and the buses were renumbered into the Maidstone & District numbering scheme by adding 3000 to the numbers. Dunton Green garage closed in February 1998, and its pair moved to an outstation at Tunbridge Wells to maintain the 432. The SLFs fairly quickly received Arriva national livery of turquoise and cream, the last two - the two buses at Tunbridge Wells - being repainted in July 2000.

AKT3190 at Sevenoaks Stn on 308, March 2000 AKT3185 at Sevenoaks Stn on 432, March 2000

March 2000 in Sevenoaks: 3190, newly repainted in Arriva national livery, with branding for its normal 498, overtakes a Portsdown-bodied Dart at Sevenoaks Station while on the 308; 3185, heading the other way on its normal 432, is in original Kentish Bus green/yellow, with branding for the 432.
The Tunbridge Wells two were regularised into the Arriva Kent & Sussex fleet in February 2000, and repainted in July 2000. They stayed at Tunbridge Wells.

The 498 batch stayed at Northfleet until displaced by newer buses. Then it was away to pastures new within Arriva Southern Counties, with 3186 going to Southend, 3187 to Guildford, 3188 and 3190 to Gillingham

3187 passes NF on 498 3191

3187 passes Northfleet Garage, still on the 498, for which it is still branded, October 2004. 3191, 3187, 3190 and 3186 lined up in Northfleet garage in Sunday repose, March 2004 (photo taken with permission).

M&D 3179-3183, 3192-3232 (with gaps)

M&D 3220 at Rochester Bridge, March 2000
Maidstone & District 3220 crosses the Medway into Strood in March 2000.

Maidstone and District were taking delivery of identical buses at the same time as Kentish Bus - identical apart from livery of course, which was traditional Maidstone & District green and cream. The batch was sizeable (3176-3183, 3192-3199, 3201-3221, 3223-3232).

The first five were soon transferred to Arriva Kent Thameside, to help with the route changes associated with the massive new shopping pit at Bluewater. Most of them transferred away again in spring 1999 to other parts of Arriva Southern Counties, as new buses arrived.
3179 on 401, Go-Coach, Sevenoaks, May 2010 But 3179 stayed at Dartford. It was repainted in Arriva red and cream horn livery in December 2003. In June 2007 it went to Grays for the 498, then returned to Dartford. Then in December 2007 it went to Arriva Guildford and West Surrey at Horsham, as a red spare for TfL route 465. That was sold to Metrobus in October 2009, and 3179 was sold with it, passing to Metrobus and Crawley. Its stay there was very brief, and it passed on to Go-Coach of Knockholt Pound for use on newly won routes 401 and 421. It was repainted in bright yellow with a mauve skirt.

3179, originating with M&D, had a career all over Arriva Southern Counties before going to Metrobus and then Go-Coach. It enters Sevenoaks Bus Station for the 401 on Sunday 16th May 2010.

3197 and 3198 were transferred at an early stage from M&D to Arriva Guildford & West Surrey, then came to Northfleet in 2004-5, where they stuck. Others, including 3225, 3232 and 3234, came for short periods before returning to other parts of Arriva Southern Counties.

3198 at Gravesend on 490, December 2007 3198 at Bluewater on 490, December 2007

3198 was with Arriva Kent Thameside at Northfleet in November 2007, when seen in Gravesend on the 490, supplementing the usual Scanias as it heads for Valley Drive. Later in the day it was seen at Bluewater heading the other way.

Kentish Bus 3261-3272: single doors for the 286

Arriva Kent Thameside, as the Kentish Bus remnant at Dartford and Northfleet had become, took a dozen 10.7m single-doorway Dart SLFs, with the curvier Pointer2 front end, for use on the 286 (Greenwich - Blackheath - Eltham - Sidcup - Queen Mary's Hospital), in February 1998. Despite being in Central bus territory, AKT dressed them in Arriva turquoise and cream, there being no 80% rule for suburban routes in those days.

3263 on 286 in Sidcup, December 2005 3261 in Sidcup on 286, June 2007

286: 3263 shows its rear in Sidcup, on the 286 in December 2005, and in June 2007 3261 shows the front end, also in Sidcup.

Some retained their blue/cream throughout their time at Dartford, but 3266 was repainted in cow-horn red as early as November 2003, for use on the 428. Others were repainted red at the end of 2006. Nevertheless, new buses were required for contract renewal on the 286 in July 2007, and a new home was needed for the batch, whether red or blue. Now Arriva's cunning plan became visible. The red buses (3262/4/5/6/9/70/1) were transferred across the River to Grays, where they spent about six months operating on the 370 (Grays - Romford). Then, in April 2008, they were away to Arriva Kent & Sussex at Tunbridge Wells, for use on the 402, where the current buses did not meet the London Emisssion Zone requirements. The Darts did, and of course they were already red for working the TfL-contracted 402 between Tunbridge Wells and Bromley. They did acquire some discrete route branding on the sides.

3270 on 402 at Bromley North 3270 on 402 at Bromley North

3270, now with Arriva Kent & Sussex, is red and branded for the 402, at Bromley North.

The blue remnant transferred to Northfleet, and found employment on the 308, 423, 477 and other routes. The 402 was re-equipped with Optare Versas in autumn 2011, and the 477 with StreetLites in September 2012, displacing the SLFs.

3261 passes Swanley Station on 477, June 2009. 3267 at Bluewater off 477, February 2010

477: in June 2009 I just missed 3261 as it passed the Swanley Station stop. 3267 was at rest at Bluewater in February 2010.

Arriva Kent Thameside 3273-3275: Bluewater Shuttles

3273 at Greenhithe Station, December 2005 The shopping pit at Bluewater was enormous. An old chalk quarry, it had been equipped with entrance roads, enormous carparks, a huge shopping complex, a bus station and traffic jams at weekends. While the novelty lasted it attracted bus routes from all over - Bromley, the Medway Towns, Dartford of course, and also from across the River in Essex (until the rival pit opened at Lakeside, at least). Some persisted, others dwindled to extinction. But one excellent idea was a frequent shuttle to the nearest railway station at Greenhithe, which was fitted with its own mini bus station.

A distinctive shuttle service was called for. Service 100 was the Bluewater shuttle, between Bluewater and Greenhithe. It had three dedicated Dart SLFs, which were fitted with air-conditioning packs on the roof. They also received a dedicated livery of overall dark blue (what else!). They arrived in March 1999 and worked out of Dartford garage.

3273 arrives at Greenhithe Station on the shuttle service from Bluewater, December 2005.

They did occasionally appear on other routes, but in the main stayed with the 100 until made redundant by the arrival of new buses on Fastrack A and B, which linked the neighbouring towns with Bluewater and Greenhithe Station. The trio were repainted into standard turquoise and cream, and went to lowlier duties at Northfleet during 2006.

Arriva Kent Thameside 3276-3289 for Bluewater routes

single door 10.7m AKT Another fourteen SLFs of the same 10.7m length arrived in March 1999, initially in turquoise and cream, to extend some routes from Dartford to Bluewater and update their rolling stock. The first thirteen went to Dartford, six for the 428 (Erith - Slade Green - Crayford - Dartford - Bluewater) and seven for the 477 (Orpington Stn - St.Mary Cray - Crockenhill - Swanley - Wilmington - Dartford - Bluewater). The other one went (I think) to Northfleet.

The 428 batch were repainted red, with white cow-horn, in late 2003/early 2004, and werre retained on the contract until early 2009, when they were displaced by new Enviro200 Darts. They were then repainted in turquoise and cream and sent to Southend.

The 477 buses retained their blue/cream, probably because this was not a TfL contracted route. In July 2007 buses from the 286 were replaced by E200 EnviroDarts, and in turn displaced the SLFs from the 477. They went to Northfleet for the 423 and 308, replacing step-entrance Darts.

One, 3282, was sent south to Tunbridge Wells, but was allocated to working the 401 (Tunbridge Wells - Tonbridge - Sevenoaks - Westerham (- Chartwell)), which brought it back into old London Transport territory. It worked alongside Kent County Council's own Dart SLF, which had stayed with the 401 through operation by Southlands Coaches and Metrobus before passing to Arriva Kent & Sussex as 3593.

3278 on 428 3285 on 477

3278 heads away from Bluewater towards Dartford and Erith on the 428, December 2005. 3285 heads towards Crockenhill from St. Mary Cray on the 477 in June 2007, shortly before transfer to Northfleet.

3282 on 401 for Arriva Kent & Sussex, at Sevenoaks Bus Station on the Sunday 401 to Chartwell, May 2008.

Arriva Kent Thameside 3291-3299, 3301-3303: dual doors for the 126

dual door 10.7m AKT Twelve dual-doorway SLFs with Plaxton Pointer2 bodies were bought ready for contract renewal on the 126 from March 2001, replacing step-entrance Northern Counties-bodied Darts. They worked from Dartford and were dressed in standard Arriva turquoise and cream. They were the normal 10.6m length, and seated 34. Being different from other Dart SLFs with the company, they have remained true to route, so have trundled backwards and forwards between Eltham and Bromley South ever since. They turned red during 2006, but apart from the first (cream horn) plain red with just a yellow line as relief.

By 2012 they had been joined by occasional E200 Darts on the route, increasingly so on Sundays. Like the Northern-Counties Darts before them they have a tendency to travel in pairs, despite the nominal 10 minute headway.

3299 at New Street Hill on 126, October 2001 3299 at New Street Hill on 126, October 2001

3299 at the New Street Hill stop on Burnt Ash Lane, Bromley, 25th October 2001.

3293 at New Street Hill on 126 3299 at Burnt Ash Lane on 126, 1st May 2010

3293 is at the same spot, but in the later red livery. 3298, on a short working to Bromley North, passes St.Andrew's Church on Burnt Ash Lane, 1st May 2010.
The 126 was taken over by Metrobus in March 2013. Four of the batch went to Arriva the Shires at Garston for TfL work there..

Arriva Kent Thameside 1618-23: MPDs for Gravesend

1608 at Gravesend, October 2004 At the Gravesend Running Day in October 2004 there was a brand new Mini Pointer Dart wearing an electronic display for Northfleet's route 495. It was actually borrowed for the day from Medway Towns, advertising the forthcoming acquisitions for Gravesend's town routes 495 and 498, which were still suffering the delights of Optare MetroRiders.

But it was not until February 2005 that the six MPDs (8.8m SLFs), 1618-1623, arrived at Northfleet, and March when they entered service.

They were joined in July 2009 by two more, 1606 and 1607, from Gillingham.

1608 from Medway Towns makes an appearance at the Gravesend Running Day in October 2004, alongside preserved Leyland National SNB250.

1606 at Bluewater, February 2010 1618 at Gravesend Station on 498, February 2010
1606 rests at Bluewater in February 2010, in a fresh but already dull new livery. A few days later, I met 1618 at dusk by Gravesend Station, as it loaded for the 498.

Arriva Kent Thameside 1624-32: MPDs for the 162

single door MPD AKT I think Arriva were as surprised as anyone when they won the contract for route 162 (Beckenham Junction - Bromley - Chislehurst - Eltham Station). Certainly their buses were not delivered in time to take over on 18th February 2006. Instead they had to borrow nine Dart MPDs from Stagecoach at Bromley until Arriva's own nine MPDs arrived in April. 1624-1632 were delivered in overall red (with yellow coach-line), and operated from Dartford, which by now was operating only red buses on TfL contracts.

1631 at Bromley on 162, May 2010 1630 at Bromley on 162, May 2010 1630 at Bromley on 162, May 2010

May 2010 in Bromley High Street: 1631 and 1630 show different aspects of the red MPDs on the 162.
The 162 was lost on retender in March 2011, perhaps not surprisingly to Metrobus, and the nine dedicated MPDs were reallocated. For a few days some worked on in Dartford, and 1624 and 1625 answered a call for help from Guildford, where Countryliner was having problems. No, Countyliner did not get them: Arriva Guildford and West Surrey borrowed them for a few days. Then they, along with the other seven, made their way to the far north, ie Enfield and Lea Valley, where they became PDL 137-145 for Arriva London North.


Four PDLs came from Arriva London South at the start of 2013, PDL19-22 becoming 3327-3330.

Gold comes to Wrotham

Lizzy Yarnold of Wrotham won gold at the Winter Olympics in Russia. In celebration Northfleet's 3318, a regular on the 478 (Swanley - West Kingsdown), was repainted gold in early 2014, and stayed that way for most of the year, before adopting a gold-based livery before Christmas for a Dickens festival in Rochester.

3318 on 478, Farningham, March 2014 3318 on 478, Farningham, March 2014

Gold painted 3318 on its usual 478 route, calling at the Farningham stop, March 2014.

Arriva Kent & Sussex

Arriva Kent & Sussex hardly registers in the Dart SLF story - at least as far as traditional London area routes are concerned. They took over the Kemsing service, with its two Dart SLFs, when Dunton Green closed in February 1998, as mentioned above. The 421 transmogrified into a Sevenoaks - Swanley service, which continued to be operated by Tunbridge Wells, latterly using a number of shorter 9.2m Dart SLFs originally with County Bus. One of these, 3407, moved on to successor Go-Coach for the 421.

dual door 10.7m AKS for 402 It also continued to operate the 402 between Tunbridge Wells and Bromley, but this had double-deckers: Olympians and then the displaced DAFs from Kingston. Single-decker DAFs displaced those, but were non-LEZ compliant, so in April 2008 they were replaced by seven red Dart SLFs that had been at Dartford and then Grays (see above).

Another route that came into the traditional area was the 401 (Tunbridge Wells - Tonbridge - Sevenoaks - Westerham (-Chartwell)). This was operated for Kent County Council by Metrobus until April 2006, when it passed to Arriva Kent & Sussex. With the route went a Kent-owned Dart SLF that had been with Southlands Coaches and then Metrobus (380). Arriva numbered it 3593. After collecting it from Metrobus in July they repainted it white and put it back on the 401, where it worked until the contract was re-awarded in April 2010 to Go-Coach of Knockholt Pound, to whom it passed on. Its companion on the 401 for some time was Dart SLF 3282, transferred from Dartford to Tunbridge Wells in July 2007 (shown above).

3593 on 401 at Sevenoaks, May 2008 3593 on 401 at Sevenoaks, May 2008

Kent's 3593 on 401 at Sevenoaks Bus Station on the Sunday 401 to Chartwell, May 2008, wearing its individual Kent County Council livery with 401 branding.

Bus Stop SLF index. AKT. AKT histories. AKS histories. photo refs.