Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith, This page created 17th July 2010. Best on 800*600.

Arriva The Shires & Essex: Dennis Dart SLF

DE171-174, 3171-3174: East Lancs Sprytes

East Lancs Spryte LDT, the company that became Arriva The Shires, ordered twenty low-floor Darts for 1996-7. They were to be bodied by East Lancs, reflecting the commercial links between that company and British Bus. But the takeover by the Cowie Group resulted in the East Lancs bodywork appearing only on the four delivered in 1996. They arrived in September 1996, and went to Hemel Hempstead for Gade Valley services. They went into the company's blue and yellow with stone skirt, with Gade Valley branding.

The small batch stayed at Hemel Hempstead at first, then began to wander further afield. Eventually 3172 and 3174 went to Milton Keynes in 2008, while 3171 and 3173 gravitated back to Hemel Hempstead, the former branded for Blue Line 4/5, the latter in interurban livery.

3175-3190: 10.6m Plaxton Pointers for Hemel and Watford

10.6m Pointer The Cowie Group had the remaining sixteen of the first batch bodied by Plaxton. They arrived in March 1997, so received numbers in the new system. Livery was The Shires blue and yellow with stone skirt, with white and orange local branding. 3175-3178 were also for Hemel Hempstead, so I assume they had Gade Valley branding like the East Lancs buses, while the remainder were for Network Watford at Garston. Some of the Watford buses were branded for routes 1 and 2, others for route 348. The Hemel Hempstead buses were branded for routes 4 and 5. These useful buses tended to stay where they started - at Hemel or Garston - but inevitably a few drifted, to Aylesbury or Wycombe. Over the years livery, brandings and adverts (some whole-side) changed. 3175 even received red and cream scoop livery in 2008, along with extensive advertising for Green Line route 758 (not that it was used on that).

3180 on 1 3188 on 7 at Watford Junction

3180 heads for Garston on route 1, south of Watford, October 2008. 3188, bedecked with a campaign advertisement against racism, stands at Watford Junction on route 7 in April 2004.

3187 on 321, St.Albans 3188 on 10 at Watford Junctionm, 4/04

3187 passes through St.Peters Street, St.Albans on a northbound 321 to Luton Airport, January 2009. 3189 stands at Watford Junction on a very wet day in April 2004 on route 10.

3206-3215: 9.2m Plaxton Pointers for Watford

These ten shorter Pointers arrived at the end of 1997, for use on Watford services, in particular the 7 and 10. Whether the 10.6m buses had had difficulties on these routes I do not know. They received the new turquoise and champagne corporate livery. A late "launch" in June 1998 saw many of them route-branded for the 7 or 10.

Again they stuck with Garston for some years, but began to drift away in 2007, to Wycombe, Hemel Hempstead or Milton Keynes. A pair went to Tunbridge Wells in June 2010.

9.2m Pointer 3806 at Stevenage on 4

3206 on route 10 at Watford Junction in April 2004.

3216-3217: 10.7m Plaxton Pointer 2s for Hemel

Two more of the longer Dart SLFs arrived in February 1999, for route 52 at Hemel Hempstead, for which they were branded. By this stage the design had moved on, and these were the curvier-fronted Pointer 2s. They stayed failthfuul to Hemel Hempstead until the end of 2007, when they moved out to Wycombe.

3219: 10.1m Plaxton Pointer 2 for Hitchin

3219 was an oddity - a medium-length Pointer 2 singleton for Hitchin, from the midst of a larger order for Southend. Whether Hitchin needed a bus just of this length, or whether it was just conveniently tacked on to the other order, I know not.

Anyway, it stayed at Hitchin for a couple of years, before moving to Norton Green garage in Stevenage.

3227-3229: 10.7m Plaxton Pointer 2s for Hitchin & Hemel

3227 on 3, Stevenage Hitchin also received a 10.7m Pointer2, just a month after 3219: 3227 arrived in August 1999, and also stayed at Hitchin until moved to Stevenage.

Two more of the same length, but with 36 rather than 39 seats, arrived at the same time for Hemel Hempstead. These too stayed put, until 3229 moved to Harlow in November 2009.

3227 motors past Stevenage Station on route 3 in June 2008.

3230-3239: 9.3m Plaxton Pointer 2s for Harlow & Hemel

3230 and 3231 were 9.3m Pointer2s, sent to Harlow at the end of 1999 ready for the start of the Metro10 service between Harlow and Church Langley. They were route-branded, and commenced service in April 2000.

The other eight of the batch went to Hemel Hempstead in November for routes 2 and 3, and were branded for use on the pair of routes.

They have stayed loyal to the 2/3. In 2005 the branding was removed - but after a repaint they were rebranded as Red Route 2/3. 3234 received special treatment, being repainted red with a cream scoop, advertising Green Line route 758.

3234 at Stevenage ATS3239 on tow at Hatfield off 301

Red 3234 negotiates Stevenage Bus Station on a Sunday 301 from Hemel Hempstead, in June 2009.
3239 has come to grief on the 301 to Hemel Hempstead and receives a tow past Hatfield Station, May 2007.

ATS3237 at Stevenage on 301 ATS3237 at Stevenage on 301

3237, branded for Hemel Hempstead routes 2 & 3, at Stevenage Bus Station on the 301, June 2010.

3280-3297, 3482-3498, 3500-3502, 3509: 8.8m MPDs

A Plaxton Mini-Pointer Dart (MPD) demonstrator was assessed at Luton early in 1999, and resulted in an order for fifteen for Luton and Dunstable. 3280-3294 arrived late in the year, eleven for Luton for the 1, 4 and 238, and four for route 50 at Dunstable.

3482-3498 followed on in August 2000, supplying the "Country" areas at Aylesbury and Hitchin, as well as providing a few more for Luton. Four of these were later painted red, 3482 at Wycombe all-red as a spare for Uxbridge-based TfL route U9, and 3485, 3486 and 3497 in red with cream scoop for Aylesbury Red Route 9.

Out of sequence 3295-3297 came in December 2000 for the Borehamwood local services B1 and B2.

3500-3502 plus 3509, were a year later in November 2001, for route 350 (Harrow Bus Stn - Watford Junction.

3483 on 395 in Hertford Bus Station, June 2003 3483 on 396 in Hertford, June 2005

3483 on Hertford-Ware local services, with a Super-Square offside advert for One Railways.

3491 on 55 in Stevenage Old Town 3492 on Milton Keynes by-pass

3491 passes through Stevenage Old Town on route 55 to Letchworth, June 2007. 3492 by-passes Milton Keynes on the A5, June 2008.

3488 on 1, Luton 3495 on 700 passes St.Marys Square, Hitchin

3488 in Luton on route 1, September 2009. Route-branded 3495 passes St.Marys Square, Hitchin on the north-Hertfordshire link to Stansted Airport, the 700, in June 2003.

3500 at Watford Junction on 350 3500 at Watford Junction on 350

3500 at a wet Willesden Junction on the 350, April 2004.

3386-3390, 3379, 3380: second or third-hand buses from Southend

In 1999 Arriva Southend transferred three 9.7m Pointer 2s (3388-3390) to Arriva East Herts & Essex at Grays for the 370 and 373, and they were branded accordingly. 3387 followed. These four did not stay long-term with the group, although they did stay with the 370 and 373 (Grays - Lakeside - Upminster Stn - Romford)at Grays for some time. But the Grays routes were switched to management by Arriva Southend in January 2002.

A more long-term transfer to Arriva East Herts and Essex from Southend came early in 2000, in the shape of 3386, a 10.6m SLF, which went to Ware for the 331 and 395. It later moved on to Arriva The Shires at Hitchin, in March 2002.

Much later, in April 2010, 3379 and 3380 arrived from Southend. The former had originated with Kentish Bus (3186), and the latter with Kent and Sussex (3204). The two 10.6m buses went to Garston to ease the pressures there.

ATS3386 on 94 at Hitchin

3386 in Hitchin on route 94, September 2009.

3400-3403: ex-Town & Country 10.0m Plaxtons for Grays

In May 2000 Arriva East Herts & Essex took over much of the business of Town & Country Buses, of Thurrock. Routes taken over were the 20, 324 and 348. Four 10.0m Pointers came with the deal, and were put into Grays Garage. These buses had originated with Q-Drive in their Limebourne operation. Now they became 3400-3403, and donned turquoise and cream.

They too passed on to Arriva Southend with the Grays operations in January 2002.

3403 on 383, Grays, December 2007

3403 stands at Grays Station with a 383 for Basildon on a very wet day in December 2007.

3416-3418: ex-County 10.8m Wright Crusaders for Ware

10.8m Crusader In August 2000 two Wright Crusader bodied 10.8m Dart SLFs came from Arriva Southend to Ware, for the 331 and 395 routes. 3417 and 3418 joined sister 3416, which was already there. They all originated with County Bus.

The trio seemed well-suited to the Ware routes, and stayed there for some years. 3416 moved to Stevenage in July 2006, then all three gravitated to Harlow in late 2008 / early 2009.

AHE3416 on 395 in Hertford Bus Station AHE3417 nearing Harlow, June 2010

Wright-bodied Darts: 3416 calls at Hertford Bus Station on the 395 to Ware, June 2004. 3417 heads into Harlow along the A414, June 2010.

3435, 3439-3440: ex-County 10.2m Wright Crusaders for Ware

Also at Ware were three shorter, 10.2m Wright Crusaders, also from County Bus. These three too were used on the 395 local service between Hertford and Ware, until transfer to Debden in 2003, when they were repainted red for TfL's 549 contract (South Woodford Stn - Roding Valley - Loughton Station). But that did not last long (until February 2005), and they reverted to turquoise and cream, being transfered first to Hatfield in 2005 and then returning to Ware.

3227 on 3, Stevenage

3440 enters Hertford Bus Station on the local 395 route, June 2003.

3461-3469, 3471-3479, 3481: 9.4m Alexanders for Debden

ALX200 8.8m Nineteen dual-doorway 9.4m Alexander-bodied Dart SLFs arrived in May 2000 for Arriva East Herts & Essex. All went to the Debden outstation of Harlow, for operation on LTB routes W13, W14 and 397. There being no livery stipulation in the contracts then, they were in Arriva national livery of turquoise and cream.

March 2005 saw the Debden operation transferred to Arriva London North at Edmonton, including the nineteen Alexanders. They donned red livery and became ADL61-69, ADL71-79 and ADL81.

W13Leytonstone - Wanstead - South Woodford Stn - Woodford Wells
W14Leyton- Leytonstone - Wanstead - Snaresbrook - South Woodford Stn - Woodford Bridge
397Debden Stn - Woodford Wells - Chingford Stn - Chingford Mount

ADL66 off W14, Edmonton Garage ADL66 off W14, Edmonton Garage

Still working on the W14 after transfer to Arriva London North, ADL66 splashes out of Edmonton Garage in October 2009.

3821-3827: ex-City of Oxford 10.0m Pointers

The end of 2000 brought an influx of older Pointers to the Shires fleet, when the company took over the Wycombe Bus operations of City of Oxford. Seven ten metre Pointers came with the deal, and these were quickly repainted into turquoise and cream and renumbered as 3821-3827.

Except for 3823 they stayed at Wycombe, to be repainted in red with cream scoop in March 2008 for Red Route 33. 3823 began its wanderings in 2003, going then to Aylesbury until 2008, when it went briefly to Milton Keynes. Then, after a full repaint at Garston, it departed early in 2009 to Northfleet, becoming 3111 there.

3828-3829, 3835-3839: MPDs for Ware, Hemel, Aylesbury, and Wycombe

Another seven MPDs came in 2003, to plug various holes.

3828 on 311 at Hertford Bus Station 3828 was the first, in May, going to Ware for use on contract route 327 for TfL: (Waltham Cross - Turkey Street circular). It was naturally in all-red for the London contract, and worked out of Ware. It made Sunday appearances on other routes.

3835 and 3836 came in October to Hemel Hempstead, for route H10, in Arriva standard livery.

3829 followed in December for Aylesbury, for use on the 232 and the 231/331.

Ware-based 3828 at Hertford Bus Station on a Sunday 311 in June 2004.
3837-3839 arrived in December, but were stored at Aylesbury until January 2004, when they went into service on TfL route U9 (Uxbridge Stn - Harefield West/Hospital). This was worked from Wycombe.

3837 at Harefield on U9 3837 at Harefield on U9

Wycombe-based 3837 at the Harefield West turning point of the Uxbridge route U9, October 2008.

3085-3086: ex-Sovereign MPDs

3085 on 81 at Hitchin Arriva took over the Hatfield and Stevenage operations of Sovereign Bus & Coach in January 2005, with some of the buses. Included were seven Dart SLFs. 584 and 585, the two MPDs at Hatfield, became 3085 and 3086. They moved to Stevenage (Babbage Road) in August 2005, and were eventually repainted into Arriva national livery.
3085 at Hitchin, heading for Westmill on 81, July 2009.

3806-3810: ex-Sovereign 10.7m Pointer 2s

Five long Pointer2s were also in the deal. 505 and 506 dated from 2003, and became 3806 and 3807 at Stevenage. The other three were brand new, and were delivered to Arriva at Hatfield, in Sovereign livery, becoming 3808-10. These three joined the others at Stevenage.

505 at Hertford Police Stn on 384 3809 at Stevenage on 3

Still in Sovereign livery, Sovereign 505 on its normal run, the 384 from Stevenage to Hertford via Walkern. Here it passes Hertford Police Station in June 2005. Freshly repainted from Sovereign livery, 3809 is in Stevenage Bus Station on route 3, June 2006.
3806 at Stevenage on 4 3806 at Stevenage on 4
Ex-Sovereign 3806 continues to work at Stevenage in June 2010.

0011, 0022, 0003: hired third-hand Caetano trainers

In October 2007 Arriva hired three Caetano Nimbus Darts from Dawson Rentals as driver trainers. Presumably they were intended to be 0011, 0022 and 0033, but the last ended up with 0003. They had originated with Tellings-Golden Miller at Dartford in June 2004, on Orpington Roundabout routes, and had been taken over by Metrobus in March 2005. They had kept them until January 2009, when they were returned off-lease to Dawsons. Arriva used them in white. They disappeared in February 2008, and were spotted at Arriva Derby, fuelling much speculation. But it seems they had gone there for testing, and they were soon back with The Shires. Arriva made other arrangements in 2009, and they returned to Dawson, to reappear in service with Excel, Stansted.

3804,3805: Red dual-doorway 10.1m Pointer2s

Tendered route changes in 2006 required some extra vehicles. Spare single-doorway Darts in turquoise and cream filled in as a temporary measure, and DDL15 was borrowed from Arriva London. But in December 2006 some relief appeared:

3804 was a dual-doorway Pointer2 for routes H18/H19, supplementing the Volvo B6BLEs. It went to Garston.

3805 was a spare for Wycombe's route U9, which used single-doorway MPDs. The dual doorway bus was not received with enthusiasm in the countryside. As had been found long before with the RWs, the centre exit tended to deposit passengers into the hedge!

3218, 3220-3221,3222-3224, 3225, 3226, 3370: ex Arriva London DDLs, PDLs

As noted above, DDL15 was borrowed from Arriva London in Sepember 2006 for Garston's H18 and H19, where its dual doorways and red livery was quite acceptable to TfL. It didn't go home. Two years on, the loan was formalised into a transfer, and DDL15 became 3218.

Then, in August 2008, two MPDs, shorter, and single doorway, which had been PDL1 and 2 with Arriva London South, were also transfered to the Shires, becoming 3226 and 3225. 3226 stayed in red and became the U9 spare at Wycombe, presumably in exchange for the unloved 3805. 3225 received a repaint into standard turquoise and cream

More DDLs followed: DDL17 became 3220 at Garston in December 2008. A string of others arrived in early 2010, becoming 3221-3224 and 3370 (the number scheme had run out of convenient holes!). 3222-3224 were converted to single doorway and repainted in turquoise/cream, as was 3370. The last was then sent to Hemel Hempstead, while the others remained at Garston.

Shake-up at AtS

In 2010 the Harlow operations were hived off to TGM Essex, taking fifteen Dart SLFs.

Dart SLFs began to fall by the wayside, especially once Wright Streetlites became available.

Darts were traded between Arriva London, Arriva Southern Counties and Arriva the Shires.

Towards the end of 2015 there were further managerial shake-ups at Arriva the Shires. The London operations from Garston, together with the garage itself, were to become part of Arriva London.

But some of the country routes operated out of Garston, with the blue buses, would become the responsibility of Hemel Hempstead, which with Stevenage and Ware would come under Arriva Southern Counties control. Buses and crews on the Garston country routes would continue to run from there, but would be maintained by HH.

Wycombe, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Luton-Dunstable would come under control of Arriva Midlands.

Late in 2015 there was a clear-out of elderly MPDs from the country garages, but an influx of very similar buses from Arriva Midlands. These MPDs had originated with Metrobus, from where they had gone after five year's service to Choice in the Midlands, thence to D& G Midlands and then Arriva Midlands. Some came to AtS on loan initially, to Stevenage and Milton Keynes, then remained, mainly at Aylesbury.

Bus Stop SLF index. ATS. histories. photo refs.