London & Country / Arriva Dennis Dart SLFs
DSL25-DSL36: medium Plaxton PointersIt was May 1996 when London & Country bought a dozen 10.0m 35-seater single doorway Pointer-bodied Dart SLFs. They were not the company's first low-floor single-deckers: the previous year they had re-equipped the 408 with low-floor Dennis Lances. The new buses were for a LT contract to work route 105 (Heathrow Airport - Greenford Stn, which had been taken over initially using step-entrance Darts. They worked from an outstation on the Kelvin Industrial Estate in Greenford. Livery was green/green/red, and the dedicated buses were branded for the 105 in October.
However, operational difficulties led to London & Country giving up the route in November 1996. The route went to Centrewest at Alperton together with the twelve dedicated Pointer-bodied SLFs on long-term loan and three of the East Lancs-bodied SLFs on short-term loan. The buses retained their green/green/red livery. They returned to Greenford in 1997 when London Buslines took over responsibility for the 105. In February 1998 London Buslines returned them to London & Country.
They seem to have gone mostly to Woking, where they assisted in the major clearout of older rolling stock that Arriva & West Surrey had when it downsized operations at Guildford and Woking in July.
Arriva turquoise and champagne livery displaced the older livery. In early 2001 most of this batch were transferred away from Woking (or Guildford) to Horsham and Cranleigh, presumably in anticipation of Arriva's desertion of Crawley, and in response to the demise of Tillingbourne in the Cranleigh and Dorking areas. One (DSL34) went off to Northfleet, where it became 3172. The others worked on around the Surrey and Sussex Wealds, mostly at Cranleigh and Horsham.
3036 in Horsham on a Sunday working of the 86, in March 2006. It wears branding for the 53 and 63.Renumbering, to 3025-3033, 3035-3036, followed in April 2005. 3027 and 3029 went to Arriva Medway Towns in early 2009, and 3032 was sold to Metrobus along with the Horsham operations in September 2009. They found the thirteen-year-old good enough to keep and repaint into two-tone blue, as their 396. 3035 and 3036 were likewise found good enough by Cranleigh to merit a face-lift in August 2009, fitting them with shapelier Pointer 2 fronts in place of the square "shoebox" front.
August 2009 on the A25 (pictures by my wife): 3025 pauses at Gomshall on an eastbound 32. 3032, only a few days before being bought by Metrobus, looks as though it has just come from an overhaul at Guildford and is heading home to Horsham.
DSL37-DSL55: East Lancs Sprytes
New: Plaxton-bodied DSL85 and East Lancs-bodied DSL44 at Showbus 97. The latter carries a sticker proclaiming it to be the 100th Dennis Dart SLF to be built.London & Country had had a policy of buying bodywork by East Lancs - Greenway rebuilds, Lances, Falcons and Darts. Now East Lancs produced the Spryte body for the Dart SLF, so it was no surprise that in July 1996 the first of nineteen 9.4m 31 seaters appeared here. The batch was divided between three of the subsidiary companies: Guildford & West Surrey took twelve, London & Country three, and Horsham Buses four. The London & Country three went to Greenford to join the Plaxtons on the 105. The Guildford & West Surrey buses went to work on the 44, 58, 91, 534, 539 and 581, appearing in evenings and on Sundays on the 28 and 34.
Whilst the sun still shone on the class, DSL38 on the X38 in East Grinstead, April 2000.The London & Country three were loaned briefly to Centrewest when London & Country gave up the 105. The smallish Darts were well used around the system, and were early repainted into Arriva livery.
Already operating in the shade, DSL51 in Kingston on the 470, in October 2001.But Surrey was proving to be difficult bus operating territory, for companies both large and small. Early in the new millenium the system was being cut back, both in terms of route coverage and service frequency. By 2002 some of the Sprytes were redundant. Woking garage closed in March 2002. Three Sprytes went to Arriva Kent and Sussex, and one to Northfleet. Seven newer Plaxtons came back from loan to Tellings-Golden Miller in July. Eight Sprytes went to Arriva Midlands North in December. Another two went to Arriva Medway Towns in March 2003. DSL52 died of fire damage in June 2003. The remainder worked on. Some of them, plus some of the others still in Southern Counties, were shifted around Southern Counties, including Grays, as required, some coming back to Guildford at times.
The last three left Guildford for Arriva Medway Towns in early 2009.
DSL68-DSL110: long Plaxton PointersA further forty-one Plaxtons arrived during the second half of 1997. This time they were the "long" variety, ie 10.6m 39 seaters. Most came in a slightly simplified livery, without the dark green band above the red, and without dark green window surrounds.
Four (97-100) were in a green and yellow livery for the Guildford Link park & ride service.
Seven (90-96) came to London & Country at Leatherhead for London route 465 (Kingston - Dorking). This essay into London tendering became untenable when Leatherhead garage closed in May 1999. The route passed to Tellings-Golden Miller, together with the seven buses on long-term loan. These were kept in London & Country green/green/red, but with Tellings-Golden Miller fleetnames. T-GM renumbered them 590-596. They stayed with T-GM for just over three years, until July 2002, when they were returned to Guildford.
596 crosses Kingston Bridge, almost at the end of a trip on the 465 for Tellings-Golden Miller. 593 turns the corner in Kingston.68-89 and 101-108 were new to Guildford & West Surrey. Very soon many of them were established at Crawley, especially the lower-numbered of the batch. When Crawley garage closed, passing all its work to Metrobus, in March 2001, many went to Horsham (aka Warnham Station) for continued work in West Sussex, while seven were passed to Arriva Medway Towns at Gillingham.
Two more, 109 and 110, were added to the fleet in March 1999 to supplement the Park & Ride bunch in yellow and green Guildford Link livery.
DSL88 rejoiced in the London & Country livery back in April 2000, when at East Grinstead on the 84. When seen in Guildford in August 2009 it was back in dull Arriva livery, having been for a while in two-tone green (plus cream) as a celebration of Aldershot & District.As the old London & Country withered away the long Dart SLFs became the longterm stalwarts of the fleet, with DAF Cadets and the shorter Dart SLFs coping where the longer buses feared to go. Horsham garage closed in October 2009, with some Dart SLFs bought by Metrobus. Some were kept, some were sold. Those at Guildford just kept on going. In September 2008 some of the Guildford buses were branded with a bold orange swoosh advertising a 7-minute frequency to the University of Surrey.
3093 calls at Woking Station on a Sunday working of the 91, in April 2007, with RTL139 behind. 3099 is at Horsham Bus Station in company with RF626 in March 2006.
3109 shows the University of Surrey flashes, offering a 7-minute frequency, in September 2010.
DSL591-DSL592: Surrey's long Plaxton Pointer 2sSurrey County Council bought three 10.7m Pointer2s in April 1999, and loaned them to Tillingbourne for Surrey contracted services. They were in Tillingbourne style blue and yellow, branded for Surrey Link. But Tillingbourne went out of business in March 2001 (it was a bad time for the bus business in Surrey), and in May Surrey loaned two of them to Arriva to keep its services 42 and 44 working. The other went to Stagecoach South, also for the 42/44. In 2009 the Arriva pair were repainted in Arriva interurban style with cream horn and dark blue skirt.
3179: the red busIn November 2007, having bought new Enviro200 Darts for the 465 TfL contract (Kingston - Dorking, Horsham needed a red spare to cover for maintenance. Arriva Southern Counties came up with 3179, a much travelled Dart SLF that had seen service at Maidstone & District, Dartford and Grays already. 3179 duly came to Horsham on loan, and was then formally transferred. It was normally the 465 spare, but was occasionally seen on other duties. When Horsham's business, including the 465, was taken over by Metrobus in October 2009, it was included. Metrobus did not keep it, and sold it on to Go-Coach of Knockholt Pound.
3112, 3113: the Milton Keynes CaetanosIt was a surprise in August 2009 when two smart-looking Dart Caetanos in interurban livery turned up at Guildford. 3112 and 3113 were also much-travelled, having originated in London with Limebourne (Independent Way), and latterly with Arriva Milton Keynes (3531 and 3533). Even more surprising was that the pair was split up, 3112 staying at Guildford and 3113 going to Cranleigh.
Clipped-wing Pegasus: 3707In summer 2010 Surrey County Counncil abandoned its expensive policy of carrying all primary schoolchildren safely to school by bus, in a dedicated fleet of modern buses - the Pegasus scheme. The buses, 11.3m Super Darts with East Lancs bodywork, that had been operated by First Beeline, were dispersed to Surrey operators. DME43911 was Arriva's share, becoming 3707.
3707 heads east along the A25 on route 37 to Manor Park, April 2014 (photo by Cynthia Smith)