8.8m MPDs: 456-466, later SD10-20Epsom Buses was the first in the wider London area to take MPDs: the short, 8.8m Dennis Dart SLF. Eleven started arriving in December 1998, ready for a start on the 4th January 1999 on London routes 413, S1 and S5, replacing the ex-London General MetroRiders.
Transport for London soon made it clear that it expected buses used on its services to be red, or at least mostly so, so these MPDs gained unrelieved red as their livery in the autumn of 2001. Even the Epsom Buses fleetnames disappeared, leaving just "Quality Line" in white italic script as a fleetname. Fleet numbers with classes followed in March 2002, this batch becoming SD10-20.
SD13, 14 and 18 were retained for use on the company's non-TfL routes. In 2006 SD13 (at least) was repainted in cream with maroon relief. These three stayed in operation until April 2007, after which they were sold for further use in Ireland.
10.1m SLFs: 467-468Two longer Pointer 2s were bought in early 1999, starting work on London route 463 (Coulsdon - Clockhouse Estate - Wallington Stn) in April, replacing a pair of marginally shorter step-entrance Darts which moved to the 166. 467 and 468 had air conditioning packs on the front roof, and were painted cream with maroon relief, until August 2001, when they too went into plain red.
They were withdrawn in January 2002, less than three years old, and were snapped up by Eastbourne Buses for a long and active career on the Costa Geriatrica.
A hired MPD: 492, later SD22In January 2000 Epsom Buses took on Surrey route 408 (abandoned by Arriva) using a hired MPD, white-painted naturally, which returned off-hire when the next batch of Dart SLFs arrived in March/April. It was then seen in other parts of the broader London area, with Arriva East Herts & Essex, Connex and Safeguard, usually filling in for ordered but undelivered vehicles. It then came back to Epsom Buses in September 2001, where it was repainted red, given number DP22, and became a TfL acceptable spare.
8.9m ALX200: 871-876, later SD23-28In March and April 2000 six more short Dart SLFs arrived, but this time with the 8.9m Alexander ALX200 bodywork. They had huge air-conditioning pods on the roof, and were to stock the single-bus 408 and also the S3.
They were in cream/maroon.
More hired SLFsA used 10.6m Pointer was hired in April 2000, for use mainly on the 413. How long it stayed I don't know.
Almost a year later, in February 2001, another Alexander 8.9m SLF, that had been on hire to Arriva East Herts & Essex and Connex, was hired by Epsom Buses for use on new Epsom commercial route E9 (Epsom - Clarendon Park). It was given fleetnames on its white dealer livery, and stayed with the company until January 2002, when home-grown Darts became available to replace it..
Another white 10.7m Pointer 2 (T51JBA) was hired in April 2001, and stayed through until January 2002, and was included in the K50 contract (see below).
Kingston Park & Ride: long hired SLFs.Having used the shortest Dart SLFs, Epsom Buses turned to the longest for the Christmas 2001 Kingston Park & Ride service, the K50, linking carparks at Chessington World of Adventures with the shops in Kingston. The contract required eight large Darts. Epsom Buses used existing hired 10.7m Pointer2 T51JBA, and hired five 41-seater 11.3m Super Pointer Darts plus two 10.7m 38-seater ALX200s for the contract starting in November.
Most of the hired Darts were in dealer white, except two in yellow and white, and were given extensive turqoise side vinyls plus cant-rail branding. The two yellow/white buses were quckly replaced by two more brand new Alexanders, from the dealers. They stayed just until the end of the contract at the end of January 2002.
More short SLFsThe Christmas 2001 season saw some of the midibuses replaced by Darts on Kingston local routes K9 and K10, which required extra buses. A secondhand MPD was acquired in November, and was painted red. It subsequently became SD21. (LOTS always recorded this as a 10.7m bus rather than 8.8m, but the registration/VIN information records it as 8.8m, and photos of it in later life in Scotland bear this out - unless it had a bay and a half cut out, of course). It stayed with Epsom until March 2004, when it was sold to Horsburgh of Pumpherston.
Another 8.9m Alexander was hired in December too. This had been used within Manchester Airport, and was reregistered for use as a public bus. I suspect it did not stay long, as new buses arrived in January, displacing older MPDs onto the ex-midibus routes.
The S1 gets newer ALX200s: SD29-36January 2002 saw eight new short ALX200s arrive for the S1, displacing most of the three-year old MPDs onto non-TfL routes, where they in turn displaced midibuses, plus the hired buses. The new buses were delivered in red, with Quality Line fleetnames on front and sides. These too had air-conditioning pods on the roof, a large one, plus I think a smaller one over the driver (unless that was a transponder). While Epsom Buses had the first of the Alexander MiniDarts in London, it seems that they had the last, too.
Most stayed with the company until May 2009, when all except SD33 were sold for further service elsewhere.
Another spare MPD: SD37A companion secondhand MPD to SD21 was acquired in March 2002. Although numbered into stock straight away it stayed in white for over two years, before donning red paint in June 2004. It stayed until February 2007, when it was sold to Dumfries & Galloway Council.
Two more hired MPDs for 408Having just sold a pair of very serviceable longer SLFs, Epsom Buses now hired another two MPDs for use on the 408 (VU02 TPX/TPZ) in March 2002.
Short-term hires for 293Epsom Buses won the contract to run the 293 from July 2003, slightly earlier than expected. They ordered seven Mercedes-Benz Citaros for it, but these would be delivered in August. To cover the time-gap they hired long Darts again, five long ALX200s, one of which had been seen before on the K50 contract. A Plaxton-bodied SPD, that had also been used on the K50 contract, was also hired again. They arrived in July, and operated until all the Citaros had arrived in early September.
The withdrawal of the Citaros for modifications (following the fires in London) required the hire of yet more Darts for a week or so, but I have not recorded these here.
9.0m East Lancs Myllenium for S3: SD38-42The S3 saw another update of rolling stock in July 2005, when the remaing early Alexanders were cascaded to "country" routes. Five East Lancs Myllenium - bodied 9.0m Dart SLFs arrived to take their place. These lasted until January 2015 (except for SD41 which was smoke-damaged in 2014).
The trainer: variously ET1, LD1, ET01Dart production switched to the EnviroDart, which is another story for another time. But Epsom Buses did acquire another Dart SLF. In October 2006 they bought one of the ex-Centra 10.5m Caetano Nimbus for use as a dedicated trainer, replacing the step-entrance Darts (one Plaxton, one Marshall-bodied) that had hitherto been the dedicated trainers. (one of those, the Marshall-bodied Dart, went back into service for a while on the 408!) It was periodically renumbered, starting as ET1, then LD1, then ET01.
Paris Bus takes overIn April the company was taken over by RATP (the Paris state-owned bus company). In practice this would make little difference, except for the possibility of closerr co-operation with London United (another RATP company).
Secondhand Darts for 560In October 2012 Quality Line acquired three elderly Dart SLFs from London United for a short-term contract for TfL - the 560 shuttle route between Streatham Common Stn and Pollards Hill, from November 2012 until April 2013. Two of the acquired buses were pressed into even more temporary service on Countryliner's 479 route when that company ceased operation in October, but the Traffic Commissioners did not approve Epsom Buses' application to continue with that route.