Southdown PSV: Dennis Dart SLFs
Southdown PSV, based at Copthorne in Surrey, started as a dealer in buses, with a small rotating fleet used for Railway Replacement work and contracts. The fleet was mainly single deckers by 2006, with a quartet of Lynxes giving decent size and a low profile for working in the locality: Surrey was not all that good at keeping overhanging trees trimmed back. There were also a pair of Dart SLFs acquired in 2005 for use on the Gatwick Airport & Hotel business just to the west. X242 ABU was 10.8m, X291 ABU 8.8m. The latter had previously been employed on the same Gatwick Hotels circuit. Both had a reduced number of seats and large luggage provision for this work. The company base was at Crawley Down, almost opposite The Dukes Head at Copthorne.
Bus workIn April 2006 PVS took the large step into local bus operation, winning contracts for the 324, 409, 410 and 411 for Surrey County Council. These had previously been operated by Metrobus. At the same time Southdown made significant gains in schools routes.
To service the routes PVS leased from Dawson Rentals five secondhand DAF President double-deckers and five 10.7m Dart Pointers and an East Lancs Spryte, and took into service from its own dealer stock a Super Pointer Dart and an Enviro300 Dart. An Optare Delta joined the party in May. Livery was a nice mid-blue, white and pale turquoise.
Also sold was one of the "airport" Darts, X291 ABU, which went to Bodman's in Wiltshire. Its place on the hotel business was taken by X188 BNH, which lost seats and gained luggage racks to suit.
In January 2008 one of the dealer-stock Darts, white Caetano-bodied T421 LGP, which had been on loan to Universitybus, was used on one of the schools duties - the 606.
In June the other elderly "airport" bus was sold - to Shamrock in Wiltshire - and replaced by another acquired Transbus Pointer: SN53 LWL. This lost seats and gained luggage racks for its new role. Another Dennis Dart SLF was also acquired, possibly as a spare for the Enviro200 Darts that now worked the 526/7 route between Horley & Crawley.
Three more Enviro200 Darts were bought for the new Oxted 594/5 network in August 2009, with one on those routes and two on the 410, with double-deckers working those school runs that could accommodate them. This segregation lasted about a month, then the older Darts and the EnviroDarts began to share duties. The Oxted changes also saw the 410 abbreviated, no longer reaching Westerham from Oxted, but going via Hurst Green to Holland. The Westerham direct link was maintained by extending the 236 (Edenbridge - Westerham) to Oxted Station, which route was taken by Southdown PSV from Surrey Connect. Another new route, operated commercially, the 494 linked Oxted with Caterham Station and the Tesco store at Caterham-on-the-Hill. Also in this area Southdown operated a weekly return service (744) from Penshurst via Edenbridge to East Grinstead, Three Bridges and Crawley. From September there was also a pre-Christmas 725 service to Bluewater from Smallwood and Horley, via Redhill, Oxted, and Westerham.
April 2010 saw Southdown PSV taking over the 231 and 233 routes between Edenbridge and Tunbridge Wells, plus journeys on the 237 and 280. This required more buses, which included four ex-LDPs from London General (LDP134, 139, 140, 141), which had been single-doored and painted in the blue/white/turquoise. From July the 744 was absorbed into the 236 as a weekdays additional service. The 494 was withdrawn.
Y840TGH at Cobham Museum Open Day, Wisley Airfield, April 2010. Copthorne Yard, Sunday 1st September 2013: Y841TGH, LK55ADX, Y840TGHAugust 2010 heralded the arrival of four Super Darts with East Lancs bodies, belonging to Surrey County Council. They, with 18 others, had been with First Berkshire for the Pegasus schools project that had proved too expensive for Surrey. Southdown PSV received a share, for the 424 (Redhill - Reigate - Woodhatch - East Surrey Hospital - Horley Stn (- Copthorne)), replacing the 324.
Another London General LDP was bought in July 2011. LDP137 was retained in dual doorway format, but down-seated for Gatwick airport hotel work. It was also reregistered with a "Gatwick" registration: F3 LGW. Two more SLFs followed in August, this time from London United, which were also treated the same way: dual doors, down-seated, luggage racks and LGW re-registrations.
The East Surrey review in August 2011, which cut many Surrey contracted routes left Southdown PSV more or less unscathed. Indeed, some extra journeys were added, while the 410 was increased in frequency between Redhill and Oxted, albeit commercially. School journeys, slashed elsewhere in Surrey, were largely retained, even strengthened. The 606 (Felbridge - Blindley Heath - South Godstone - Oxted), previously a 410 variant, became a route in its own right. A new 410 schools variant went from East Grinstead via Lingfield and Crowhurst to Hurst Green. The 657 and 658 Reigate SDO journeys were revised and upgraded. A new 610 replaced the Surrey Connect 310 from Burstow via Outwood and Nutfield to Oxted Schools. This service trimmed back the 694 from Outwood (Merle Common - Hurst Green - Oxted(St.Mary's)). It seems that Surrey considered that Southdown PSV gave value for money. But a year later (Septemnber 2012) they lost the 526/7 Crawley-Horley circulars to Metrobus, and some routes were pruned or re-directed to run in service to and from Copthorne as live garage runs.
Two more third-hand Dart SLFs were acquired in the autumn of 2012. W341/3VGX had originated with Metrobus, but had spent four years with Huyton Travel on Merseyside. They were put to use on erstwhile Countryliner's route 30 at Haywards Heath.
May 2013 revisions saw the two routes that had run to Copthorne (236, 424) being extended/diverted to run to Crawley Bus Stn, a much more valuable traffic objective.
Another 10.7m Pointer2 was taken into service stock during 2013. T591CGT had been another Surrey-owned bus, used successively by Tillingbourne and Arriva at Guildford.
Southdown have a slow turnover of buses, so their fleet is getting steadily older. But a serendipitous Sunday visit to the yard in September 2013 (on XF3) revealed a fleet that certainly looks good and well-managed.
Copthorne Yard, Sunday 1st September 2013: T591CGT, GX57BXH, SN53LWL, X188BNH, YX59BZD, Y839TGH, Y841TGH, LK55ADX, Y840TGH and EnviroDart YX59BZC
Copthorne Yard, Sunday 1st September 2013: W343VGX, LX55AEA, LX55ADZ, Y834TGHIan's Bus Stop Dart SLF index. Southdown PSV SLF. histories. photo refs.