Sovereign Dart SLF
501: A Dart for St.Albans.In June 1997 Sovereign Buses bought a single Dart SLF for its St.Albans operations, where it had a small allocation of Lynxes as well as a crowd of Mercedes midibuses. The singleton was a 10.6m single-doorway Pointer. Livery at first was Sovereign's straightforward cream with a powder blue skirt, which was then enhanced with a black bar. But in autunm 2000 it was repainted in the far more invigorating "Yorkshire Coastliner" style.
September 2001 saw it move to Hatfield, but in April 2003 it returned to St.Albans to work on the main-line 300/301 service between Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage. Centrebus took it over with the St.Albans operations in January 2004, and replaced the fleetnames and changed the stripe colour to orange. At some point it moved to Stevenage, where it became the sole Dart in the allocation. It took until August 2008 to gain a repaint into full Centrebus livery.
501 heads for Luton on the 88 from Hitchin, in June 2005, wearing the St.Albans City & District labels on its old Sovereign livery..
502: The Huntingdon Cavalier.Sovereign's next Dart SLF was another singleton: a 10.7m Pointer 2 bought for a special contract with Cambridgeshire County Council. For this it wore a dark blue livery with Cavalier fleetnames, and was based at Huntingdon. But in March 2001 it was swapped with a Volvo B6 and arrived at Hatfield. It worked in blue until November 2001, when it emerged from the paintshop in an overall advert for Hertfordshire's Intalink Explorer tickets - not a pretty sight. Its front now wore Sovereign colours.
In April 2003 it too moved to St.Albans to work on the main-line 300/301 service between Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage. October 2003 saw the Explorer advert refreshed with new colours, with red replacing green on the stripes.
In January 2004 Centrebus took it over, and kept the Intalink explorer advert.
They moved it to Dunstable. The Intalink Explorer advert was updated in July 2008,
in a new unreadable form.
503-504, 506-540, 542-554, 556-557: 10.1m Darts for Sovereign London.For its Harrow area operations Sovereign London bought an amazing fifty-two medium length Pointer2s in one go, to start work in September 1999. It had kept local routes H10, H11, H13 and H17, and had gained the 183, 683 and H12 from Metroline. The last two needed double-decker journeys on schooldays, which were provided by London Sovereign and London Traveller respectively. The H17 needed shorter single-deckers. The Pointer2s were thirty-one seater dual doorway buses in cream and blue with a black skirt and rear blue upsweep. They operated from either Harrow or Edgware, but as the maintenance facilities were at Edgware they were all formally allocated there.
London Sovereign's 509 and 531 at Harrow-on-the-Hill Station on the H10, April 2004
The 183 was taken over by Volvo B7TL double-deckers in November/December 2001, pushing out some of the Darts. Some moved to the H17, pushing out the shorter Darts. With the double-deckers now at Edgware, all the Darts were lodged at Harrow.
The hire busesTen (540, 542-550) went on loan to Mitcham Belle. They had taken on the 152, but their Darts had yet to appear, so the borrowed buses were used on the 127 while their own buses worked the 152. The short-term loan turned into a long-term lease, and these ten never did return to London Sovereign. Repaints started into Mitcham Belle's red, white and blue livery. Five of them were loaned to Ealing Community Transport for the 195 for a few weeks in April 2003. In August 2003 they were sub-leased to Thorpes, who repainted them red and numbered them DLF111-120 for use on the 210. In March 2004 they went on loan to First London at Alperton, where they were used on the 223, 224, and 487 for three months. They returned to Mitcham Belle in June 2004 and went off-lease to owner Blazefield Holdings in September 2004. They found further homes, some in service with Blazefield Companies in the north: Pendle & Burnley, Keighley & District, Harrogate & District and Lancashire United, where they wore a variety of brilliant liveries. Some there became training buses in the Eclipse Training company which served these fleets. Others found their way to Central Parking at Hounslow for a while, before moving on to Helms Coaches for the Chester Village Link.
Transdev takes over Sovereign LondonTransdev took over the London operations in November 2002, with all the staff, buses routes and garages, and placed them under the control of London United.
For nearly eighteen months there was little evidence of the transfer as far as the public were concerned. The buses stayed in their "Yorkshire Coastliner" livery, complete with Sovereign fleetnames. They started to sport allocation numbers with SO instead of HW, but it took an eagle-eye to spot that. But in the spring of 2004 a couple of the buses had accidents and were either written off or repaired, and then 518 re-appeared from a repaint in overall unadorned red, with SDP 518 as a fleetnumber. 532 and 539 followed, then gained grey skirts. Thev rest followed, although some went for years without either fleetname or number, or with DPS instead of SDP.
Freshly renumbered and repainted SDP518 at Harrow-on-the-Hill Station on the H17, April 2004The Darts soldiered on at Harrow, performing the functions that they were bought for. Only a very few escaped temporarily: SDP539 had a holiday in Bromley with Selkent, for the Park & Ride in November/December 2005, then returned home via a short stay at Metroline.
But at the end of 2009 the axe fell quickly: their ten-year rentals were up. They were withdrawn into store at a variety of locations, awaiting new owners.
558-562: 9.3m Darts for Sovereign London.The H17 at Harrow was thought to require shorter Darts, so for the September 1999 shakeup Sovereign London bought five 9.3m 26-seater single doorway buses, which it allocated to Harrow. But in November 2001 the longer Darts, displaced from the 183, began to take over on the H17, and the shorter ones in turn displaced Mercedes Benz midibuses from the 398.
Transdev painted them red with grey skirts, and numbered them as DPF558-562. They stayed at Harrow.
These were the first of the Sovereign Darts to go off-hire, being sold through Ensign Bus in the autumn of 2009.
563-569, 571-578: 10.7m Darts for St.Albans.Three medium size single-doorway forty-seaters (563-565) arrived in December 1999 for St.Albans services
In April 2000 twelve more Darts were received by St.Albans, lightly branded for local routes S2, S4, S5. Livery was Sovereign's attractive cream with blue lower, orange stripe and black skirt, upswept at the rear. Most (ie except 577, 578) had branding on the back, below the rear window. They soon began to wander onto the longer routes, yielding some of the branded routes back to the Mercedes midibuses. The branding disappeared in the spring of 2003.
Centrebus took over the St.Albans operation in January 2004. The only immediate outward sign of change was the covering of the Sovereign fleetnames with stickers carrying "Serving City & District St.Albans", and the subtle replacement of the red band with an orange one.
568 still wears the Sovereign livery after the Centrebus takeover, with St.Albans City & District fleetnames added on the cantrail.
Centrebus on the 320: Repainted and unadorned 564 calls in St.Peters Street, St.Albans in early evening, January 2006, and 569 shows off its Contravision advertisement for the Hatfield Galleria in April sunshine, at Cobham Gathering 2007.
The Centrebus Darts wore a variety of large adverts: 571 looks like a mobile first aid box, with its overall lime green ad for Plusbus, while 572 attracts the eye if not the sensibilities with an ad for Papa John's Pizza, both in St.Peters Street in January 2007.Centrebus passed on the St.Albans operations - including buses, to Universitybus, trading as Uno. Just one of this batch of Darts (566) stayed with Centrebus, working out of Dunstable. As Centrebus was still working into St.Albans there was more of an imperative for uno to repaint the buses, which it did within a year. They turned purple and pink!
578 shows its new uno livery to good effect on St.Peters Street in January 2009, on S2 to New Greens, as it passes a line-up of RTs on the Running Day. 569 made a less favorable impression as it left City Station, with its horribly clashing red full rear advert.
579, 581-585: 8.8m Darts for Hatfield, St.Albans.Hatfield received a pair of MPDs (579, 581) in November 2000 for route 403 (Welwyn Garden City - The Haldens). They were retained by the Blazefield Group in January 2005, and went north to Keighley & District.
582-583 came in August 2003, for St.Albans city routes S4 and S5, for which they were branded. Centrebus took them over in January 2004, along with the other St.Albans buses. Universitybus then took over and painted them in its own very individual style.
582 still carries its Sovereign livery and Cottonmill Cruiser branding for the S4 and S5 in January 2006, two years after the Centrebus takeover.
582 was fairly promptly repainted by uno, while some of its sisters were still in tatty Sovereign livery. Here, in January 2009, it shows its purple and pink livery at St.Albans City Station on the S7 (Saturday) and the S3 (Sunday).
3085 at Hitchin, heading for Westmill on 81, July 2009.
503-509: 10.7m Darts for St.Albans, Hatfield, Stevenage.The numbers 503 upwards became vacant in the Sovereign fleet when Transdev took the Harrow operations. 503 and 504 were re-used in December 2002 for a pair of 10.7m Pointer2s that came to Hatfield for the 601 servicing the Hatfield Business Park Shuttle. They wore the Yorkshire Coastliner style of livery, with branding for the 601.
When Sovereign ceased operation in January 2005 this pair was moved north by the Blazefield Group to Keighley & District becoming 803 and 804 there.
505 and 506 came in August 2003 for the 384 (Stevenage - Walkern - Benington - Ware - Hertford). They were based at Stevenage, and so went to Arriva in January 2005, becoming 3806 and 3807.
505 was still in Sovereign livery in June 2005, still working its normal route: the 384. Here it passes Hertford Police Station on its way into Hertford, and leaves Hertford Bus Station on a return trip to Stevenage.
Now in Arriva livery as 3806, ex-Sovereign 505 continues to work at Stevenage in June 2010.507-509 were ordered by Sovereign, and arrived at Hatfield in October 2004 dressed in Sovereign livery. But in January 2005 Arriva the Shires took over, and they became 3808-3810.
Freshly repainted from Sovereign livery, 3809 is in Stevenage Bus Station on route 3, June 2006.