Arriva the Shires MAN/MCV busesIn early 2013 Arriva the Shires increased the engineering variety within its already eclectic fleet by starting to acquire MAN eVolutions for use on its route 1 between High Wycombe and Chesham Park Pond, which it shared with Carousel Buses in a deal brokered by the local council to avoid wasteful competition and provide a decent co-operative service (I thought that was illegal, but still..).
Most were 10.8m MAN 14.220s with MCV eVolution bodies, and had been used by Tellings-Golden Miller on Gatwick Hotel work. Some had previous bus experience, either from new with Flights Hallmark's Surrey Connect operations on the 513 and 540, or latterly with T-GM on the Stansted 308, or temporarily with Arriva Southern Counties in Tunbridge Wells:
Pre-history3741, the oldest, started as a MCV demonstrator in 2006, spending time with First in Wales and Devon & Cornwall. It then went to Rotala's Central Connect in the West Midlands before moving on to Gatwick for hotel work. This was either with Rotala or TGM, or probably one then the other. It went to store with Arriva Southern Counties at Gillingham before its move to Wycombe.
3742 was new in August 2006 to Flights Hallmark, who operated a number of hotel services around Gatwick as well as bus services under contract to Surrey County Council: school services and some bus routes such as the 236 (East Grinstead - Westerham), and now the 540 (Woldingham - Caterham - Redhill - East Surrey Hospital). Livery for the new MAN was red with blue skirt and cant-rail branding for route 540. The trading name was Surrey Connect. It retained its livery, Surrey Connect name and 540 route branding when it was taken over by Tellings-Golden Miller in 2008, and stayed on the route until the contract was lost to Metrobus in September 2011. It was then moved to TGM Group's operation at Stansted, for use on the 308 (Stansted Airport - Bishops Stortford) where, initially at least, it operated in 540 red/blue, numbered 560. Sometime in 2012 TGM moved it to Gatwick for its hotel-airport shuttles. It was downseated to make more luggage space, and painted white with blue skirt and rear uplift, with hotel by bus fleetmames. Before long it moved to Arriva Southern Counties as 3602 at Tunbridge Wells for bus work, still in white and blue but without the hotelbybus fleetnames, for a month or two before its repaint to Arriva livery and move to Wycombe.
3743 also originated with Flights Hallmark, this time with Surrey Connect out of New Haw. New in October 2006, it too was painted red with blue skirt with Surrey Connect fleetmames, but without branding. It went to work on route 513 between Kingston and Downside. But in April 2007 it went on loan to Wessex Connect, and thereafter moved on to Central Connect in the West Midlands in their white livery with blue skirt. At some stage Rotala brought it back to Gatwick for hotel work, where it operated with blue front and black rear with Southern Connect names. I suspect that these operations were taken over by T-GM at some stage, so that it was available for the move to Arriva at Wycombe.
3744 was another Flights Hallmark bus, which appeared in silver livery with Surrey Connect by mid 2009. Then it was seen operating the 236 to Westerham instead of hotel work. The hotel round continued: Connectbuses Southern for the service H5 to Copthorne Hotels, in blue/white/black; Gatwick Travelodge on the H3 in two shades of blue. Sometime it came into the T-GM fold.
3745 likewise was new to Flights Hallmark, and by 2011 was at Gatwick on hotel duties in blue/white/black for Connectbuses Southern. A repaint (change of owner?) took it into white/blue for Gatwick hotel by bus.
Route one at High WycombeThe first five, 3741 - 3745, were repainted in Arriva interurban blue/blue with prominent blue one branding and went to work on route 1 during 2013. They did stray, of course, appearing on other routes: long-distance trips to Reading on the 800/850, the 74 to Slough, the 48 to Great Missenden and local services 31,32,33 - but mainly their intended route 1.
Two shorter buses: 3746 and 3747At the end of 2013 two more MAN/MCVs were acquired by Arriva the Shires, 3746 and 3747. These were shorter (10.2m) than the first five, with a rather different history. They had been new in October 2006 to Excel at Stansted, for use on the 308 between Bishops Stortford and the Airport. They were two of three acquired at this time. They wore pale grey with green, with green route branding on the cant-rail, sponsored by BA Stansted. They were numbered 561 and 562 in 2010, and were taken over by T-GM withe Excel business that year. TGM at Stansted disposed of their MANs in the last quarter of 2013, although 561 remained awaiting collection by Arriva the Shire, which was by May 2014. 3746 and 3747 lost their large luggage racks and gained Arriva interurban blue/blue, but without route branding. They went into service on Wycombe's local routes, with occasional forays on route 1.
Events3742 was destroyed by fire while on route 1 in July 2016. The other six survived the break-up of Arriva the Shires, when the red fleet was conveyed to Arriva London, much of the "green" fleet went to Arriva Kent Thameside and the remainder, including these, whilst still called Arriva the Shires, went into the control of Arriva Midlands.
TrainersTowards the end of 2017 five of them (3741, 3743-5 and shorter 3747) were converted to trainers, repainted in an eye-catching livery of magenta, gold, white and blue and renumbered 9554-9558. The short one was allocated to Arriva Midlands. The remaining short one, 3746, remained in service as before, being renumbered in December 2018 as 3646, to fit with Arriva Midlands numbering.