The London Country Greenways
This page created 16th February 2000, updated 3rd June 2002.
by Ian Smith
For those of you who only want red buses,
click here for the London Buses GLS class.
For those of you with broader tastes, or a keener sense of history, read on,
for the Greenway story began with London & Country.
In 1992 London & Country began a co-operative venture with coach-builders East Lancs in Blackburn.
Presumably L&C had been impressed by the companies bodywork on the Dennis Dominators and Volvo CB10Ms
that it had acquired. Anyway, the idea was to give some of the Leyland Nationals,
of which L&C still had quite a few, a mid-life rebuild.
Arriva Tees 3509 was originally SNB484. It was converted for Kentish Bus in June 1992,
and wore primrose and maroon livery for use on Bromley tendered route 227.
It has the early flat windscreens, peaked front, low radiator grille and "normal" bumpers at the front,
and an integral destination display panel at the rear.
After the loss of the 227 it moved with most of its SIBlings to Teesside,
being one of the first buses in the country to appear inthe now-ubiquitous Arriva livery.
The chassis and basic framing were retained, but the underfloor engine went,
replaced by a vertically mounted "green" Gardner engine at the rear.
(It was "green" compared with the Leyland engines
which had prodigious fuel consumptions - and scary engine consumptions!
However, the Gardner engine was no longer available for new buses
as it was non-compliant with new Euro-regulations.
The rebuilds were a way of continuing with the familiar
and trusted engine when new designs couldn't!)
Photos by Ian Smith, taken in January 2000 in Stockton. Click for larger versions.
The engineering work was carried out by L&C at Reigate,
then the buses were sent to Blackburn for the replacement bodywork (I think).
Early production examples were considered a bit angular,
with flat windscreens and normal bumpers at the front.
Subsequent examples had curved screens,
and a bulbous front bumper which always looked like the chin of Desperate Dan.
The back end was completely unrecognisable, with a very high window.
Some had the rear route number box under the window,
some had an internal box inside the window.
There were long ones and short ones,
some based on early Nationals, others on late National 2s.
For the most part, bus companies put a Leyland National into the system,
and received a Greenway out.
London Buses and Kentish Bus did receive mostly their own buses back again,
but the various British Bus companies that subscribed ended up with a mixture
- but whether the ownership changes occurred before they went into the process,
or whether it worked in a co-operative way I don't know.
This was all disguised somewhat by the then-current fashion of using Irish registrations to disguise the age of buses and coaches.
All the London & Country and Kentish Bus examples were reregistered in this way,
shortly after conversion,
and renumbered into continuous number series.
The short London & Country examples appeared in the attractive two greens and red livery.
Some went to work on a tendered route in London: the P4.
Subsequently this batch was rebranded under the Londonlinks label,
still two-tone green and red.
Some passed on to Kentish Bus,
reappearing in primrose and maroon livery for the famous 227 route.
There they joined 11 that had been bought by Kentish Bus directly.
Kentish Bus won an award for friendliest London route while they worked there
(based at Dunton Green (RIP)).
Some appeared in the bright green and dull yellow that Kentish Bus adopted for its out of town operations.
Then things went pear-shaped, when the 227 was traded in,
and the Kentish Buses mostly disappeared.
They re-emerged in the new corporate turquoise and champagne of Arriva,
but mostly exiled to Teesside, where they took over from a dreadful collection of elderly Nationals
on services of United, TMS and Tees.
Others went to Midland Fox, another satisfied early customer that already operated the type,
and to Maidstone & District's Mercury operation.
Another batch of London & Country Greenways, the NIW set, all "foreigners",
were transfered to Colchester from London & Country in November 1996.
Many of London & Country's examples were 11.3m long National conversions.
Some went into the green/yellow/white GreenLine livery,
which suited them well.
This unidentified example woke me up in Hove one morning in August 1998.
Crosville Wales was another member of the group that took a significant number.
But after just about a year the whole batch went to The Shires,
where they received blue/yellow/stone livery and were branded Chilternrover
for service around High Wycombe, including the old 363 route to Penn Green.
Also on the northern fringes of the old London Country Area, Hatfield based Universitybus
had LS261 converted as a Greenway, and operates it on its Watford-Hatfield network. It sports white livery, with a black "chin"
and curved windscreens.
1999 was not a good year for the Country Greenways.
They now look and sound their age compared with the lowfloor boxes
that are available now, and they have quietly dropped off the stage,
with some finding a temporary niche in the training department.
They have had their second season.
ZDT343 became a trainer for London & Country, and has since passed around Arriva companies in southern England as required.
Here it is seen with Arriva Kent & Sussex at Hawkhurst in July 2000.
Through 2000 a large handful hung on in service at Merstham.
They sported Arriva national turquoise and champagne livery,
and worked north to Croydon on the 405
as well as turns on the 411. Early 2001 saw the end at Merstham,
and the remaining Greenways were dispersed as trainers to various parts of the Arriva Southern Counties system.
Keep an eye open for them, in white/grey training livery, or Arriva turquoise/champagne,
or even green/green/red. They are still eye-catching beasts.
Meanwhile, in town....
Ian's Bus Stop