Metrobus Leyland Olympians

This page created 28th August 2003 by Ian Smith

The Pride of the Fleet

Metrobus 395 at Cobham, April 1998 Metrobus was very proud of its first Olympian. It was their first new bus, double-deckers until then being secondhand DMS Fleetlines. It was also the first new double-decker bought by a London independent bus company since the early 1930s, and ECW's first Olympian for a private company. C395 DML was a standard ECW-bodied Leyland Olympian, 13ft 8in high, with 77 seats and a single dooway. Painted in Metrobus' blue and yellow livery, it entered service on the first day of C reistrations, 1st August 1985. Operating from the company's base in Green Street Green (MB), it was used mainly on the 357 route between Orpington and Croydon. It also made forays to the south coast on the Coastlink services, and was available for private hire.
395 remained something of a company pet, although after nearly fifteen years at Orpington it was transferred out to the Godstone base in July 2000. It moved on out to Crawley in May 2001, after Metrobus took over the Crawley operations from Arriva, and was renumbered as 895 to make way in the 300 series for more SLF Darts. It was nudged in the behind by a runaway Dart at Crawley in March 2003, but was repaired and returned to duty. It has since entered preservation, and may occasionally be seen operating at Running Days.

Secondhand Olympians from West Riding

In June 1987 the company bought two secondhand standard ECW - bodied buses from West Riding. These replaced the low-height Northern-Counties Fleetlines that were in use on the 353 and 357 routes to Croydon. Almost identical to 395, although older, they remained in service alongside the pride of the fleet until December 1995, when they were both sold to the Isle of Man Department of Tourism and Transport.

Secondhand Olympians from West Yorkshire

Roe Olympian drawing Metrobus went looking in the secondhand market in mid-1987, to reduce the average age of its fleet. West Yorkshire PTE supplied its needs, (via Ensign as dealer) with eleven 14ft 2in high Roe-bodied Leyland Olympians dating from 1982-3. These could either be used to replace the DMS Fleetlines on the 61, or on the 261 if they won that contract.

They did win the contract for route 261 (part of the old 94 route from Lewisham as far as Bromley Common), on the basis of second-hand single-doorway double-deckers. Metrobus repainted them into blue and yellow, and set them to work on the 261 from November 1987. Inside they sported some still appropriate MetroBus notices from the West Yorkshire Metro network!

They were refurbished in 1991-2, receiving new blind displays and improved seating.

The 261 was retained by Metrobus on retender in late 1996, on the basis of new buses. The secondhand Olympians, by now the oldest double-deckers in the fleet, were sold for a third career with United in County Durham, with some moving on to Northumberland.

Rolling Replacement: a trickle of new Olympians

Roe Olympian drawing In 1989 Metrobus began a programme of bus replacement that would last several years. Not for Metrobus a large splurge on new buses followed by cash-flow problems. The new buses were all-Leyland Olympians, 802-13 with 13ft 8in high bodies, 814-6 with 14ft 2in higher bodies. The first two arrived in May 1989, and went onto the 353/357. Two more followed in February 1990, this time for the 61, replacing DMS buses. In April/May two more arrived, but 807 was held back in store and not placed into service until 1st August, with a H-plate. The 1991 contingent, 808-811, arrived in February/March, for the 353, 357 and 61. These too worked on the summer services to the south coast. Two more, 812-3, arrived in January 1992 to complete the renewal of the 61 allocation. The last three were bought from Volvo's dealer stocks in July 1992, and had to be painted out of their original white before service.

The 61 route was lost to Centrewest in December 1995, much to everyone's surprise, but the Olympians found a temporary home on the 161, won by Metrobus from Kentish Bus.

Metrobus 802 near Grove Park, November 1997 Newer buses on tighter contracts eventually displaced them from London duties, but Metrobus was by now operating all the way to the south coast - and not just on excursions! They had acquired East Surrey, with a base at South Godstone, and were also operating from Lewes. So the Leyland Olympians went south, to the Country Area. The Metrobus takeover in Crawley in the spring of 2002 caused a further shakeup, with double-deckers required there for the heavy town traffic. Further changes came in July 2003, when Lewes depot closed. The Olympians gathered there were redistributed, and immediately found themselves on ten day's rail replacement work, operating from Godstone, Crawley and Orpington. After that these older Olympians mostly found new homes, six going to Happy Al's in Birkenhead. Withdrawal for most of the remainder came in autumn 2005, when newer buses caused a cascade down the pecking order.

Lowheight all-Leyland Olympian 802 was on duty on London Transport route 261 on Friday 28th November 1997. Conditions near Grove Park, not long after dawn, and after rain, were fairly awful, and photographic logic said I couldn't take the picture of a moving bus but here is the snap-shot anyway.
806 has been preserved in Metrobus livery, and may be seen operating at Running Days. Metrobus 806 at East Grinstead Running Day, April 2012 Metrobus 806 at East Grinstead Running Day, April 2012
Preserved 806 on duty in East Grinstead on the 424, during the 2012 East Grinstead Running Day.

Northumbrian Refugee from Kentish Bus

B248 NVN was a well-travelled bus. New in March 1985 to Northumbria, an ECW-bodied single-door bus, it came south to Kentish Bus in December 1990. Metrobus bought it in August 1998, numbering it 348. For a long time it wore an overall advert for Mercury Radio, eventually being repainted to Metrobus livery in mid-2000. It too settled down as part of the Country fleet, at South Godstone and Crawley, being renumbered 898 into the non-lowfloor doubledecker sequence in August 2001.

Odds and Ends

From time to time Metrobus had Olympians for short periods to cover for late-delivery of new buses for new contracts. City of Oxford loaned an ECW-bodied 2-door bus for a month in the spring of 2001, and two more were bought from the same source in August 2002, disappearing again by November.

The Coach

From 1991 to 1995 Metrobus also had a long wheelbase coach Olympian for private hire or 705 duties. This is included in the LRC page.

Bus Stop index Ensignbus histories photo refs London Buslines