The LONDON COUNTRY Reliances: RPThis page created 11th May 2001, updated 30th July 2016 by Ian Smith. Best on 800*600.
London Country did not let their rather awful experience with the RC class Reliances put it off from buying their own larger class of Reliances just a few years later. They wanted to upgrade the GreenLine image. By 1971 the Routemaster coaches were no longer seen as modern image types for a premium service, and were to be replaced. (They were not capable of one person operation either, which may have affected the management perception of the image!)
The combination chosen was the AEC Reliance 6U2R under-floor engined chassis,
with 11.3 litre engine, coupled
with Park Royal bus bodywork with coach seating. The result was a purposeful-looking
dual-purpose vehicle, that looked superb in Green Line livery of Lincoln green with a lime waist-band.
Preserved RP90 shows its original livery while shifting crowds at Cobham Open Day in April 1999, and in a quieter moment at the end of the day at Kingscote Station during the East Grinstead Running Day in April 2000. Photos by Ian Smith. Click on them for larger versions.
Into serviceFirst recipient of the new coaches was the high-profile 727 Airports route, where RCs had been tried, followed by modernised RFs. The higher speed of the Reliances was a key point in this introduction, in December 1971.
1st January 1972 was the day chosen for start of the Routemaster displacement. The first route to swap its fourteen RCLs for RPs was the 721 (Brentwood - Aldgate) operated by Romford. (The companion 723 route (Grays) received RC coaches the same day).
In March Addlestone and Stevenage lost their RMCs, receiving RPs for the 716/A (Chertsey/Woking - London - Hitchin/Stevenage).
Later in March the 704 and 705 were converted, losing their RCLs from Dunton Green and Windsor, giving the 705 a second taste of Reliance operation.
The programme was completed in April with the replacement by RPs of the RMCs from Guildford and Hertford on the 715 (Guildford - London - Hertford).
April saw a shuffle, with some of the RP1-30 batch with luggage boots being swapped around the garages to provide Private Hire opportunities with these coaches.
RP90 on the 715 route near Cobham during RT60
Three suffered the indignity of overall advertising - a long way from the primary purpose of bus liveries, to advertise the service and create a strong bus product image. The worst was RP46, in a garish pink, white and orange livery for Wimpy (a burger chain). Less ostentatious were RP7 for Champion Plugs and RP87 for Airfix kits. What the select Greenline clientele on the 705 thought about riding to work on a burger-bus is not recorded.
Dual purposeUnfortunately the management gurus of the early seventies were into "corporate image" rather than "product branding". So the Green Line livery had to go, replaced by the anodyne NBC leaf green and white. The RPs, as semi-fast coaches, were permitted to wear the dual purpose version of the livery - half NBC green and half National white - with Green Line fleetnames. It was not an improvement. The NBC green and the white soon lost their sparkle and showed the dirt. A later variant saw the waist-band, and wind-screen surround become white too, giving an all-white top half.
Preserved RP21, repainted in dual purpose green & white, was active at the 2005 East Grinstead Running Day. It is seen off the 424 at East Grinstead, on the 485 at Hosey Common, and returning through WesterhamAs Green Line services suffered during the seventies from increased competition from trains and cars the coaches performed a thorough mix of tasks: continuing the remaining Green Line services, starting new ones to meet new needs, particularly for niche commuter services, and taking a share of bus work. In later years they were associated with the network of "local" GreenLine services operating from Harlow.
The upgrading of Green Line services using RB and RS coaches saw many of the RPs relegated to bus work.
Some of them wore the NBC bus livery, of leaf green with a white waist-band, which at least preserved the proportions of the design better than the dual purpose livery. A few suffered the indignity of losing the white altogether. In overall NBC green they looked drab.
1978 saw a programme of overhauls at Crawley Works, which saw some recertificated.
PreservationAt least two have made it into preservation, and can be seen at events:
RP90 is a frequent attender at London area events, and works hard. It has been beautifully restored to a deeply lustrous GreenLine livery. It is part of the collection of The London Bus Museum at Brooklands.
RP21 was also restored to Green Line livery for its second life with London Country, initially the dark green with pale green band. Later in preservation it acquired NBC green and white. It was bought from preservation by The London Bus Company to operate the 381 between Epping Station, Coopersale and North Weald.
RP90 rests at Stoke d'Abernon station in June 1999, between turns on the shuttle to Cobham Museum during RT60, and RP21 is seen earlier in the year at Cobham.