Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,
This page created 8th May 2024.

Arriva Southern Counties Solos

It is complicated. With Arriva it has to be. During the period covered here Arriva underwent several major paroxysms in managenment structure, and numerous smaller ones. The old London Transport Country Area by this time comprised Arriva Kent Thameside at Northfleet (and Dartford before that went off to Arriva London), Arriva Kent & Sussex (remaining routes from Tunbridge Wells), New Enterprise at Tonbridge and Arriva Guildford & West Surrey. Arriva Kent Thameside was greatly enlarged to encompass Grays, Southend Colchester and Harlow. The Essex operations briefly transferred to Tellings-Golden Miller. The breakup of Arriva the Shires brought the Hertfordshire garages uder AKT control. So there were various renumberings and re-allocations of vehicles between area as well as garages. Guildford eventually gave up the ghost. If I've got this wrong I apologise: it has been difficult to keep up to date! The tory Home Counties were difficult operating territory when the owning company (Deutches Bahn) required a high rate of return. If it doesn't pay enough, cut the services and restructure the management!

A narrow-gauge Solo from Kent: 1500

YJ59GFG was a slim 7.8m Solo belonging to Kent County Council. It had first been operated from new in September 2009 by Kent Coach Tours of Ashford, but had been transferred by Kent to Go-Coachhire of Otford in April 2011 This was to operate small-bus routes around Tunbridge Wells and Hildenborough, the 200, 280, 283 and a linking journey on the 402. In August 2014 The Arriva low-cost unit of New Enterprise at Tonbridge had won the retender for routes 235, 280, and 283, and the Solo moved to Tonbridge.

There it acquired fleet number 1500, and Arriva interurban blue,blue,white horn livery.

  • 235 M-F peaks Penshurst - Hildenborough
  • 280 M-S Tunbridge Wells Sainsbury's - Molyneux Park
  • 283 M-S Tunbridge Wells Sainsbury's - Ravenswood Avenue

At the April 2017 retendering these routes returned to Go-Coach, so Kent transferred the little bus back to Go-Coachhire. There it regained yellow and purple livery and acquired number 2801.

Tunbridge Wells gets three SRs: 1501-1503

In October 2008 three SR-type Solos, 9.6m long and seating 32, arrived at Tunbridge Wells for the 277 (Sherwood - Tunbridge Wells Station/Sainsbury's/Hospital. They were prominenently route-branded on their standard Arriva turquoise/cream livery, with large red blobby 277 on each side, Sherwood shuttle in white, and white-lettered cant-rail boards. They also had small open shields ahead of the doorway with the names of valued local residents.
1502 was chosen to represent Arriva Southern Conties at Shobus in September 2009.

They continued to work the Sherwood service. At least 1501 and 1503 received the interurban livery upgrade, and lost the route branding and other embellishments at that time.

Tunbridge Wells garage closed at the end of 2017, and I think these three moved to Tonbridge. All three received the new pale blue standard livery, with white and blue curls.

Three more Solos from Kent, for Northfleet: 1504-1506

Arriva Kent Thameside at Northfleet received 1504-1506 in July 2009, for use on route 414 (Dartford - Horton Kirby). They were slim 8.9m 28-seaters, painted in Arriva standard turquoise with cream scoop, but featured countryside scenes on their rears. They also received names of local people. On the sides they were labelled prominently : "take the bus and help make Dartford evem vleaner and greener". On the black cantrail , behind the arriva url was "another environmentally friendly fully accessible bus".

At some stage they were repainted in Arriva interuban livery of blue/dark blue with a cream horn, minus all the lettering. They served on the 414 until September 2019, when they were returned to Kent. The Council advertised them, and Go-Coach of Otford took them.

Transfer from Arriva the Shires to Southern Counties: 1507-1516

In August/September 2010 Guildford acquired two Solos from Arriva the Shires to replace Varios.

1507 was a 2007 8.8m Solo from Hemel Hempstead. It was still in old Arriva turquoise/cream scoop livery, although Guildford did not take long to get it repainted into interurban blue/blue/white horn. Guildford put it to work on the 437 and 562.

1508, a month later, had already been repainted. It was older - a 2003 9.2m 31-seater from Milton Keynes. These two, 1507 and 1508, had relatively long careers with Arriva Southern Counties, moving north of the river with Arriva Kent Thameside in spring 2016, 1508 to Hemel Hempstead and 1507 to Harlow. 1508 dithered about, going variously to Guildford again, Tunbridge Wells and Harlow and Hemel Hempstead before private sale in 2018.

It was not until June 2011 that another eight came south. 1509-1516 were all 1999/2000 8.5m 31-seaters from Milton Keynes, repainted into interurban blue/blue before transfer to Guildford.

1513 and 1516 were from the same batch, but came south to Tunbridge Wells to supplement their SRs, which were underperforming.

Similar 1514 and 1515 came south to Sheerness, where they worked in Sittingbourne for a while before moving to Guildford.

These later transfers to ASC took some time to reach an acceptable state for service with Southern Counties, and did did not last long, most being withdrawn and/or being scrapped during 2012 and 2013.

Long Solos for Gillingham 1517, 1518

Garston had some 9.5m Solos for its Watford "country" services. In May 2012 two came south to Arriva Medway Towns at Gillingham for use on the 112/114 Capstone Flyer. They were numbered 1517 and 1518. In Arriva interuban livery, they were prominently branded for "the Capstone flyer", with a logo of a flying bus and a promotion: "your quick bus link to Chatham".
  • 113, 114 Wigmore - Parkwood - Hempstead Valley - Chatham

In August 2015 they lost their branding and moved north with Arriva Kent Thameside to Harlow. 1518 was sold in October 2018, but 2017 soldiered on in the Epping, Harlow and Bishops Stortford area.

At the same time that Garston's 9.5m buses moved south (May 2012), another elderly 9.2m bus, 1519 transferred from Milton Keynes to join the geriatrics at Guildford. It too lasted less than a year.

Arriva Southern Counties takes over Harlow, then Hertfordshire

Network Harlow had been managed by T-GM, but from early 2014 renumbered its Solos from the 24** series to 14**, in line with Southern Counties practice. In March 2015 the new enlarged Arriva Kent Thameside took conrol at Harlow. In January 2016 Arriva the Shires was dismantled: Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage and Ware became part of Arriva Kent Thameside. The detailed history of Solos in this widened part of Southern Counties is dealt with on the Arriva the Shires pages, so I will not repeat it here. Suffice it to say that some Solos clung on, finding new work in the Bishops Stortford and Stanstead Airport direction that took some on into the Covid era and the 2020s.

By 2020 only two of the 15** survived: 1507 and 1517, both at Harlow, while there were still eight of the 14** series (from Arriva the Shires) remaining in Hertfordshire under AKT.

Tunbridge Wells garage closes, and is replaced

The Tunbridge Wells (TW) allocation was moved to Tonebridge (NE) in October 2017, the NE allocation being outstationed to Beltring Hop Farm. In January 2018 a new garage was opened in Tunbridge Wells and its buses returned from Tonbridge. NE also returned from Beltring Hop Farm to its home in Tonbridge, until July 2018 when NE closed. These changes did not immediately affect any Solos.

Solos to the rescue. Tunbridge Wells gets an influx of Solos

Arriva's fixation with diminutive Sprinters was unpopular to say the least. They were inadequate not just for peak loadings - especially for schools - but were used on unsuitable routes at other times. They did not do Arriva's reputation anygood at all. In Sevenoaks other buses had to be drafted in to cope, including Solos.

Tunbridge Wells received a variety of Solos from all over the Arriva Empire, repaired where necessary and refurbished into the new Arriva livery of pale blue with a blue/white curl. Numbers 1518 and 1519 were re-used:
1518 (an 8.8m slimline) came from Derby and was repainted at Northfleet into Maidstone & District green/cream before appearing at the Detling show.
1519 (a 8.9m SR) also came from Derby, and after a brief spell at TW went off to help out at Harlow.
1520 (also a 8.9m SR) had been working at various Medway Towns garages and went to TW before moving north to Ware.
1522 (a 9.5m slimline) came to TW from Arriva Midlands via Wycombe.
1523 (also a 9.5m slimline) came south from Ware, to where it later returned.
1524 (9.5m) came south from Blyth in Northumberland.
1525 (a slim 8.6m) came from Arriva Cymru.
1526 (9.5m) also came south from Blyth.

The incoming Solos at Tunbridge Wells displaced the inadequate Sprinters from the 211 and 218, some 402s and Sevenoaks local services.

Photo references

3901 YJ11 EKA 2/19 TLB655 p38 OT on 8 to Sevenoaks Bus Stn, green/green

Ian's Bus Stop Solo Index. ASC Solos. ASC Solo histories. Solo photos.