Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created 12th December 2023.

MK Metro

This page was intended to be about Arriva the Shires and Essex. But Arriva bought the adjoining fleet of MK Metro in Milton Keynes, whose large fleet of Optare Solos became numbered into the semi-chaotic Arriva the Shires fleet list. So despite Milton Keynes being outwith the old London Transport area the MK Metro fleet inevitably became researched along with the Arriva fleet on the periphery of the old Country Area. Later, Arriva, in its succession of management convulsions, amalgamated the MK Metro and Arriva the Shires fleets before dividing them up between Arriva Southern Counties (Arriva Kent Thameside!) and Arriva Midlands (not to mention Tellings Golden Miller). All very confusing. But here goes: MK Metro first.

1999: MK Metro's first Solos.

MK Metro had a rag-bag collection of small midibuses to operate its somewhat sprawling mixture of local services operating across town between Wolverton, Bletchley, Westcroft, Stony Stratford, Newport Pagnell, Kingston Walnut Tree and Broughton, plus rural trunk routes to Bedford and Northampton.

In January 1999 it bought four 9.2m 35-seater Solos (1-4). They wore a livery of orange with a blue skirt, with the front picked out in yellow. They had super-side adverts for Midsummer Place, a large fashionand beauty emporium in Milton Keynes centre.

Corgi model of MKSolo Corgi model of MKSolo

The Corgi model of a MK Solo in orange/blue, yellow front and Midsummer Place adverts is a nice model. Unfortunately it shows the slightly shorter 8.5m model instead of the correct 9.2m version.

Six more Solos (5-10) followed in March 1999. These were the shorter 8.5m 31-seaters. They introduced the standard livery for Solos: yellow with a blue skirt. An additional 9.2m 33-seater (11) was acquired at the same time. This had been an Optare demonstrator and had been on a promotional trip to Nice in France.

Two more 8.5m 31-seaters (12,13) arrived in October 1999, then 14,15 and 16 in March 2000. September 2000 saw three more new longer 36-seaters (17, 18, 19). 20 was second-hand from Walsh, Middleton: another 9.2m bus

During 2000/2001 MK Metro bought second-hand Varios, so it was not until June 2002 that another two new Solos (21, 22), arrived, both 9.2m models. 23 was another second-hand purchase, from Henderson in Hamilton. There was a trickle of new Solos, as gaps were filled as older midibuses expired. 24, in October 2003, was a 9.2m B33F bus. 25, an even longer 9.5m model (bigger engine?), still seating 33, came in March 2004. 26 and 27 were even longer at 10.2m, 37 seaters, arriving new in March 2005. They were followed in April 2005 by four 8.5m secondhand acquisitions, two from Weaverway in Newbury, and two from Liyell of Wednesfield. These became 28-31. The two from Weaverway were promptly repainted into overall purple, for the trunk route 8 to Bletchley, the other two gpoing yellow with blue skirts. The last two bought by MK Metro were 32 and 33, both 10.2m 37-seaters.

Arriva

In February 2006, the business was purchased by Arriva. The MK Metro Solos were gradually renumbered into the chaotic Arriva the Shires fleet numbering "system", taking vacant slots in the 24** series. They mainly retained their distinctive yellow with dark blue skirts, although several more received overall purple with route 8 branding. At repaintssome received the national Arriva livery of turquoise with a full cream scoop, whilst others began to receive the Arriva interurban livery of blue,blue and a cream horn.

New buses to Milton Keynes

The Milton Keynes fleet still needed renewing, and in November 2008 ten new 9.5m buses arrived (2498-2507). These were victims of Arriva's fad of route branding (rarely adhered to). Buses were painted leaf green and branded for route 7 or sky blue, branded for route 1 or route 2. 2508 arrived in December, but was borrowed by Garston, which was always having bus shortages. Two more slim-line Solos (2509-2510) arrived for Milton Keynes in June 2009. These were properly dressed in interurban livery.

Arriva the Shires takes over MK Metro fully

April 2010, Arriva fleet names replaced MK Metro, and repaints were all into either old Arriva livery or interurban blues - with or without cream horn. There were desultory transfers between Milton Keynes and the other Arriva the Shires depots.

Dispersal

In spring 2011 Milton Keynes did badly in the route renewal stakes, losing a lot of work. As a result ten of the older Solos were transferred south of the Thames, some to Arriva Kent and Surrey, some to Guildford and West Surrey and some to Arriva Medway Towns. They were not particularly well received, and most spent some time in recovery before venturing into service. They found the North Downs and the Weald difficult with their small engines. Likewise those older Solos transferred to Hemel Hempstead suffered with the Chiltern hills. Others went to Ware and trundled about the Lea Valley. Those slightly younger Solos remaining at Milton Keynes carried on, or gradually faded away. Some persisted to undergo the breakup of Arriva the Shires, going to Arriva Midlands or Arriva Kent Thameside (!). A few were sold for further service elsewhere, while others had a date with the scrapman.


Aylesbury

Meanwhile, back in April 2001 Arriva entered into a partnership with Buckinghamshire County Council to run a network of services in the county. Five 8.5m 23-seater Solos were bought by the county, four operated by Arriva from Aylesbury. They received an orange/blue Easyrider livery, and were numbered 0446-0449. At the same time the other, 0442 was bought to operate from Wycombe.

  • 130 Th: Buckingham - Akeley - Dadford - Westbury - Brackley - Banbury
  • 131 M-F pks: Buckingham - Westbury - Brackley
  • 132 T,Th,F: Buckingham - Gawcott - Tingewick - Westbury - Brackley (- Banbury (Th)
  • 133 F: Water Stratford - Chetwode - Gawcott - Buckingham (- Brackley (pm)
  • 152 M: Stewkley - Soulbury - Stoke Hammond - Bletchley - Milton Keynes
  • 153 W: Great Horwood - Mursley - Stewkley - Coblington - Weedon - Aylesbury
  • 154 F: Newton Longville - Soulbury - Stewkley - Coblington - Weedon - Aylesbury
  • 159 S: Leighton Buzzard - Wing - Stuwkley - Soulbury - Leighton Buzzard
  • 160
  • 162 T,S: Ivinghoe- Marsworth - Wilstone - Cheddington - Mentmore - Leighton Buzzard
  • 164
  • 165
  • 171 T,S: Leighton Buzzard -Northall - Edlesborough - Dagnall - Gt Gaddesden - Hemel Hempstead
  • 172 W: Cheddington - Slapton - Eddlesborough - Dagnall - Dunstable
  • 174 SDO: Dagnall - Eddlesborough School
  • 175 Th: Leighton Buzzard - Northall - Eddlesborough - Dagnall - Gt Gaddesden - Hemel Hempstead
  • 176 M: Ivinghoe - Marsworth - Wilstone - Cheddington - Slapton - Eddlesborough - Stanbridge - Hockcliffe - Milton Keynes
  • 180 M-F pk: Hazlemere - Penn - Beaconsfield
  • 181 M-S: Beaconsfield - Uxbridge
  • 182 S: Denham - Slough - Windsor

They were all repainted green with County Rider branding in the autumn of 2003.

Problems with Optare Aleros at Aylesbury led to the temporary hire of Optare's Solo slim-line 8.5m bus YN04LXD during April 2004

The County Rider network was reassigned to other operators in July 2006. Three Solos, 0442, 0446 and 0447 were reassigned to Aylesbury route 4 and repainted green with Buckinghamshire logos on the rear corners. 0442 was transferred to Aylesbury, and soon acquired a distinctive grey skirt for some reason. The other two were sent away to be repainted silver to operate the Silver Rider service in Aylesbury, replacing the unreliable Optare Aleros.

  • Green Route 4: The Coppice - Southcourt/Hartwell Estate circular
  • Silver Rider (M-S): Aylesbury Bus & Rail - Fairford Leys


Arriva East Herts & Essex

The first two Solos for EH&E (2457-58) arrived in July 2004, for route 5 at Harlow. These were the slightly longer 8.8m 29-seaters with a larger engine.

8.8m Solo 2457 on the 6 at Harlow Bus Station, April 2011 8.8m Solo on the 6 at Harlow Bus Station, April 2011

Solo 2457 on the 6 to Potter Street entering Harlow Bus Station, April 2011, still in original Arriva national livery.
Solo 2458 on the 8, Old Harlow Circular, in Harlow Bus Station, April 2011, also in original Arriva national livery.

Two longer Solos, 2459-60, arrived in January 2005 for the Harlow-Chelmsford route 59, based at Harlow.

Ware was the recipient on two 8.8m 29-seaters in September 2005 (2461-62), which went into service on route 6 at Welwyn Garden City. In January 2006 they became part of Ware's pool of Solos when they were joined by 2463 and 2464 (9.5m), being then used on Hertford H1, H2, H3 and H4 plus 308 and 380 from Hertford as well as Welwyn. A longer, 9.5m Solo, 2465, went to Ware for use on route 46.

Solo 2461 on the 395 at Hertford Bus Station, September 2009 Solo 2461 on the 395 at Hertford Bus Station, September 2009

Solo 2461 on the 395 at Hertford Bus Station, September 2009.
  • 46 (M-S) Harlow - Ongar - Chelmsford.
  • H1,H2,H3,H4: Hertford local routes
  • 308 (M-S): Hertford - Hertingfordbury - Letty Green - Little Berkhamsted - Cuffley
  • 380 (MWF): Hertford - Bayford - Little Berkhamsted - Cuffley

Solos 2453-2456 arrived at Harlow in April and May 2006. These 9.5m buses were for the longer routes from Harlow, to Epping, Ongar, Loughton, Debden, Upshire...

long Solo on the 251 at Loughton Station, February 2012

Long Solo 2453 on the 251 at Loughton Station, February 2012, still in original Arriva national livery.

Solos 2467 and 2468 pass at Epping Station

2467 and 2468 pass at Epping Station, 2467 on the 203 to Harlow Bus Station, and 2468 on the 201 to Ongar Two Brewers, paerts of the old London Transport 339 route.


Arriva the Shires, Garston

From June 2006 Arriva the Shires took over three midibus routes in the Golders Green area, taking over H1,H2 and H3 from Metroline, who had used Solos from Perivale (PV). Garston needed new Solos for this, in the shape of five short (7.8m) slim-line 21-seaters, numbered 2468-2472, painted in TfL red.

Although intended just for the Golders Green letter-routes they also appeared on the 268, which was intended for the unreliable Cadets, and on the Harrow circular H18/H19 (a mixed allocation).

  • H1 SDO: Golders Green - Henrietta Barnett School
  • H2 : Golders Green - Hampstead Garden Suburb circular
  • H3 M-S: Golders Green - East Finchley circular
  • 268: Golders Green - Finchley Road
  • H18/19: Harrow - Harrow Weald circular

The H1 was later rerouted, still serving the school and Golders Green in both directions in peak hours, but now by a different routing. It was renumbered in th TfL schools series as 631.


Epping rural

Route 381 (Harlow - Epping - Toothill) was taken over by Arriva the Shires and Essex in August 2006, but the two Solos bought for it did not arrive at Harlow until November 2006. In the way of things the two 8.8m slim-line Solos (slimline for the Essex lanes beyond Epping Station) were used on Harlow local services when not required for their specialist duty.


Watford locals

Garston started to receive "country" Solos for Watford and Hemel Hempstead local services in 24th April 2007, the first three (2475-2477) arriving at Garston and starting service on 1st May on W7 and W9, plus evening W8 and W9. Three more (2478-2480) arrived at Garston in May for W30 and BB1 as well as W7/W9, plus some off-peak workings on Watford 1. 2481, a further 9.2m bus, arrived to complete the Garston complement in June, while Hemel Hempstead gained 2482, a shorter 8.1m slimline 24-seater for 30 and 31.

  • W7 M-Sat: Watford Town Centre - Bushey - Elstree - Borehamwood
  • W9 daily: Watford - Little Bushey - Bushy Heath - (Borehamwood Tesco)
  • W10 even: Woodside - Holywell
  • W30: Watford area
  • BB1 : Watford - Little Bushey
  • 1 off-pk: Garston - Watford - South Oxhey
  • 30/31 HH

Solo 2477 on a Sunday 321 duty, St.Albans

2477 on a Sunday 321 duty to Watford, St.Albans, passing RM1403, visiting on a Running Day

High Wycombe - Thame

2490-91 turned up out of sequence to High Wycombe Bus Station in July 2007. At first it seemed that they could not be used on their intended route 40 as their forward doorway did not fit the bays at High Wycombe Bus Station, which would only fit front-entrance buses. For a few days they were tried elsewhere, such as Aylesbury (route 8), but from early in October they took up their intended route 40, even though they could not manage wheelchaired or physically disabled people at High Wycombe. They wore Arriva interurban blue/blue/cream horn livery.
  • 40 Wycombe - Thame

More for Harlow

Harlow received 2483-2489 in August and September 2007, with Ware getting 2490 in October. 2483-2488 moved en bloc to Ware in September 2010.

  • 250 (M-S) Waltham Cross - Epping Forest - Debden
  • 251 (M-S) Hammond Street - Waltham Cross - Upshire

Swings and roundabouts

2493 and 2494 were ordered for Milton Keynes, and delivered there in November 2007. But they were not used at MK, being instead transferred in December to Stevenage. 2494 quickly moved on to Ware for use on the Hoddesdon routes. These were 8.8m slimline 28-seaters, more suitable for Hertfordshire rural routes than for urban transport. Instead Milton Keynes received 2495, a 9.5m 33-seater initially delivered to High Wycombe but used only briefly there. It was transferred to Milton Keynes in February 2008. March saw further movements involving Wycombe: 2496 and 2497 arrived there to replace 2491 and 2492 on the 40 to Thame. The earlier buses had not proved powerful enough to cope with the hills. The new buses also fitted at Wycombe Bus Station! 2491 went off to Milton Keynes, where it was painted lime green with a blue skirt. 2492 went to Garston to replace 2481, which had suffered a bad engine fire.


Milton Keynes updates

Several older Solos from Milton Keynes were allocated in April 2008 to the Cogenhoe outstation in Northamptonshire: 2418, 2425, 2426, 2441 and 2447.

TGM and Network Harlow

TGM Essex was using part of the Harlow garage in August 2010, and it was announced then that the Arriva Herts & Essex services there would come under TGM management under the Network Harlow branding. It didn't happen straight away: under Arriva management re-organisations always seemed to take longer than anticipated. But eventually (29th August) the change was made, and the Solos at Harlow gradually adopted a variant of the interurban blue/blue, with dark blue above a bow of paler blue, with a white divider and a red oval target amidships sporting a Network Harlow fleetname. The initial Solo allocation at Harlow was 2453-2460, 2465-2467, 2473-2474 and 2488, which took part in the chaotic, turbulent and cut-throat competition of the Harlow Bus Wars, a raw example of the unbridled de-regulation of the bus industry. At first many of the Network Harlow buses operated without any fleetnames, in a mix of liveries, amid a sea of independent bus companies: not a good look!

Solo 2466 on a Harlow local service, Harlow Bus Stn, Jan 2012

2466, much smarter afer a repaint into Network Harlow livery, on one of its intended local routes (7) in Harlow Bus Station..

The five Solos (2483-2487) for the 250 and 251 were transferred from Harlow to Ware, as their licences were transferred from Arriva East Herts & Essex to Arriva the Shires. 2488 followed a month later. These buses soon were repainted into Arriva interurban blue/blue/cream horn livery.

Solo 2485 on a 395 duty, Hertford Bus Stn, June 2014

The Ware buses for the Waltham Cross services were also used on other Ware duties. Here 2485 loads in Hertford Bus Station for a Sunday 395, during a Country Bus Rallies running day in June 2014.
  • 250 (M-S) Waltham Cross - Epping Forest - Debden
  • 251 (M-S) Hammond Street - Waltham Cross - Upshire

Leighton Buzzard

Buckinghamshire bought another Solo for use from Aylesbury. This one, numbered 0441, was painted in a pinkish-orange livery and sign-written for the Dash D1 service at Leighton Buzzard.

Losses at Milton Keynes, transfers to Arriva Southern Counties

Arriva had significant losses of tendered work in Milton Keynes near the end of May 2011, necessitating bus reductions.

Solo 2424 on a 395 duty, Hertford Bus Stn, Jan 2012 Seven Solos were transferred to the Arriva the Shires fleet: 2418 to store, 2419 to Hemel Hempstead, 2424 and 2431 to Ware and 2429, 2430 and 2445 to Luton-Dunstable.

Another seven were transferred to Arriva Southern Counties, 2420-2423 going to Arriva Guildford and West Surrey as 1509-1512, 2425 to Arriva Kent and Surrey at Tunbridge Wells as 1513, and 2427-2428 to Arriva Medway Towns at Sheerness, 1514-1515.

Arriva Kent & Surrey at Tunbridge Wells received 1516 in April 2012 from Milton Keynes, where it had been 2437. 2477 and 2478 from Garston went to Gillingham (Arriva Medway Towns) as 1517, 1518.

1512 was withdrawn at Guildford in April 2012, and was replaced by 2419 after withdrawal from Hemel Hempstead. It became 1519.

Most of the remaining Milton Keynes Solos were repainted into interurban blues by April 2012.H6>2424, after transfer from MK Metro to Arriva the Shires at Ware, and a repaint to interurban livery, on a 395 duty between Hertford Sele Farm and Fanham Common, January 2012.

From 1st January 2013 the MK Metro license was terminated, the remaining 23 Solos now officially controlled by Arriva the Shires (at Milton Keynes). Some Solos went for scrap. Another two Solos died by fire in January. More followed, in an erratic trickle.

Renumbering at Harlow. Kent Thameside takes over

Network Harlow renumbered its Solos from the 24** series to the 14** series, officially from January 2014. To judge by photographs (which may not be accurately time-stamped of course) the process was a bit chaotic, some buses seeming to be renumbered several times, but they did all get done. This put them in line with Arriva Southern Counties numbering.

Solo 1458 on a service 9 to Old Harlow, Harlow Bus Stn, Feb 2014 Solo 2466 on a Harlow local service, Harlow Bus Stn, March 2014

Harlow Bus Station in 2014: 1548, renumbered into the Arriva Southern Counties fleet, on a 9 to Old Harlow; 1466 loads up for a local trip.
The formal takover of control of TGM by Arriva Kent Thameside took place in March 2015. There was little immediate noticeable difference. A few red ovals with Network Harlow fleetnanes disappeared. Otherwise the Solos kept on doing what they were used to: local Harlow journeys and long-distance journeys ranging from Saffron Walden and Bishops Stortford to Epping and Ongar. Some of the passengers on the Ongar route much preferred a London Bus Company RT if available, as more comfortable and more reliable!

Electric replacements at Milton Keynes.

New electric (battery) Streetlites arrived at Milton Keynes from November 2013, ostensibly to replace the Solos on town route 7. The Solos did not disappear. At first they worked alongside the StreetLites through their introduction. Just as well. There were teething problems and late deliveries.

But there were low-emission diesel StreetLites as well, which displaced smaller buses. So there was some reshuffling of the Solos based at Hemel Hempstead, Luton-Dunstable, Milton Keynes and Wycombe. In the main the Solos just kept going unless they caught fire!

Arriva the Shires broken up

In January 2016 Arriva the Shires was dismantled. Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage and Ware became part of Arriva Kent Thameside. Luton-Dunstable, Wycombe, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury passed to Arriva Midlands. The red Solos at Garston, along with their other TfL services and buses, were transferred to Arriva London. Garston's country routes became part of Arriva Kent Thameside, controlled by Hemel Hempstead but for the time being still stationed at Garston. A typical Arriva response to a dire situation: reorganise! Even then the tranfer of organisation was somewhat shambolic, taking until May for the legalities and licences to be sorted.

From late 2017 Arriva Midlands transferred some of the Solos away from Milton Keynes to other Midlands depots.

Coming the other way July 2018 was 2509, a 8.9m Solo SR from Derby. It found a home at Wycombe.

Garston closes: Red Solos go on loan to Metroline

In June 2018 Garston finally closed, when the Golders Green-Hampstead/Finchley routes were taken over by Metroline. Their new Solos for the route were not ready, so the red five (OS68-72) were hired to Metroline at Cricklewood for the H1,H2 and 631. OS68 was the last used there, until the end of October. It was then bought by Metroline, while the other four, that had been used until September, were placed in store at Willesden Junction before sale. OS69 went to the Big Lemon in Brighton; OS70 was bought for spares by Metroline; OS71 went to Autocar and OS72 went to Oakley’s Coaches, Tavistock.

OS68 was refurbished by Metroline. Its role was to continue its service on the 631: Henrietta Barnet School - Golders Green, which it could continue despite not meeting the TfL requirements for LEZ for public vehicles. It continued at Cricklewood until transferred to Potters Bar, where it was used outwith Greater London on the 305 and PB1.

Decline and persistence

The older Solos one by one went for scrap, but the younger ones were remarkably persistent, keeping going at Ware, Harlow, Wycombe and Aylesbury in particular. Milton Keynes was hived off away from the Shires grouping in yet another upheaval of the Arriva conglomeration, and its Solos were transferred to other Arriva Midlands garages, at Hinckley, Tamworth, Cannock and Shrewsbury. Some made their way back, as did some of those transferred earlier to Arriva Southern Counties (which was now called something else of course!). During the COVID-19 chaos they continued to prove their worth, as smaller buses used on country routes could not carry worthwhile loads during the person-person distancing period. Arriva had experimented with tiny Sprinters, not heeding the lessons of the earlier midibus revolutions, but had to give way under an assault of angry passengers unable to get on them. The long Solos rolled on.


Ian's Bus Stop Solo index. Solo text. Solo bus histories. Solo photo refs.