Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,
This page created 14th March 2024.

381 on S2: St.Albans local, Jan 2008

Centrebus Solos

Potters Bar: slim-line 380, 381

Centrebus started Solo operations in Hertfordshire with a pair of new Solos for the Potters Bar circular PB1. Both were 8.8m long slim-line Solos seating 25, with three tip-up seats. 380 and 381 were in Centrebus livery of orange white and blue. They were delivered in May/June 2005. As well as the Potters Bar route they worked St.Albans local services.

The Potters Bar PB1 was taken over by uno in March 2008, and the two Solos went with it.

Shortly before transferring to uno, 381 is seen working a St.Albans local service in January 2008.

Stevenage: Solos for 22: 382, 383

September 2006 saw the arrival of a pair of secondhand 8.5m standard Solos, freshly painted in Centrebus livery, for use on local routes 22 and 178 in Stevenage. They were numbered 382 and 383.
  • 22 Stevenage Bus Station - St.Nicolas
  • 178 Stevenage Bus Station - Shephall circular

Stevenage: Fire and Hire

January 2007 was to be an important expansion date for Centrebus at Stevenage, when they would take over some of the local services that had been under the Superbus banner. They were also opening a new depot at Pin Green. But overnight on 1st-2nd January there was a serious fire at their Woodside base. No Solos were destroyed, but a Dart and a Vario were. Thirteen other buses were affected by smoke damage. Buses had to be hired or borrowed in a hurry. Three Solos were hired from dealer stocks and used in white on local services for a month.

Stevenage: Secondhand keepers: 387 - 392

Centrebus also quickly acquired four 8.5m and two 9.2m secondhand Solos, which were repainted into Centrebus orange/white/blue for use on the Stevenage local network. Getting proper blinds took longer than getting them repainted, so they operated for a while just with route numbers scrawled on sheets of paper inside the windscreen.

Another normal width but longer Solo, 395, was bought for the trunk route 390 between Stevenage and Hertford, taken over from Arriva in April 2007.

  • 10 Stevenage Bus Stn - Old Town - Bedwell
  • SB15/16 Stevenage Bus Stn - Symonds Green - St.Nicholas - Chells
  • 17/17A Luton locals
  • 82/83 M-S Hitchin - Purwell Lane Estate - Stn - Hitchin, circular
  • 53 Letchworth local
  • 44 Luton - Kimpton - Codicote - Stevenage
  • 390 Stevenage - Watton - Hertford North Stn - Hertford
275 on 10: Stevenage circular 389 on 44: Stevenage bus station
Route 10 was a Stevenage local route running in a circular path via Bedwell back to the bus station. 275, imported from Veolia in County Durham, was busy on it in June 2013. It later went to Centrebus-owned Midland Classic.

Route 44 was a cross-country rural route linking Luton and Stevenage vis Kimpton and Codicote. 389 had arrived at Stevenage and was resting in the shade in the middle of the bus station, June 2011. 389 had been new to First Bristol for the Chew Valley Explorer, coming to Stevenage in March 2007.

390 on 390 to Stevenage
8.5m Solo 390, acquired secondhand from Cumfybus, was met en-route from Hertford to Stevenage one Saturday in June 2018. It stayed with Centrebus until its demise in 2019.
390 on 390 to Stevenage, September 2009
395 was the extra-long (9.5m) with an extra seating bay, bought for the 390. And there it id, in September 2009, leaving Hertford bus station to start another journey.

Stevenage: new short slimlines: 393, 394

Mindful of the narrow twisting nature of some of the Stevenage routes, Centrebus bought a pair of short (7.1m) narrow Solos, particularly for route 80. A similar bus, 396, was bought in September 2007 for the 359.
  • 80 Hitchin - Wymondeleys - Lister Hospital - Stevenage Old Town - Stevenage
  • 359 St.Albans - City Station - London Colney

Universitybus takes over St.Albans

The March 2008 tender shuffle took Centrebus' St.Albans routes with the depot and buses to Universitybus - or uno as the new unit was called. Three Solos were included: the Potters Bar pair, 380-381 became uno 402/401, while Centrebus 396 became uno 403.

Bedfordshire four: 301-304

Also in March 2008 Bedfordshire helped Centrebus buy four more new Solos. Three long 9.5m buses went to Dunstable for the 231. The other, an 8.9m bus, went to Stevenage where it worked on a variety of routes.
  • 231 Hitchin - Luton - Bushmead Estate

ex-Nottingham three: 363-365

Centrebus bought three mid-life secondhand 9.2m Solos from Nottingham City Transport in March 2008. These were for Stevenage, where Centrebus needed low-cost buses to gain more tendered routes, such as the rural 383 and 384.

365 on 384 to Stevenage 365 on 384 to Stevenage

365 sets out from Hertford Bus Station on the long straggling 384 to Stevenage via Ware, Tonwell, Sacombe, Dane End, Benington and Walkern. It is one of the 9.2m Solos acquired from Nottingham.

  • 383 Hertford - Ware - Watton - Bragbury End - Stevenage
  • 384 Stevenage - Walkern - Whempstead - Dane End - Sacombe - Tonwell - Ware - Hertford

Two more for Stevenage: 305-306

Another two new Solos came to Stevenage in July 2008. They were 8.8m long - the 8.5m format, but with a larger engine thsat added a foot to the rear. These had a revised livery, with the white scooped up to make the rear all-orange.

During the rest of 2008 Centrebus in Hertfordshire had 17 Solos at Stevenage, with three at Dunstable in Bedfordshire. But in January 2009 Centrebus in Dunstable took on two town circular routes: DB2 and DB3, for which they needed two extra Solos there. 304 and 306 were moved to Dunstable from Stevenage, and a secondhand 9.2m bus arrived from Anglian, Beccles, taking number 349.

Solos arrive to displace step-entrance Darts

347 was a 9.2m bus from Munro of Jedburgh. 351 was transferred in from Centrebus Leicester. (February 2009).

Old and new Solos

Centrebus continued its policy of buying a mixture of new and secondhand Solos. Perhaps they had seen the problems that some start-ups were having - on the one hand inability to meet the purchase or hire costs of an all-new fleet, especially on rural routes funded by cash-strapped councils. On the other, problems keeping an elderly fleet running well enough to satisfy both customers and the Traffic Commisioners. Centrebus was gradually selling off its older step-entrance Darts and smaller minibuses. It was also taking over small bus companies.

Centrebus takes over Trustybus in Harlow

Centrebus bought the Trustybus operation in Harlow in August 2009, including its depot in River Way and its vehicles. Most were Dart SLFs, which initially continued to wear Trustybus livery. Perhaps to stamp its mark on the operation, Centrebus transferred 367 - a venerable 9.2m bus - from Bower's in Chapel-le-Frith (a Centrebus company). This gained Centrebus livery, and worked with Trustybus in its destination display.

Hertford locals

So in April 2010 Centrebus bought two new Solos, 322 and 323, for the Hertford local routes H1,H3,H4,308,380, that it had won from Arriva in the tender round. They were 8.8m 29-seater Solos, replacing Arriva's Varios.

339 was a 9.5m long Solo from Britannia Parking in Bournemouth. 367 moved to Stevenage from Harlow.

  • H1 M-S Hertford
  • H3 M-S Hertford Bus Stn - Campfield Road
  • H4 M-S Hertford - Horns Mill
  • 308 M-S Hertford - Cuffley
  • 380 MWF Hertford - Cuffley

S276AOX was acquired from Travel Coventry in August 2010. Still in Travel Coventry pale blue/white, and without a fleetnumber but with blue Centrebus fleetnames, it operated at Stevenage on local service 10. It did not stay long.

The Harlow Bus Wars were hotting up. Centrebus bought two new Solos (396 and 397) in October 2010 for use from Harlow (new depot at Pinnacles) on new route C3X. 367 was used on this too.

  • C3X M-S Harlow Bus Stn - Stanstead Abbotts - St.Margarets - Hoddesdon - Broxbourne - Wormley - Brookfield Centre - Cheshunt - Waltham Cross
  • C3 M-S Harlow Bus Stn - (A414 or Hunsdon - St.Margaret's) (or Hertford Heath) - Hoddesdon - Broxbourne - Wormley - Brookfield Centre - Cheshunt - Waltham Cross
The C3X only lasted until May 2011. Solos 396 and 397 transferred to Dunstable. The C3, a commercial service, slightly trimmed, continued. Solo 353 was transferred in to Harlow from Leicester.

ex-Bedfordshire Solos

Bedfordshire had operated three 2005 8.5m Solos in a startling blue/turquoise/orange "eastbedsdart" livery. The council owned the buses, but had them operated by a succession of operators: Boorman of Blunham, Chiltern Travel and Meridian Line. The services ceased in 2011. Grant Palmer of Flitwick took one, which received its smart red/white scoop livery, for services in Dunstable and Bedford.

Centrebus took the other two in January 2012, repainted them in Centrebus orange/white scoop/blue skirt livery, and also based them in the north at Dunstable. Numbers were 259 and 260.

Harlow rundown: Hertford routes transferred to Stevenage

353 enters Stevenage Bus Station on a 383, 6/13
Solo 353 was one of those transferred from Harlow to Stevenage in November 2012. The 383 route, connecting Hertford with Stevenage via Ware and Watton, was also transferred. Here 353 works a 383 into Stevenage Bus Station in June 2016
During 2012 Harlow depot gradually transferred its Hertford work to Stevenage garage. By the time that Harlow depot closed it had moved routes 308,380, 379, 383, 384, 388, 390, 333, 395 and H1,H2,H3. Its Harlow local routes were taken over by Roadrunner buses in November 2012, including the C3 group to Waltham Abbey. Centrebus' Harlow depot closed in November 2012.

Solos 367 and 265 moved north to Centrebus Grantham, the latter then moving on to a longer-lasting home with High Peak (another Centrebus operation).

  • H1 M-S Hertford
  • H3 M-S Hertford Bus Stn - Campfield Road
  • H4 M-S HertfordBus Stn - Mandeville Road - Horns Mill
  • 308 M-S Hertford - Bayford - Cuffley
  • 380 MWF Hertford - Cuffley
  • 379 Hertford - Bulls Green - Knebworth - Stevenage
  • 383 Hertford - Ware - Watton - Stevenage
  • 384 Hertford - Ware - Whempstead - Tonwell - Sacombe - Dane End - Walkern - Stevenage
  • 333 Hertford - Bengeo - Pinehurst
  • 388 Hertford - Tewin - Welwyn Garden City
  • 390 Hertford - Watton - (Aston-) Stevenage
  • 395 evens Hertford - Stevenage

A Solo SR demonstrator visits

The new Solo shape was seen in July 2013 in Ware, when an Optare demonstrator visited whilst on a circuit of demonstrator loans all over the country.

The old shape, but in two-tone sign-written green, came with Solo 230 in Northamptonshire green County Connect livery. It arrived in August 2013 from Centrebus Corby.

Centrebus Dunstable depots replaced by new garage in Luton

The two cramped depot sites in Dunstable were replaced at the end of August 2014 by a new depot closer to Luton. This gave rise to small timetable changes on some of the associated routes, such as the 10, 46, X31...

The 304 saw Council funding cutbacks in October 2014, pruning both ends of the day. 309 on 304 at Hitchin, 6/16

An influx of older Solos at Stevenage, and an exodus.

In September 2014 four older Solos arrived at Stevenage: three 9.2m Solos from Leicestershire (243 and 307) or High Peak (377) and a slim 8.8m bus (307) from Grantham . One of them (243) went straight back to Grantham. 223 also went to Leicestershire, while 352 went to High Peak at Buxton. An exercise in age-profiling ? Another half dozen left by early 2015, two early buses (363 and 364) withdrawn, and four by transfer to other parts of the by-now widespread Centrebus empire (322:Yorksire, 347:High Peak, 349:Leicestershire, 393: Corby). EnviroDarts were now flavour of the year.

Solos started going for scrap, or spare parts. Others were drafted in from other parts of the Centrebus empire, like High Peak, Corby and Grantham. This was to be the pattern for the next few years

9.2m 309 was secondhand from Perryman's of Berwick-upon-Tweed in June 2015. A year later it was on the 304 in Hitchin. Before long it moved on to Centrebus Leicester.

223 on 384 at Stevenage, 6/13 224 on 44 at Stevenage, 6/13

Cenrebus 223 was at Stevenage Bus Station for the rural 384 to Hertford, in June 2013. It had come from Warrington Busways via Centrebus Corby two years earlier, and fifteen months late went to Centrebus Leicester.

224 was at the White Lion in Old Stevenage on the 44 on the same day in June 2013. It too had come from Warrington via Corby. It stayed at Stevenage until stripped for spares in summer 2016.

Solo SRs for Dunstable: 325-327.

Centrebus, three years after its first essay with the Optare demonstrator, took the plunge in May 2016 with three 9.25m Solos for the Dunstable local services 80,81,81A. They were dressed with an upward spray of colour over the new orange with white scoop and blue skirt, with Fab80s branding.

327 on 333 in Hertford, 6/17 327 on H3 at Hertford Bus Station

The new SRs did not operate exclusively on the Dunstable routes: on Sunday 4th June 2017 it was busy on the 333 Hertford local, trailing a long string of cars through Hertford. Later the same day it was set up for the H3 from Hertford Bus Station to Tesco and Horns Mill.

A new livery.

In the summer of 2019 Centrebus adopted a new livery. The front two-thirds of the bus was a plain orange. Then came a diagonal white stripe, with blue taking the rear of the bus.

Ex-Epsom SR for Stevenage: 328

In September Centrebus took delivery of single-door 9.0m Solo SR OS20255, previously with Epsom Buses. It went to Stevenage and was repainted in the new diagonal Centrebus livery.

Covid lockdown

The lockdown on travel in spring 2020 affected most bus operators. School transports were in some cases reinforced, to provide enough capacity whilst maintaining social distancing, but normal travel was severely restricted. The rural routes were badly hit, custom dwindling towards nothing. Some routes, eg 366, went from hourly to two hourly, on M-F only. The Hitchin routes were reduced, as was the 388 (which was then suspended). The 188 and 190 were cropped, losing the Hitchin-Biggleswade section.. Stevenage town services 10 and 17/17A were reduced/retimed. Some Solos went for scrap. Others were placed in store, delicensed, to await better times. Those arrived from June, when retrictions were gradually revived: Saturday services resumed, and urban frequencies increased, presumably to get people shopping again: one had to revive the economy, even if it killed more people. Nationally bus drivers were treated as heroes - until the next pay revision.

Another secondhand SR-from Malta!

329 was a 9.0m SR that had been operated by the Maltese Government. It returned to the UK to Dawson Rentals and was then operated briefly by Accessible Transport in Wednesbury before coming to Centrebus in August 2020. Dawson's had returned it to its original UK registration of KX14FHW. Centrebus put it into the new diagonal livery, and worked it from Stevenage.

Stevenage closes, Hitchin retracts

During the first months of 2021 Centrebus began to close down its Stevenage operation. : The Fab80s (80/81/81A) in Dunstable - with a bold spray of colour up over the Centrebus orange and blue skirt, the "Fab 80s"> were due to move in January, but operational differences such as ticket machines and staff knowledge needed altering/updating. The SRs finally moved in May to stay on the routes.

Hitchin operations were reduced. Many routes were halved in frequency: the long 366 (Luton-Welwyn G.C.-South Hatfield), 46 (Luton-Hemel Hempstead), Saturday services were cut on the 304 and 314. The 315 was lost altogether, briefly, then reinstated. The X31 (Luton Galaxy-Skimpot-Dunstable) was renumbered as the 37. Some routes were returned to pre-Covid timings and frequencies once the restrictions were lifted enough.

  • 390 (Hertford - Watton - Stevenage), a commercial route, was given up, only to be tendered to Richmonds.
  • 10, (Stevenage - Bedwell, which was operated in conjunction with the 390 and route 44, was divided between Richmonds and Centrebus from Hitchin
  • 388 (Ware - Hertord - Tewin - Welwyn G.C.) was withdrawn
  • 188/190 (Hitchin to Sandy): frequency halved
  • 17/17A (Luton-Stopsley): frequency halved
  • 85/85A (Dunstable town service): frequency halved
  • 366 (Luton-Welwyn G.C.-South Hatfield): frequency halved
  • 46 (Luton-Hemel Hempstead): frequency halved
  • 304 (Hitchin - Kimpton - St.Albans): Saturdays cut
  • 315 (Kimpton - Welwyn G.C.): suspended
  • 231 (Dunstable - Kimpton - Codicote - St.Albans)
April 2021 saw the closure of Stevenage depot. Four Solos went for scrap, and three to Grantham after a fire in the depot there. Remaining Stevenage-operated services were surrendered, and retendered to other operators: Stevenage garage as an outstation of Luton, staggered on until August, then finally closed.
  • 333 (Hertford - Bengeo) to Central Connect
  • 308/309 (Hertford - Cuffley) to Central Connect
  • 378, 379 (Hertford - Stevenage) to Central Connect
  • H3/H4(Hertford locals) to Central Connect
  • M2/M3/M4/M5(Ware locals) to Central Connect

More of a whimper than a bang.

The Hitchin Solos gradually dwindled away, by scrapping or transfer north to Leicester or Grantham.

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