Prepared on Wordpad by Ian Smith,

This page created 10th February 2024.

Travel London

National Express, working through its West Midlands-based West Midlands Travel, took on London route C1 in June 1998. For this they bought ten 8.5m Optare Solos, that they deemed suitable for the twisting back-streets route in West Central London. Livery was a raspberry red with white and blue diagonal stripes. The fleetname was Travel London.

C1: Vauxhall Bridge Rd - Victoria Stn - Sloane Square - Knightsbridge Stn - South Kensington - Old Brompton Road - Earl's Court - Warwick Road - Kensington High Street

National Express had difficulty locating a suitable bus garage, and operated the C1 from Stewarts Lane Rail Depot in Battersea.


The unsatisfactory garaging led Travel London to dispose of the C1 to independent Limebourne, who operated from their Battersby Base (QB). They continued to operate the Solos in their Travel London livery.


But Limebourne was financially unstable, and in less than a year (July 2001), passed the C1 operation and the buses to Connex, who had some experience of bus operation in London and the south-east. They took over the Battersea Base and the Solos (and Excels and Darts).

Connex promptly bought another eight 8.5m Solos, which were in overall red with white Connex logos. The older Solos had the National Express stripes replaced by red panels, but many retained the bits of blue and white on the roof. The extra Solos were needed for the C3, where they replaced the unreliable Marshall Minibuses. Another four, S249-252, followed in April 2004.

C3: Earls Court Tesco - Earls Court Stn - Chelsea Harbour - Wandsworth Bridge - Clapham Junction (Meyrick Arms)

However, things were not going well for Connex with their South London railway businesses. They lost South Central in 2001, and South-Eastern in 2003, somewhat under a cloud. The decision was made by Connex to pull out of transport in the UK.

Travel London again

National Express picked up the baton in February 2004, acquiring the Battersea Base and its routes and vehicles, including the eighteen Solos. Connex logos disapeared, mostly replaced by plain red panels. The Solos on C1 did not meet the retender requirements in 2005, and in June the company started to send some of the older ones to Travel West Midlands, followed by more in September.

In June, following the takeover by Travel London of Tellings-Golden Miller routes in Surrey two Solos, 231 and 232 spent the summer and autumn autumn at Byfleet, an ex T-GM garage, and saw service on Surrey routes including the 514 (Kingston - Hersham)

The C1 gained larger Darts in 2006, and the C3 (now at Walworth garage) replaced Solos by Trident double-deckers, as a result of anticipated Congestion Charge changes. One Solo was frequently seen on the 156.

Five of the redundant Solos (248-252) were earmarked for the East London Line replacement service ELS, starting in June 2006, operated from Walworth. They received a red repaint, and were marked for the service, with route points in white along a blue cant-rail band, white London Buses logos, and Mayor of London markings and Investment panel. The Travel London logo on the front was now in white rather than white/blue.

ELS: Shoreditch Stn - Bethnal Green Road - Whitechapel Stn

241-247 were placed in store at Battersea, where some were repainted into white with a deep red skirt for use in Surrey. 244 and 246 guested on the ELS, before 245 and 246 went off to Travel West Midlands. In Surrey, 241-243 went to the ex T-GM garage at Byfleet to replace Varios from the 564, while 247 went to Fulwell to temporarily replace a Vario on the KU2 Kingston University service.

564: BF Whiteley Village - Walton Vicarage Fields - Xcel Leisure Centre

In March 2007 Travel London was meant to adopt the National Express numbering system, which placed the remaining Solos into the 88** number range, ie S241-244 and S247 became 8841-8844 and 8847 with Travel Surrey, while S248-S252 at Walworth became 8848-8852..

The ELS service was revised in 2007, now requiring just three buses: S249 and S251 were withdrawn and transferred elsewhere in the Travel West Midlands empire (Dundee and Wishart). 248, 250 and 252 persisted to the end of the contract in July 2008, then shifted to Travel Surrey at Byfleet for the 557, for which they received digital displays, and presumably the Travel Surrey livery of white and dark red.

557: BF Hatton Cross - Woking


In May 2009 National Express sold the Travel West Midlands bus business (including Travel London and Travel Surrey) to NedRailways (ie the Dutch government). They were not in a hurry to proclaim the takeover, so apart from legal lettering there was little immediate change. The eight Travel Surrey Solos continued with the same livery, numbers and fleetnames, mostly on the 557 and 564. But after a while the operating name of abellio was applied, in this case "abellio Surrey".

The remaining Solos gradually dwindled. A new role for one of them was found late in 2012, on Guildford's route 10. 8852 settled on this, but the others were sold off. In August 2013 8852 found itself on the 514 (Hersham-Kingston), possibly while the incumbent Darts were receiving a new livery. It was still working from Byfleet in 2014 and 2015, but after that I lost track of it. Its number was taken by a new Dart in 2016, so I presumed it had been retired by then.

Ian's Bus Stop Solo index Solo text. Solo histories. photo references.