Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created 24th January 2024.

Epsom Coaches was a well established coach operator in the Surrey town of Epsom, which had been served well by London Transport, then less well by its successors. At deregulation in 1986 Epsom Coaches launched into bus operation, with local routes plus some tendered routes such as S1, 413 and 293. Epsom Buses was at that stage a minibus and small-bus operation, using Optare Metroriders and Dennis Darts. But the smart buses in cream and burgundy livery were well maintained, upholding the standards of the coaching company.

Optare Solos for S4,S7

In November 2002 the company bought eleven 8.5m Optare Solos for routes S4 and S7. OP01-OP11 were standard Solos in overall red livery, branded as Quality Line". They took over from step-entrance Darts that had been on the S4.

The S7 was extended in July 2003 from Cheam to Epsom Town Centre, and took the number 470. An extra bus was needed. A 9.2m Solo was hired for the immediate need, and OP12, a standard 8.5m bus was bought by Epsom Buses. Another, OP13, was bought in September. About this time Solos began to appear on the 463 as well.

  • S4 (M-S) Sutton - Belmont - Royal Marsden Hosp. - Carshalton-on-the-Hill - Wallington - Roundshaw.
  • S7 (M-S) Colliers Wood Stn - Morden Station - Sutton - Cheam Village
  • 470 (M-S) Colliers Wood Stn - Morden Station - Sutton - Cheam Village - Epsom Town Centre
  • 463 (M-S) Coulsdon - Wallington - Beddington Asda - Beddington - Mitcham Common - Eastfields

OP05 on 470 to Epsom Town Centre, April 2007 OP05 on 470, April 2007

I met OP05 while walking on the London Loop in April 2007. It was heading for Epsom Town Centre
Epsom Buses must have found the Solo useful, so in late 2003 and early 2004 they acquired OP14-OP22, all 8.5m red buses. They replaced some of the ten 1998 Dennis Dart SLFs (SD10-20) that had been on London tendered routes and on Surrey locals. The new Solos cropped up on the S3, S4, 470, 463, 408 and one on the distant 404 at least. They made appearances on the S1 and 467. The buses wore London Transport pass indicators on the front, even though some of their routes did not accept them.
  • S1 Mitcham - Beddington Cnr - St.Helier - Sutton - Carshalton - Belmont - Banstead
  • S3 (M-S) Worcester Park Stn - North Cheam - Sutton - Carshalton - Belmont - Royal Marsden Hosp - Sutton Hosp
  • 404 (M-S) Coulsdon - Old Coulsdon - Caterham-on-the-Hill
  • 408 (SDO Chipstead Valley - Woodmansterne - Banstead - ) M-S Epsom - Wells Estate - Ashtead - Leatherhead - Stoke d'Abernon Stn - Cobham
  • 467 (M-S) Epsom General Hosp - Epsom - West Ewell - Copt Gilders Est - Chessington South - Hook

OP09 on S1, April 2007

Not many Epsom Buses were about on Sundays: it was largely a Monday-Saturday daytime operation, but I did avoid being run over by OP09 in Belmont Bus Station on a Sunday Running Day in April 2007.

At the end of 2004/beginning of 2005 several of the Solos were off having warranty work carried out, so Epsom hired a couple of Solos for a while, putting them to work on the 404.

Experiments with a hybrid: OP20

Rumours went around that Epsom was going to buy a pair of hybrid-powered Solos. It transpired that OP20 disappeared for a while during 2005 to have its power train converted. It returned to Epsom in January 2006. After a couple of months they tried it in service, usually on the 463. It had periods back at the company that converted it. It was not well. Performance, between tweakings, gradually improved. But it still wasn't right. In August 2008 it was re-engined back to straight diesel, and put to unremarkable work, mainly on the 404. Meanwhile a replacement was sourced from the dealers: a third-hand 8.5m Solo that had been with Mitcham Belle and Centra. Epsom numbered it OS1, but it was unofficially known as OP22.

OP23-OP30: 8.8m for the 463

Eight Solos, 8.8m with the slightly larger engine, arrived in April 2009 to update the 463 - a result iof a renewed tender. They displaced older Solos onto Epsom's country routes where they in turn displaced Darts. The new Solos were naturally in red for the London contract. They had an air-conditioner pod behind the front display. They wore Quality Line fleetnames, like their predecessors.

on 463 to Mitcham

One of the older Solos on the 463: OP14 heads for Mitcham in March 2007

OP31-OP33: 8.8m for the K5

Quality Line won the London contract for the K5 () for a start in June 2011, taking over from London United Darts. The three Solos were the company standard: 8.8m in red, fleetnamed for Quality Line. As they were standard with the earlier Solos they were soon mixed into the general fleet use.

Long 2-door Solo SRs for the 470: OPL01-08

In November 2011 Quality Line took delivery of eight longer (9.7m) Solos for the retendered 470. These were to the revised Solo shape, with the front destination display box wrapped into a rounded front and domed roof. The air conditioning unit still perched on top. They also had two doorways in response to TfL requirements, which meant they were closely linked to their tendered route. The two doors and two wheelchair spaces meant that they only seated one more than their shorther companions. But they did wander onto other routes too. They had been intended to have numbers continuing the OP series, but were instead formed into a class of ther own: OPL01-09.
OPL08 on 462 to Weybridge Station, April 2007 OPL08 on 462 to Brooklands, Weybridge Station, April 2007
Long Solo SR OPL08 was on duty between Weybridge Station and the London Bus Museum at Brooklands. Lacking 462 blinds it was wearing a Rail Replacement Service blind.

Epsom Buses cream/burgundy

Epsom Buses took the step of separating its buses on its own local routes - some contracted from Surrey - apart from its buses on London contracts. The latter of course stayed in London red, but the Solos redundant from the 470 re-tender began to appear in cream, with burgandy bands. It was the start of a reassertion of their local identity on some local routes. The first repaint to appear was OP10 in January 2013. OP11 - OP16 followed during 2013.

A single doorway Solo SR for the 404: OP34

The next Solo was also an SR model, but single doorway and just 9.0m long. It was ordered for use on the 404, which for a while had regularly seen the use of a hired Solo demonstrator. It went into service in August 2013, taking over from a loaned Solo demonstrator. OP34 (like an RF) was in London red, with white bullseyes.

Hired demonstrators for the 408

During the spring of 2014 Epsom loaned two Optare demonstrators - an 8.9m single doorway SR, followed by an older 8.8m Solo. Both were used on the 408.

Epsom Coaches Silver Service

In June 2014 Epsom Coaches launched a new identity for its commercially operated services:, covering routes E5, E9, E10, E16 and 408. They had a new overall silver livery with Epsom Buses Silver Service fleetnames, while the TfL services remained red with Quality Line fleetnames. The maroon/burgundy OP12, OP14-OP17 were repainted in July 2014 and renumbered as EBR03-07. (OP10,11 and 13 were sold). In August the renumbered buses were reregistered with HRR marks, celebrating H.R.Richmond - the company founder. The buses were also named after famous Epsom Derby winning racehorses.

  • E5 (M-S) Watersedge - West Ewell - Epsom - Epsom General Hosp - (The Wells (S)) - Langley Vale
  • E9 (M-S) Epsom Stn - Clarendon Park circular
  • E10 (M-S) Epsom Stn- Noble Park
  • E16 (M-S) Epsom Stn - Stoneleigh - Worcester Park circular
  • 408 (M-F) Epsom - Leatherhead - Effingham / Cobham
Silver Service also had new 9.0m Solo SRs (OP35-36), acquired in May 2014. These became EB01 and EB02, in silver with racehorse names, for use on the local services.

Epsom Coaches took on a contract with the local NHS Trust, with two coaches to act as a staff shuttle between the local hospitals. They too were 9.0m single-doorway SRs, in silver livery, with numbers NHS1 and NHS2, and were kept for the contracted shuttles.

S4 lost to Abellio

In November 2014 red route S4 was lost on retender to Abellio. The allocated red Solos, OP04-OP09 were side-lined, with OP08 acting as a spare as required.The batch was sold for further service around the country in early 2015.

463 upgraded to WS: Solos refurbished

In February 2016 the Solos on the 463 were replaced by second-hand Streetlites from Go-Ahead. OP23-OP25 were refurbished, repainted into Silver Service livery and replaced EB03-05. They were given racehorse names and took over the E3-E5HRR registrations, and were renumbere EB08-10. Another private contract In September 2016 Epsom Coaches took another long Solo SR for a private contract, this time between Epsom Station and Atkins Engineering in Epsom. It was 9.25m long, and arrived in silver. This was soon adorned with coloured quadrilateral shapes on the rear quarters. It was numbered ATK1 and reserved for the contract.

London United take over the red Quality Line routes

RATP - the Paris bus company, had owned London United and Epsom Buses (Quality Line) for some time. Now, in June 2017, control of Epsom's red routes passed to control by London United. Epsom's coaching business passed to a separate company. The Epsom Buses Silver Service remained as Epsom Buses. Quality Line buses would have a new fleet name (of course): Quality Line-RATP group. You have to let the travelling public know which government controls your transport, whether it be France (RATP), Germany (Arriva) or the Netherlands (Abellio)!

Renumbering

In July RATP set about renumbering the Epsom Buses into its own system. EB01, 02, 06-10 became OS20215 to OS20221, OP26-34 became OS20247-OS20255, and OPL01-08 became OS20256-OS20263. ATK1 became OS20224, while NHS1,2 became OS20225-6.

The long Solo SRs depart

It was something of a surprise when the OPL class of two-door Solo SRs was taken off the 470 in February 2018. They were returned off-lease to Optare in June 2018, from where most passed on to Chartwell Bus & Coach Sales. Three passed on to Go-Coach at Otford, two to Coastal Coaches in Preston, and two to ASD in Rochester.

The short Solos depart

In and around June 2019 the Solos on the K5 were placed into store, displaced by SDE class E200 Dart SLFs. This left two (20247, 20250) on TfL work, and 11 (20215-20221, 20224-226, 20252) on local and commercial work. 20217 and 20218 were withdrawn in November, whilst ex-K5 red Solos were resurrected from store to local work. Seems you can't keep a good Solo down. 20247 continued to appear on the K5 into December 2019, but in January 2020 the K5 transferred to London United at Tolworth. 20252 and 20254 (back from store) were given new digital displays. 20251 was sold. Falcon Coaches took over E5, E16 and 408. OS20248, 20249 and 20253 were withdrawn. Thirteen were withdrawn in April and stored at Twickenham or Epsom. Possibly these small Solos were not proving viable in the Covid social distancing regime. Over the next few months the Solos were sold off: two to Hulleys of Baslow, two to Whippet in Cambridgeshire, two to Red Route Buses in Gravesend and one to Trustybus at Roydon. More were waiting their turn at dealers. There was quite a lively trade in the ex-Epsom Solos.

Epsom Garage closes

Epsom Garage lost its last routes in July 2021. The Solos, had nearly all gone, leaving SoloSRs 20225 and 20226, the erstwhile NHS1 and 2. These passed to Centrebus. The other two SRs, 20215 and 20216 were sold to Sargeant's of Kington on the Welsh border. The Atkins contract bus, 20224, stayed with the contract, but operating from Tolworth.


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