Airbus Volvo Olympians

This page created 15th February 2007 by Ian Smith


Air Royale drawing In September 1995 London United introduced a fleet of long-wheelbase Volvo Olympians with the stylish Alexander Royale bodywork with air conditioning. These were to replace the dedicated Metrobuses and Olympians on the high-value Heathrow Airport services. To this end they had single doorways (with lifts) at the front, just nine seats downstairs, and 43 coach seats upstairs. Service A1 linked Heathrow with Victoria, while A2 served the hotels in the Russell Square area, plus Euston, St.Pancras and Kings Cross railway stations.

Early livery was a conservative London red with grey skirt and bright yellow bands, with "Airbus" branding, and dull green (A1) or blue (A2) blinds.
This was amended in May 1998 when Toshiba sponsored the Airbus services, when white Toshiba V3 Video markings were added.
The following year the livery changed again: still base red with grey skirt, but now with "Airbus" in flowing white script, "Heathrow Shuttle" writ large on the lower sides, and a large "Kids Free" reminder near the tail. Oh yes, and a white smiley on the stairwell side.

119 at Kings Cross, June 1998 119 at Kings Cross, June 1998

Airbus 119 sets off from Kings Cross towards Heathrow in June 1998, wearing the Toshiba sponsorship advertising.
Air Royale drawing But Heathrow Express trains were soon going to affect the market, even if the electric trains dumped their unwitting passengers in unsalubrious Paddington. (Why didn't they go to St.Pancras?). In February 2000 London United sold their Airbus services to Airlinks, who rebranded them as National Express Airport, along with the other services to Stansted. The Olympians went as part of the deal, and moved to West Ramp, at Heathrow. Route A1 disappeared, leaving some of the Olympians surplus.

The later batch (124-130) found their way onto the Stansted services A6 and A7, and were transferred to Cambridge. Some received large adverts for Heart 106.2 Radio. But the A7 foundered, and from April 2001 some of the later batch could be seen on the A5 (Gatwick - London), based at Crawley.

They were all returned to West Ramp (Heathrow) or Feltham in March 2002, with three (125, 126, 128) sold to West Midlands Travel. Now they appeared only on the A2.

In 2003 they were repainted in white with red/blue National Express logos with white on red Airport branding on the sides.

121 on Euston Road, March 2004 121 at Russell Square, July 2004 121 at Russell Square, July 2004

121 wears National Express Airport livery in March 2004, heading east along the Edgware Road. Later, in July 2004, it passed the service bus I was riding at Russell Square, while 117 was at the northbound stop opposite.

Another five were sold to Ensign Bus in September 2004. 124 went to Western Greyhound, while 123, 127, 129 and 130 went to First Devon & Cornwall. Operations on the A2 ceased at the end of the year, and the remaining eleven (112-122) went to Ensign Bus in January 2005. These in turn went to new owners, 112, 113, 115, 117 and 121 joining the First Devon & Cornwall fleet. Like the others, these were given age-hiding registrations. 114, 119, 120 and 122 went to South Gloucestershire Bus Company, where 114, 119 and 122 were repainted into red and white for a University of West England contract. South Gloucestershire later acquired 124 as well. 116 went to Northern Blue in Burnley, and 118 was acquired by KC21 Ltd in Aldershot.

Bus Stop Olympians London Suburban histories photo refs Harris