The Centrewest Volvo Olympians

This page created 21st December 2006. by Ian Smith

V1-12: Orpington

In December 1995 Centrewest took delivery of a dozen Palatine II-bodied Volvo Olympians for the 61, in a surprise tender takeover of the route from Metrobus. They were single doorway buses, as appropriate for an outer suburban route (Bromley North Stn - Orpington - Chislehurst), with a forward staircase. Livery was a conservative London red with grey skirt and white tape-line, with discrete Orpington Buses fleetnames and First logos in yellow. Altogether carefully targeted at the clientele expected along the route. They promptly went into service from the old LT garage at Swanley, but were soon transferred to the new premises in St.Mary Cray (Y).

V1 on 61, Chislehurst, June 2001 V1 on 61, Chislehurst, June 2001

V1 was on home territory in June 2001, on the 61 in Chislehurst.

Palatine II 1-door drawing V10 at Duxford, September 1998

V10 attended the Showbus at Duxford in September 1998.
The Volvos must have been liked at Orpington, because when the tender came up for renewal with low-floor buses in 2002 new Volvos with Plaxton President bodies were chosen rather than First London's usual Tridents. The Olympians had to move on. V1-V5 went to First Mainline in Sheffield in May 2002, followed by V10-11 the following month.


V6-9 went to Eastleigh for repainting and reglazing before reappearing at Uxbridge wearing 607 livery. They stayed another three years on the 607 before being displaced to First Bristol.

V41-55: Uxbridge express

October 1996 saw a distinct upgrade on the 607 Express Service from Uxbridge to Shepherds Bush Green. Centrewest had bought fifteen Palatine IIs with high-back seating, tinted glass and Euro-2 engines for the trunk route. They received a distinctive red livery with a broad white band and blue stripes, and discrete Uxbridge Buses fleetnames. They were numbered V41 - V55, picking up the last numbers of the registrations. They replaced Leyland Nationals and Lynxes.

The takeover by First in November 1997 produced no changes other than the appearance of small First names and f logos.

Palatine I 2-door drawing, yellow V49 on 607, Ealing Common, February 2002

V49 crosses Ealing Common in February 2002.

The fleet was supplemented in May 2002 by the five from Orpington. They were renumbered VDN34041-34055 in early 2004, but remained dedicated to the Uxbridge Road Expresses until their replacement in April 2005. They went into store at Hackney, but were soon dispatched to First Avon & Somerset at Bristol, whence the last three were sent on to First in South Yorkshire.

VN888-907: Alperton slows

In the spring of 1999 Centrewest surprised everybody by buying more Palatine 1-bodied Olympians. The low-floor revolution was underway, and Centrewest had already ordered a batch of Tridents. But at the end of production Northern Counties built twenty-two speculatively, for stock, and Centrewest snapped up twenty of them. They went onto route 83, displacing Leyland Olympians which went east to First Capital, in turn displacing low-height Olympians to Eastern Counties.

As stock-built buses they were not to First specification entirely, having a black moquette rather than the group standard turquoise/purple. They received red overall livery, with a deep yellow band between the decks, and Challenger fleetnames. Route 83 branding was applied on the sides, with a large route number in yellow and route points bulleted in white.

Operating from Alperton (ON), they took over the winding but busy 83 (Golders Green Station - Ealing Hospital) in April 1999. Initially they were numbered VN888 - VN907, which more or less tied in with the registration numbers (except for 888, 900 which were retained by DVLA). These numbers followed on after the booked block of Trident numbers. But more Tridents were going to arrive, and they were quickly renumbered as VN88 - VN107.

VN104 on 83, Ealing, February 2002 VN on 83, Ealing, February 2002

Ealing Common in February 2002: VN104 heads for Golders Green; another emerges from Hanger Lane.
Palatine I 2-door drawing, red VN107 on 83, Ealing, February 2002
VN107 heads east along the Uxbridge Road (Feb.2002)
Route 83 was due to be restocked with larger, low-floor, Volvo B7TLs in November 2002. But it was local Tridents that were displaced, leaving the Volvo Olympians in place on the 83, assisted by some of the new buses. The reprieve lasted for more than a year, until in January 2004 Wright-bodied Eclipse Gemini started to arrive for the 83. The youngest seven (VN101-107) were retained by Centrewest, but moved to Uxbridge to replace Metrobuses. They acquired new numbers under First's "National" scheme, becoming VDN 34101-34107. The other thirteen, 34088-34100, were shipped off to South Yorkshire.

The Uxbridge seven now had a varied diet, being restricted to various non-TfL contracts. Some spent a while at Rainham, covering during the Ipswich rail blockade, and they had an irregular diet of railway work. One was the staple fare on route 335, and when in February 2005 that route was transferred to First Beeline at Slough VDN34106 went with it. The others went into store at Hackney in April 2005, and went to other First operations, in Sheffield and Bristol. 34106 followed before the end of 2006.

Bus Stop Volvos Capital bus histories photo refs London Suburban