London United Volvo Olympians

This page created 12th November 2006 by Ian Smith

VA 1-10

VA single-door, drawing London United standardised on the Alexander RH high body for their Volvo Olympians. Single doorway VA 1-10 arrived at Fulwell in June 1996. They wore London United's standard livery of red with dark grey skirt, light grey uppers and white lining. They were intended for use on newly-won route 131 (Kingston - Wimbledon Stn) Some started early as extras on the Airbus service, due to an Underground strike.

They continued at Fulwell until the arrival of new low-floor Tridents for use on the 131 and other routes in early 2002. VA 6-10 were transferred to Tolworth, where they restored double-decker operation to the 406 (Kingston - Epsom).

VA1-5 took over the 411 (West Molesey - Kingston) from Metrobuses, but were displaced in May 2002 by dual door buses. They were sold in June 2002 to Finglands of Hull.

VA2 at Kingston on 411, October 2001 VA2 leaves Kingston on 411, October 2001

VA2 leaves Kingston Stn on the 411 in October 2001
VA6-10 moved to Hounslow Heath for the 411 (in May 2003?), being joined there in June by dual-door VA43-44. They made some appearances on the 81 too. But by the end of 2005 their work on TfL contracts was drawing to a close, and 6,8,9 and 10 moved to Fulwell for sundry other duties (such as Rugby Specials and railway jobs). They were put up for sale, but by mid-2006 were gathered into a commercial services unit for use on contacts as required.

VA 11-31

VA dual-door, drawing Stanwell Buses bought twenty-one dual-doored Olympians with Belfast-built Alexander RH bodies in the last quarter of 1997. As well as two doorways there were other detail differences: the front blind-box aperture was narrower, and the high marker lights had been moved down from the accident prone top front corners onto the front panels beside the blind-box.
By this time Stanwell Buses were firmly in the London United fold, so the buses arrived in London United red, dark grey, light grey and white livery, with Westlink logos.

They nominally went to Kingston for the 57, but in practice worked out of the forecourt of Fulwell garage, with maintenance at Stamford Brook, while the issue of the replacement bus garage was resolved. Some buses were stationed overnight in Kingston Business Centre for a while. It was November 2001 before they moved to the new premises at Tolworth. In the meantime, in September 2000, Westlink had surrendered their operator's licence and these buses formally transferred to London United ownership.

VA15 in Epsom on 406, September 2001 VA15 in Epsom on 406, September 2001

VA15 was in Epsom on the 406 in September 2001.
A few began to be transferred to Fulwell in the summer of 2002.

At the end of 2002 new Tridents took over from VAs on the 57, and VA11-13 went to London Sovereign at Edgware (recently taken over by London United). The transferred buses appeared not only on the expected 114 and 292, but also on the 13 and 183 on occasions. VA14-20 followed in January. They began to be repainted into red with black skirts during the spring of 2003.

With the exception of VA21 (which had transferred to Hounslow Heath already), the Olympians displaced by new low-floor buses went into store in April 2003, at Tolworth, Fulwell or (with permission of TfL), Walworth. The "for sale" notices were posted. June 2003 saw VA21-31 sold to First Bus, and despatched to Rotherham for further allocation. VA21, 27-9, 38 were loaned back by First London for London Underground replacement work in July and August, sporting new Barbie2 livery. VA21-31 went on to First Leeds, to operate from Kirkstall Road garage on the heavy duty student routes linking the Universities with Halls of Residence along the Headingley Road, where their dual doorways were put to good use.

VA dual-door (BT), drawing VA11-20 then had a couple of interesting years. They were repainted into London Sovereign's red with black skirts, but their tenure at Edgware was mostly short-lived. Within the year (2003) several had gone back to Fulwell for special contracts use and spent time allocated to a variety of garages (Hounslow, Hownslow Heath, Fulwell, Edgware) as required by the changing fleet requirement and gaps in the fleet caused by accidents or failures. Some were further repainted, to all-red or LU red with grey skirts. But in the second half of 2005 they succumbed, and were sold off to join their brethren with First in Leeds, or to UK North in Manchester (VA19, 20)

VA 17 clung on at Edgware until mid 2006, when it went to join the trainers at Stamford Brook - and received a repaint back into traditional LU livery.

VA 32-54

London United also bought a batch of twenty-five dual doorway buses in the spring of 1998, to a very similar specification to the Westlink buses. These were for the 281 (Hounslow Bus Stn - Kingston - Surbiton - Tolworth), and were adorned with not graffiti but route branding, extolling the virtues of the route for shoppers or commuters. They went to Fulwell garage for the task.

Brand new VA45 at North Weald Rally, June 1998 VA dual-door, drawing

Brand new VA45 was displayed at North Weald Rally in June 1998.

VA38 leaves Kingston on 281, June 2001 VA38 comes into Kingston on 281, June 2001

VA38 presents different aspects to view on Kingston Bridge, whilst on its branded 281 route in June 2001
Most of the batch were placed in store for disposal during April 2003, having been replaced on the 281 by new low-floor Tridents.

VA 45-49 were used on Twickenham rugby specials in April 2003, then moved from Fulwell to Tolworth in May 2003 for use on the 406 (although appearances were made on the 57 when new buses misbehaved.) They were joined in June by VA50-51, the seven buses maintaining the 406 and 467. Some of Fulwell's youngest VAs went back into service to cope with deficiencies with the new buses there. VA52-54 were repainted during the summer of 2003 and returned to service in September as school buses, with Transdev fleetnames.

VA32-40 were sold to First Bus in June 2003 and went north to Leeds.

VA41-44 had an interesting couple of years, mainly at Fulwell or Hounslow Heath, before being sold in November 2005 to UK North.

VA44 on Rail Replacement, 29 Oct.2006, Surbiton It was decided to keep VA45-54 for non-TfL work into 2006. VA47 was lost to fire when it burned out on the M3 on its way to Eastleigh for a repaint. The other survivors were allocated in June 2006 to either training (VA50-3) or commercial services (the rest). This sparked a round of repaints into traditional LU livery, with grey tops.

VA 45 was earning its keep on Rail Replacement duties between Wimbledon and Surbiton on 29th October 2006.

Bus Stop Volvo Olympians VA (LU) bus histories photo refs AV