104-105These two Volvo B10M-50 Citybuses with Alexander RV bodies were bought by Grey Green in November 1987, and were to set the style for their major fleet to follow a year later. These two were coach-seated, for use on the Medway-London commuter service. When Grey-Green needed more double-deck buses in a hurry in 1991, on winning a group of ex-Thamesway routes at retender, these two were altered for bus work. They seem to have been remarkably camera-shy.
115-144Route 24 was not Grey-Green's first foray into tendering on London routes. But it was by far the most high profile: it brought non-red buses through Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, and past the Houses of Parliament. It was going to become a media icon for the whole tendering process. Grey-Green made sure that it started well. No tatty secondhand buses would do here. No hired buses flaunting the liveries of provincial fleets that had had their fleets downsized by deregulation. Grey-Green spent 2.5 million pounds on a new fleet of thirty Volvo Citybuses, in a striking new livery of grey, green (what else!) and orange. They arrived from 12th September 1988 onwards, and were tried out on routes 125 and 298. Guy Fawkes Day was the date for the takeover, and the buses were an immediate media success, working between Hampstead Heath and Pimlico. Operation was from the company's coaching base at Stamford Hill.
Preserved 115 was at Showbus in September 2005.
Seven were repainted overall deep red in 1997 for use on the Bakerloo tube replacement service between Oxford Circus and Elephant and Castle. Fleet numbers were in black.
Arriva London North East was the new operating name from January 1998, although there was little immediate indication of the change. Arriva symbols began to replace the Grey-Green fleetnames on the grey-green livery. But eventually repaints saw the fleet go into London red, with Arriva's white/cream horns. The Grey-Green tradition of fleet numbers without class letters persisted for some time, even in the red livery, until the buses concerned moved into the Arriva London North area, when they were reclassified as the VA class.
February 1998 saw the Volvos starting to operate on route 19 on Sundays. This lasted until March 2000.
In March 1998 the operation of route 24 moved to the ex-London Buses Stamford Hill Garage (SF), out of the Grey-Green coaching base, and the Volvos moved with it. Some were transferred to Wood Green (WN) in June/July 1999, moving them into Arriva London North. A further move of route 24 in March 2000 from Stamford Hill to Tottenham garage (AR) put many more VAs into Arriva London North, although changes at Wood Green that summer saw some of its VAs return to Arriva London North East at Barking (BR/DX) Arriva London North applied class letters (VA), while Barking desisted.
The Volvos on the 188 retained their grey-green livery longer than those allocated to the higher profile 24, and I managed to snatch a picture (almost) of 130 at Aldwych on its way to Greenwich in December 1998. 126 was already in Arriva London livery and shows the offside as it comes up from Whitehall sometime earlier in 1998.
New low-floor buses began to replace older buses during 2002, and VAs at Tottenham began to appear on other routes, such as the 73. Wood Green lost its final VAs to Barking in December. Wholesale disposals began in early 2003, most of the batch being sold en masse to Fleetlink of Liverpool. Some were used by Blue Triangle.
VA115 was repainted in Grey-Green livery and donated to the London Transport Museum in June 2003.
145-148An additional four dual-doorway buses were bought in February 1990.
145 crosses Trafalgar Square in March 1999 on route 24, and enters Whitehall. The uncluttered rear of these buses was excellent for the large vinyl adverts.
149-154This batch was bought in February 1990. With front doorways only, they were to update route 173, (North Finchley - Winchmore Hill - Enfield), which Grey-Green had been operating since October 1987. They were based at Dagenham. They also worked among a variety of types on the 275 (Walthamstow Central - Barkingside) Operation on the 197 continued until October 1996, when the route passed to Capital Citybus. They stayed with the company until 1999, when they were transferred away as a group to Arriva Scotland West.
155-158A further four dual-doorway buses were needed in September 1990 when Grey-Green took on route 168 (Hampstead Heath - Waterloo), operating from Stamford Hill. Naturally they also appeared on the 24. They stayed with the 24 through its garage and operator changes until late 2002 (when Metroline took over). After appearances on the 73, 168 and 243 they were sold off in February and March 2003, via Fleetlink.
157 in a typical scene for the high-profile London route, in Trafalgar Square in October 2001.
Gold-coloured VA157 at Cobham Museum Open Day in April 2002.
In early 2002, along with forty-nine other London buses, VA157 was covered in gold vinyl to commemorate the Queen's accession to the throne in 1952. It stayed this way for the rest of 2002.
163-168, 170-172In 1991 Grey-Green won the tender for operation of route 141 (Wood Green - Moorgate). As the company was moving from coach operation towards more bus operation it was decided to rebuild sixteen of their Volvo B10M-61 coaches as buses, with seven single-deckers and nine double-deckers. The latter, which became buses 163-168, 170-172, were some of the oddest looking buses to grace the streets of London, the long wheelbase putting the rear wheels very close to the rear end of the bus, so that they looked truncated (as indeed the 12m chassis had been). The new bodywork was by East Lancs. Livery was grey, green, orange and white.
They duly worked the 141. Initially they went into service minus front number blinds, but with oddly small numbers taped into the blind apertures: the numbers appear to have been made up with white tape!
171 at the Greenwich terminus of the 188 on 11th August 1998.Later they moved their sphere of operation, and were to be seen on the 188 (Euston - Greenwich)from June 1998 onwards. They all received London red with cream horns livery in the Arriva London North-East period. Later still they operated route 66.
Early 2003 saw them sold via Fleetlink, their place at Barking taken by ex-Kentishbus Olympians.
Four were acquired by Thorpes of Wembley, mainly for use on schools contracts,
but also routes 187 and 487. After these routes were lost on retender they continued on rail replacement work.
Metroline took over the Thorpe business in August 2004, including the four Volvos. They used them
spradically until January 2005, then stored them prior to sale to Ensign Bus.