Harris Bus Volvo Olympians

This page created 17th February 2007 by Ian Smith

Harris Volvo drawing Harris Bus was established for London tender operations by Frank Harris of Grays, who ran an established coaching operation. The new company had been operating for ten years before they leased new Olympians for the 128, 129 and 150. These comprised thirteen dual doorway Olympians (338-350), and nine single-doorway (351-359), all bodied with East Lancs Pyoneers. Delivered between June and August 1997, they were immediately followed by a further thirteen dual doorway buses for the 180 (360-372):

128: Ilford Broadway - Becontree Heath - Romford Station
129: Claybury Broadway - Becontree Heath (- Dagenham)
150: Ilford High Road - Chigwell Row
180: Lewisham - Woolwich - Thamesmead East

The buses received a striking livery of lime green and blue, fuzzed together on a diagonal, with the Ilford services (based at West Thurrock) sporting "Ilford link" branding, and the Woolwich service (based at Belvedere) branded for the "Lewisham link".

Harris found difficulties in meeting the TfL contracts in 1999, and went into receivership in December. The administrators sought solutions. Blue Triangle operated the 150 using Harris' DAFs in early 2000. But in March TfL stepped in. London Buses took over the remaining routes, and the leases on the buses. The West Thurrock operations were moved to Ash Grove, while the Belvedere operations remained there. The new operations were rebranded as East Thames Buses (a subsidiary of London Buses), and a new all-red livery adopted.

ETB Volvo drawing In spring 2002 372 was covered in gold vinyl, with adverts for Felix cat food, in celebration of the Queen's Jubilee. Whilst still spending most of its time at Belvedere on the 180 it made a foray onto the Ilford routes in May before returning to its usual occupations.

In summer 2002 East Thames Buses took delivery of Wright-bodied Volvo B7TLs, intended to replace the remaining DAFs and most of the Olympians. They started on route 180 in August. Some Olympians moved to Ash Grove, swapping with DAFs that were to be used on peak-hour extras on the 53. Some Olympians appeared on these too. The gold Olympian oscillated between duties north and south of the river for the rest of the year. The 53 extras ceased in October, but work became available on the 185 (Victoria -Lewisham).

The single doorway batch was withdrawn fro Ash Grove in November 2002, and were soon returned off-lease. Members of the dual doorway batches swapped between the two garages, possibly to facilitate maintenance, which was all conducted at Ash Grove.

372 at Lewisham 372 at Lewisham 372 at Lewisham

372 in gold at Lewisham Bus Station in December 2002, working a properly-blinded service on the 185.
Early in 2003 the gold vinyl on 372 was removed, and Olympians returned to peak-hour workings on the 53 in mid-February. Some of the class received new ELV class codes, and new numbers, during the second quarter of 2003. The early batch, 338-350, were gathered together at Ash Grove and then returned off-lease in July 2003.

The later batch, now ELV13-25, followed off-lease in mid 2004.

The off-lease buses mostly found new operators. Most went to UK North in Manchester, while other operators were Reliance of Sutton-in-the-Forest (north of York), Anglian of Beccles, (Norfolk), Whippet of Fenstanton (near Cambridge), Marshall's Coaches of Sutton-on-Trent and South Lancs Travel.

The only one to stay near London was 339, which went first to Southdown PSV and then Centra, who used it variously at Stansted, Gatwick and on the ex-Mitcham Belle routes. Centra restored it to red, with a blue skirt and reflective silver cheat-line. 339 moved on, with most of the business, to Flights Hallmark in August 2005.

Bus Stop Olympians Airbus histories photo refs Kentish Bus