London Country Bus Services
|Parent||National Bus Company|
|Founded||1 January 1970|
|Ceased operation||22 April 1988|
|Service area||South East England|
|Service type||Bus operator|
London Country was established in response to the Transport (London) Act 1969, when on 1 January 1970 London Transport's green Country Area buses and Green Line cross-London express coaches were transferred to the National Bus Company (NBC), at the same time as the red Central Area buses passed from the London Transport to the Greater London Council.
Staff who were employed before 1 January 1970, retained free travel throughout the original London Transport area. This arrangement continues today, with free pass wording changed to account for bus deregulation.
The company was NBC's biggest subsidiary, starting life with 1,267 buses and coaches. The fleet was very elderly, being mainly 484 AEC Regent III RT double-deckers and 413 AEC Regal RF single-deckers, with eight Daimler Fleetlines, three Leyland Atlanteans, 209 AEC Routemasters, 14 AEC Reliances and 109 AEC Merlins.
Steps were taken to reduce the age of the fleet, and NBC quickly ordered 90 Park Royal bodied Leyland Atlanteans. In 1970/71 London Transport's last Country order, for 138 AEC Swifts, was delivered. The Atlantean soon became London Country's standard bus, and by 1980 there were 293 in the fleet. Most were bodied by Park Royal, with some by Roe to the same design and 30 Metro-Cammell bodied Atlanteans, diverted from a Midland Red order. There were also 11 Leyland-engined, Godstone based Daimler Fleetlines diverted from Western Welsh, becoming the first NBC-ordered buses in the fleet, just before the Atlanteans. The only other London Country double decker in the 1970s were 15 Bristol VRTs, rare highbridge Eastern Coach Works bodied examples. These were allocated to Grays garage in 1977 but were quickly moved on.
There was also activity in the single decker fleet. Some of the AEC Regal IV RFs had been refurbished in the 1960s, with twin headlights, curved windscreens, new side mouldings and improved interiors, mainly allocated to Green Line services. There were 14 Willowbrook bodied AEC Reliances at Hertford garage, which had been bought by London Transport in 1965. By 1975 they were on bus work, which some thought was idiosyncratic when vehicles twice as old were still on Green Line work.
The Green Line services were largely operated by AEC Routemaster coaches and AEC Regal IV RFs. NBC ordered 90 AEC Reliances with 45-seat Park Royal bodies, which were originally in Green Line two-tone green but were quickly repainted in NBC local coach livery. For the orbital route 725 between Windsor and Gravesend, 15 Alexander W bodied AEC Swifts were purchased, but were soon demoted to Gravesend local services.
In 1972, the Leyland National, NBC and British Leyland's joint project, became the standard in most NBC fleets. London Country bought over 500 examples, the world's largest fleet. They mainly replaced RFs, RTs and Routemasters. Some RFs were kept in areas where smaller, lighter vehicles were needed, until NBC decided on its smaller standard bus, the Bristol LH. London Country bought its first examples of the type in 1973, with more batches bought up until 1977.
Throughout the 1980s NBC had had large numbers of double-deck Leyland Olympians delivered. From 1982 until 1984 these were purchased with Roe bodies, but from 1985 they had Eastern Coach Works bodies to the same style. London Country operated 75.
Bus deregulation under the 1985 Transport Act, resulted in the company being divided into smaller divisions and sold off.
London Country was split into four on 7 September 1986:
- London Country North East
- London Country North West
- London Country South East
- London Country South West
These companies were privatised during 1988, among the last of the bus privatisations. The purchasers were
- London Country North East: sold 22 April 1988 to the AJS Group, which split the company into two, County Bus & Coach and Sovereign Bus & Coach. County was sold to its management in 1990 and eventually became Arriva East Herts & Essex, part of Arriva Shires & Essex. The Grays garage was transferred to Arriva Southern Counties in 2002. Sovereign was sold to the Blazefield Group in 1991. These operations are also now part of Arriva Shires & Essex, except for the St Albans depot which was sold to Centrebus but then passed to Uno, with the operation transferred to Hatfield.
- London Country North West: sold 5 January 1988 to a management buyout further sold on to Luton & District Transport in 1990, now Arriva the Shires, part of Arriva Shires & Essex.
- London Country South East: renamed Kentish Bus in April 1987, sold 15 March 1988 to Northumbria Motor Services (through its parent company Proudmutual Limited), itself sold to British Bus in 1992, which passed to the Cowie Group in 1996 and now part of Arriva Southern Counties.
- London Country South West: sold 19 February 1988 to Drawlane Limited, which became the British Bus group, itself sold to the Cowie Group in 1996, and now part of Arriva Guildford & West Surrey, although many routes passed to other companies, notably Metrobus and what is now Abellio Surrey
- Companies House extract company no 940262 London Country Bus Services Limited
- London Country Bus Service Commercial Motor 25 October 1968 page 33
- New NBC subsidiary Commercial Motor 27 December 1968 page 16
- Transport (London) Act 1969 c.35 s 16(2) "...the part of the Board's undertaking commonly known as country buses and coaches... shall on the vesting date be transferred to, and by virtue of this Act vest in, such company, being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bus Company, as the Bus Company may by notice published in the London Gazette designate for the purpose"
- "Notice is hereby given that the National Bus Company... pursuant to the provisions of section 16 (2) of the Transport (London) Act 1969 by this notice designates its wholly owned subsidiary called London Country Bus Services Limited to be the designated company for the purposes of such Act." The London Gazette: . 25 November 1969.
- London Country Bus Services Ampyx Web World
- London Country orders Commercial Motor 23 January 1970 page 31
- Updating London Country buses Commercial Motor 9 July 1971 page 34
- A new look for the Green Line Commercial Motor 17 December 1971 page 19
- Out on its own Commercial Motor 6 December 1986 page 54
- Companies House extract company no 2005563 London Country Bus (North East) Limited
- Companies House extract company no 2005564 London Country Bus (North West) Limited
- Companies House extract company no 2005566 Arriva Kent Thameside Limited formerly Kentish Bus & Coach Company Limited formerly London Country Bus (South East) Limited
- Companies House extract company no 2005567 Arriva Croydon & North Surrey Limited formerly London Country Bus (South West) Limited
- Companies House extract company no 2005263 Gatwick Engineering Company Limited
- London Country - three to go Commercial Motor 12 November 1987 page 32
- Hansard House of Commons 18 April 1988
- Principal operating subsidiaries of British Bus Competition Commission 1997
- London Country Bus (South West) Commercial Motor 25 February 1988 page 7
- Media related to London Country Bus Services at Wikimedia Commons