Southend Corporation Bus Fleet
Daimler Fleetline CRL6/33 with NCME H49/31D bodies, new in summer 1971
At the end of 1969 lowbridge deckers with rear open platforms, seating 55 or 58, still formed a significant part of the fleet; out of a total of 80 buses, over half seated 58 or less, yet only 15 were single deckers, all of which were one-man operated. Within the next six years the fleet was to change almost out of all recognition with fifty one-man operated double deckers, each licensed to carry 98 passengers. In the sixties Southend had remained loyal to the conventional crew bus, which was relatively cheap and easy to maintain, despite having tried demonstrators of the main types of rear engined buses at various times since 1959, such as Fleetline 4559 VC
seen here in 1963 and Atlantean KTD551C
seen here in 1967. However the demise of the traditional bus had been hastened by the bus grant scheme, whereby the Government would pay 25% of the cost of new buses to approved designs, suitable for OMO; the grant was later increased to 50% but was finally withdrawn in 1984.
The last Leyland Titan had been built in 1968 and henceforth the only real choice open to Southend was between the Leyland Atlantean, Daimler Fleetline and Bristol VRT, now all under the control of British Leyland. The need to obtain a very low height bus dominated the decision, which came out in favour of Fleetlines with Leyland 0680 engines and dual doorway Northern Counties bodies. Southend opted for 33 foot long, high capacity (80 seat) vehicles, coupled with a much larger order than usual (26 buses in one go) which allowed one man operation to be introduced on a widespread basis very quickly, in conjunction with frequency reductions. This achieved useful economies at a time when inflation was about to enter its most serious phase - the downside from an enthusiast, if not passenger, viewpoint was the wholesale demise of the lowbridge PD2s 287-310 in one year. At the same time the ticketing system for OMO buses was changed to Almex, with automatic Videmats as well on double deckers.
This batch of 26 vehicles was delivered in 1971 and unintentionally reintroduced the blue roof to the fleet. Although delivered in the then standard Southend blue and cream livery 21 had the roof painted blue in error instead of the correct cream. The destination blinds were the then standard Southend three piece pattern at the front, with a single number blind on the rear. As delivered they were fitted with standard illuminated "Pay as you enter" signs on the front panel and on the nearside to the right of the front entrance. Later, with introduction of the "no change" policy these were supplemented by a square black on cream "NO CHANGE GIVEN" sign on the front panel. These were designed so that they could be closed and no longer displayed when needed. Most retained the illuminated signs to the end, but a few vehicles lost them.
358 advertising Circus Tavern
358 advertising Circus Tavern
358 advertising Circus Tavern
and another shot
Two vehicles later received all over advertising liveries - 356 for Victoria Circus Shopping Precinct and 358 for Circus Tavern. Both vehicles had reverted to fleet livery before withdrawal.
362 in Cardiff
... and 361
351 in Darlington
... and 353
.. and 364
At various times vehicles of this batch went on loan to Cardiff, Darlington and Tyneside PTE. More locally, 364 was loaned for use in the Lesney staff bus fleet
at their factory at Rochford and open toppers were frequently loaned to Ensign for use on London Pride sightseeing duties.
Very late in their lives a number carried a square orange panel advertising the X1 on the off side beneath the driver's window. In 1980 four were converted to open top for use on the Sea Front Services (see below).
The first withdrawals were in 1981 (355/356/363). A further 12 (350-354/357/359/361-362/365-367) went in 1982, but most (all?) of these were temporarily reinstated for the duration of the prolonged railway strike of that year to release later Fleetlines for use on X1 reliefs. The number and via blind boxes of these vehicles had been painted over ready for sale, so they operated with only destination blinds and a yellow board in the windscreen giving more details. The remainder went in 1983 (348) and 1984 (349/358/360/364/368-369).
Surprisingly, at least 12 of the 22 closed top vehicles saw further PSV use, operators perhaps being attracted by the combination of low height and high capacity. A further 4 saw non PSV use. The last closed top vehicles being withdrawn in 1984, they were not affected by the 1988 fleet renumbering and none received the later blue and white livery.
At least one (348) survives in New Zealand.
The last four numerically of the Fleetlines, 370-373, were rebuilt as open-toppers and entered service in rebuilt form in 1980. Their livery was blue below the lower deck windows, cream above, with a thin blue line near the top of the upper deck. On rebuilding they lost their "Pay as you enter" and "NO CHANGE GIVEN" signs, probably because they could not initially be used one man operated on the Sea Front Service. Later, the "NO CHANGE GIVEN" sign was restored, it being needed on the not infrequent occasions they worked in normal service! Although later they were allowed to work one man on the Sea Front Service, photos suggest that this sign was seldom displayed, even when one man operated.
In 1987 373 (only) received a revised livery with a wavy edge to the blue of the lower deck and a broad wavy blue band round the top deck. 370 was still in service in summer 1986, but was withdrawn before the fleet renumbering of 1988. Probably for the 1988 season, the remaining three received a new livery with darker blue, again with a wavy top, up to the lower windows, white above, with a wavy yellow band round the upper deck. In the 1988 renumbering 371-373 became 901-903.
372 with Applebys
Another of 372 with Applebys
373 with Applebys
They were probably withdrawn from the Sea Front Service at the end of the 1989 season, being replaced by new conversions 904-905 for the 1990 season. However, at least 902 (old 372), and possibly 903 (old 373), seem to have been active early in 1990. By this time 901 (old 371) was dumped at the depot in a partly cannibalized state. 902-903 were sold to Appleby's, by whom they were used in Scarborough.