Large numbers of new buses coming into the Arriva Southern Counties fleet alongside refurbished mid-life cascades from London is enabling the company’s small number of  remaining step-entrance double-deckers to be withdrawn as the fleet quickly heads towards a 100% low-floor operation.

Along with some Volvo Olympians just departed is one of the earlier Leyland variety, numbered 5910 and registered K910SKR.

This was the last of a very long line of Leylands that started one hundred years ago when Arriva’s predecessor in West Kent, The Maidstone & District Motor Services, took delivery in May 1913 of D 9717, a 32hp Leyland with 32-seat front-entrance bodywork by Dodson. The vehicle stayed in the fleet until 1925, by which time Leyland single-deckers in both open-top charabanc form and closed-top service buses had appeared in large numbers as the company expanded its operations.

Over the ensuing decades M&D bought considerable numbers of Leyland buses and coaches, with the manufacturer being the company’s main supplier of large batches of vehicles throughout its history until Volvo took over and the Leyland name was no more.

The last Leyland Olympian has been running for Arriva’s New Enterprise Coaches’ fleet at Tonbridge in recent times, still carrying Arriva colours and used on school runs in the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells area.

Its departure from the Kent fleet therefore marks a significant point in the company’s history, the current Arriva Kent & Surrey Limited being a renaming from the original M&D company, New Enterprise having been bought by M&D in 1988.

Arriva Southern Counties’ Regional Publicity Manager, Richard Lewis, said:

“To operate vehicles from one manufacturer continuously for more than one hundred years is no mean feat and the withdrawal of 5910 from service is a significant historical event.

“New in 1993, the bus has, like so many Olympians, served us well, and the fact that it is leaving us has come about indirectly as a result of the entry into service of our £3 million fleet of eleven Volvo B5LH hybrid double-deckers at Maidstone in April, coupled with the ongoing transfer from London of mid-life DAF and Volvo double-deckers which will soon enable us to offer our customers easy-access buses on all routes.

“Our single-deck fleet has also been updated in the first quarter of this year with thirty-six new buses that are being followed by other refurbished vehicles from London.

“Over the years, M&D bought hundreds of Leyland vehicles and it is testament to the quality of its products that the name lives on, albeit in small numbers of vehicles still operating for bus and coach companies. Although 5910 has left its traditional home area it is still earning its keep, helping out on a short-term basis at Arriva the Shires & Essex while their Enviro400s are away for upgrading to Sapphire standard.”

Pictured: the original 1913 M&D Leyland (below) and the last of the line which is the subject of this story, Olympian K910SKR (above).