Other Operators: N–S

Last updated 15-03-10.

“E” plates for other operators were relatively uncommon and would generally have only appeared on a few stops in town centres.
National Express logoNational Express logo
National Express
This plate’s exact provenance can be precisely pinned down as it has been in possession from 1974, when it was originally displayed on a stop in Kingston town centre.
This later vinyl sticker is styled slightly differently from the enamel “E” plate.
National Express Leaflet No. 100 for the period 22 May to 13 September 1983.
There were at least four locations within the London Transport area where there were National Express-only stops, and these were marked with special LT-style stop flags.

National Express provides long-distange coach services from London to the rest of Britain. The National Express brand was created in 1972 by the state-owned National Bus Company to bring together the express bus and coach services operated by the bus companies within the NBC group. The National Express network was largely a branding and management exercise, with services continuing to be operated by the individual companies. The National Express brand name first appeared on publicity during 1973-1974, and was then introduced onto vehicles during 1978.

From Wikipedia and nationalexpress.com

North Downs Rural Transport

North Downs was an independent operator based in Orpington, who also ran routes in the Horsham area. They were part of the small operator scene for a number of years, filling the gaps which Southdown, London Transport/London Country and Aldershot & District/Alder Valley found to be unviable. This included a Dorking–Coldharbour–Ockley service which replaced the one-time LT route there.

Rick Squirrell writes, “From memory, the 851 was a Horsham–North Heath town run while the 852 was Horsham–Walliswood–Ockley–Forest Green, with several variations to meet local needs. I stress that is only from memory as I no longer have access to relevant timetables to confirm those details.

“I well recall visits to Horsham when the Carfax was an array of fascinating hardware. Southdown with their mix of Leylands, London Transport with mostly RT-types on the 405 and 414, Aldershot & District running in from Guildford with Dennis Lolines and saloons, Tillingbourne Valley (as they then were) running ex-London GS-class vehicles on a town route, North Downs running something small and unmarked (possibly a converted Ford) and the occasional interloper such as a Black & White Daimler Roadliner coach en route to Cheltenham. Those were the days and such was the scene in a ‘border town’. Crawley, East Grinstead and others were similarly colourful.”

John Wylde was kind enough to inform me that “[the] 851 was a circular route from Horsham via Rusper with some local short-workings in Horsham (to Holbrook); [and] 852 was a resurrection of the LT route strung together when Kilners collapsed. The number also came in handy when we acquired Brown Motor Services in 1970.”

Number 21 [OTT 51], seen here operating route 851, was one of four Bristol LSs that North Downs operated. This one started out life as Southern National number 1697 in May 1953. The other two, numbered 22 and 23, were ex-Western National.
Peter Relf photo, ©1972; courtesy the Bristol SU Web Site.

This “E” plate likely came from Horsham or somewhere nearby, since the 851 and 852 were Horsham area routes. The North Downs name is actually two words, so the plate is technically incorrect. ▶

This “E” plate has the older-style numeral 8, with round loops instead of teardrop-shaped ones.
This plate is unusual in its use of black instead of green for a non-LT operator. This was sometimes done in areas where London Transport was the minority operator, but in that case the other operator’s name was usually omitted.
North Downs 853 route map
North Downs route 853.
Adapted from The Greater London Bus Map.

North Downs’ route 853 was introduced in April 1969, running between Orpington and Croydon via Locksbottom, Coney Hall, Addington and Coombe Road. The number was chosen to fit into their existing series. The route initially ran every two hours but was increased to hourly and used a Ford Transit minibus. The route was tranferred from North Downs to Orpington & District in 1976, which in turn became Metrobus when O&D ceased operating in February 1981. Interestingly, the number 853 has been the basis of the similar route run for London Buses which today uses the number 353.

more… at londonbusroutes.net

PNN 74 in Mortimer Road, Oprington in April 1974. It was new to Mansfield District Traction Company Limited as their 205 in June 1954.
Graham Walker photo, ©1974; courtesy the Bristol SU Web Site.
Orpington Rural Transport Association
Orpington Rural Transport was the successor to North Downs. In the 1960s, it started a midibus route to connect Biggin Hill and Orpington. It was planned to extend the route from Biggin Hill to have three different branches to both Tatsfield and New Addington. In the end, only the New Addington route ever developed, but it didn’t last long. O.R.T. DOWNE BIGGIN HILL
City of Oxford Motor Services Ltd. / Oxford South Midland

The City of Oxford and District Tramways Company Limited was formed in 1879, and started running in December 1881. In 1905, Oxford City Council exercised its option to take control of the system, but then leased it out by public tender to the National Electric Construction Company, which took over operation in 1907. The NEC was to convert the system to electric trams, but Council wanted no overhead wiring. Stud contact proved unworkable, and presumably conduits were too expensive. The NEC proposed conversion to motorbuses, but no action was taken until William Morris (founder of the Morris Motor Company) started up his own bus service in December 1913. In response, the tramway company began running its own motorbuses shortly after. Morris sold his enterprise to the tramway company in early 1914, which then converted entirely to motorbus operation. In 1921 the company was renamed City of Oxford Motor Services Ltd. Following passage of the The Road Traffic Act in 1930 the company took over many small local operators. At about the same time the Great Western Railway bought a 49% share of the company, and NEC was taken over by British Electric Traction in 1931. In 1968 BET was nationalised.

The origin of the Oxford to London service was the Varsity Express Motors operation via High Wycombe that started in the 1920s. Also, in 1921 the South Midland Transport & Touring Company Ltd. started a London–Henley–Oxford service. The Varsity Express service was taken over by Eastern Counties Omnibus Company in 1933, which then transferred it to United Counties Omnibus Company in 1934 on an area agreement, both being Tilling-associated companies. It was further transferred to South Midland in 1952, which was by then under the control of the Thames Valley operation (having been sold to the British Transport Commission along with other Red & White group companies). In 1971 the City of Oxford Motor Services was merged with South Midland’s Oxford-to-London express services, becoming the Oxford South Midland division of the National Bus Company. In 1983, following deregulation, the companies were once again split into separate units, both of which were subject to management buyouts.

Information from Oxford Bus Company: company history and Ed Maun via the Oxford & Chiltern Bus Page.

Oxford timetable Nº 169; 31 May 1959
City of Oxford Motor Services Ltd. timetable book Nº 169, dated 31st May 1959, contains 176 pages and a fold-out route map inserted in the rear cover. It cost 6d (2½p).
Oxford timetable Nº 176; 11th November 1962
Official Timetable Nº 176 was effective 11th November 1962, and now cost 9d (3¾p).
Oxford timetable Nº 180; 13th June 1965
Two-and-a-half years and four editions later (Nº 180—13th June 1965), the price of the City and County BUS TIMETABLE had risen to 1′3 (6¼p), but also covered coach and rail services.
Oxford timetable 11 July 1976
By 1976 COMS had become part of NBC’s Oxford South Midland, but still insisted on some individuality with their 11 July 1976 timetable book (now costing 10p), which sports a photograph on the cover rather than the standard stylised map.


Oxford route 30 was the former South Midland service between London (Victoria) and Oxford via Slough, Maidenhead, Henley-on-Thames and Wallingford. It was renumbered 390 in 1975.

It is very unusual to find “E” plates with numbers on a red background, although there are a few that exist. Interestingly, many of those that do are for Oxford services.

The City of Oxford’s route 70 was the service from London (Victoria) to Oxford via Uxbridge, High Wycombe and the A40. It was replaced by Oxford South Midland route 290 in 1975.


These three examples exhibit all the variations found on Oxford route “E” plates. The name can be above or below the route number, or in both places! The extreme chipping along the edges of the first plate is typical of the occasional extra-thick ones which didn’t quite fit into the runners and often had to be forced into place, with consequential results.
Uxbridge Station stop A
Uxbridge Bus Station stop A had a red OXFORD 290 “E” plate, as well as blue ones for Green line express routes 724 and 727.
Andrew Colebourne caught Oxford South Midland 84 [RBW84M]—a Bristol RELH6L with ECW DP49F body—approaching stop A at Uxbridge Station on 26 June 1977.
Magpie Travel K5JFS
Magpie Travel K5JFS
Perhaps the most unusual vehicle to wear Green Line livery is this Autobus Classique bodied Mercedes 811, formerly with J. Fishwick & Son, but seen with Magpie Travel, who’s fleet was exclusively minibus. The bus’ rear acts as a good promotional device.
Top photo courtesy Andy’s Bus & Coach Photos;
bottom photo courtesy Showbus.

Oxford South Midland route 290 began running in 1975 between London (Victoria) and Oxford via Uxbridge, High Wycombe and the A40. It was the replacement for City of Oxford Motor Services’ route 70. In the 1980s the London to High Wycombe section of the 290 was operated in conjunction with Green Line route 790. After a period of joint operation with Luton & District, Magpie Travel of High Wycombe took over the of the 290 group of services. The 290 has been withdrawn, but a remnant survives as Red Rose route 275 between Wycombe and Oxford.

Route 390 was the 1975 renumbering of Oxford route 30. It also ran between London and Oxford, but via Heathrow Airport, Slough, Maidenhead, Henley and Wallingford. A route 190 also existed as a non-stopping motorway relief for the 290 and 390. British Rail objected to it, and a Traffic Commissioner’s hearing was called. However, BR’s complaint was rejected on a technicality because the 190 was an unlicenced relief service, whereas the 290 and 390 did have licences but weren’t competing with the railway. (Thank to Steve Annells for this note.)

Reading Corporation Transport

Reading Corporation Transport was formed on 31 October 1901 when the Corporation purchased the Reading Tramway Company (which had been running horse-cars since 1879). The system was electrified in July 1903; however the tramcars were replaced by trolleybuses between 1936 and 1939. The first buses were introduced on 6 December 1919, and they became the exclusive mode from 4 November 1968. The word Corporation was dropped from the name in 1974. In 1986 Reading Transport Ltd. was formed as an independent company owned by Reading Borough Council.


West of Trafalgar Square, the stops were marked READING TRANSPORT, and east of Trafalgar Square they were white on blue and displayed SOUTHEND TRANSPORT. Both of these are vinyl stickers which replaced enamel “E” plates.
My guess is that this label would have likely come from one of the more congested areas in central London.
Ray Smith adds, “The SETTING DOWN ONLY plate would relate to the fact that [public transport] in London—which was governed by the different post-deregulation rules relating to London tenders—which avoided competition on the streets and only at the tendering process. Thus the [Reading Goldline] X1 would not be allowed to pick up on inward journeys. This may suggest another PICKING UP ONLY plate for outward journeys.”
Reading Goldline 149
Reading Goldline Metrobus 149 is seen in Northumberland Avenue in London on 29th August 1989, on its journey back to Reading. This batch of vehicles was leased and they were delivered during 1984. Note the upper deck window wipers which were removed when the buses were cascaded to town bus work. 149 is pulling into the Coach stop which is leaning at an angle and the stop has an X1 vinyl sticker stuck on the non-London flag. The scaffolded building on the opposite side of the road was burnt in the following year, during the Poll Tax Riot on 31st March 1990.
Photo © Ray Smith.

Route X1 was introduced in October 1980 as a joint operation between Reading Transport and Southend Transport, running between Reading and Southend via Maidenhead, Slough, Heathrow Airport, Hammersmith, Kensington, Hyde Park Corner, Green Park, Trafalgar Square, Embankment, Tower, Aldgate, Poplar, Canning Town, Dagenham, Rainham, Grays and Basildon. The route started running initially every two hours and was extremely popular on British Rail strike days (of which there were quite a few!). However, Reading Transport was not immune to strikes, and its operation of the X1 was interrupted twice in 1981. Also that year some journeys began to run express via the M4 motorway. In May 1982 joint operation ceased, and the X1 was shortened to run from Reading to Aldgate, under the Goldline brand. On 1st October 1991 Reading Transport aquired the Reading-to-London route (which traded under the LondonLink name) of Bee Line (one of the privatised successors to the state-owned Alder Valley). Goldline and LondonLink were combined and relaunched as Londonline on Monday 6th April 1992, and operated until 2000.

Rover Bus Service

“Mr. J.R.G. Dell founded Rover Bus in 1928 following a period of service with the ‘Gleaner’ bus business of Dunham, Chesham. Mr. Dunham had been a driver with the London General Omnibus Company (Gleaner is an anagram of General) and established his own business which eventually passed to Chesham & District, and thus in turn to Amersham & District and thence London Transport Country Area route 316 [which was one of the very earliest to use one-man-operated RFs].

“The well-known independent operator in the Hemel Hempstead area ran the service between Hemel Hempstead Bus Station and Chesham Broadway. The direct route from Chesham to Hemel Hempstead via Whelpley Hill had been jointly operated with London Transport until 1964—a very rare instance of a joint LT working—while the service via Boxmoor, Bovingdon, Flaunden, Latimer and Lye Green has always been a Rover operation. By February 1969, Rover was providing a daily service, generally hourly (two-hourly on Sundays) although not all journeys served Flaunden and Latimer. During 1986 the services became Hertforshire County Council routes 51 and 52.”

From London Bus Handbook Volume 2, 1987 edition.

One amusing curiosity of this route is the note that appeared in London Transport timetables: “Rover tickets are not available on Rover Bus Services”! referring, of course, to LT’s all-day tickets.

Rover Bus Service LBL701 Rover Bus Service’s LBL701 photographed at Hemel Hempstead Bus Station on 23 September 1972 by Geoffrey Tribe. I cannot find any references to confirm it, but it’s pretty certain that it is a Duple Midland-bodied Bedford SBG; it looks identical to UBH697 illustrated on page 67 of the Capital Transport book “London Transport Connections”. The interesting stop beside the bus appears to be a pre-war style flag with four “E” plates: besides the obvious one for ROVER, there are also two destinated ones for the 307 and 317, plus a plain 318.
This is an astonishingly rare “E” plate as independent operator’s names are very difficult to find nowadays.
Royal Blue logoRoyal Blue logoRoyal Blue Coaches
A selection of adverts for Royal Blue’s Express Road Services from London. ▶

From R. Jones’ OldClassicCar.

From Exeter Memories: 1950s. This one dates from 1952.

From Dave Parker’s Isle of Wight Nostalgia: Amberley Island Bus Day.

“Royal Blue was the premier express coach company in the South and West of England, with a network of routes stretching from Penzance to Margate and Bournemouth to London. Following initial development of tours and local services around Bournemouth and the New Forest in the horse drawn era, express coach services were instituted after the First World War. Royal Blue became part of the Tilling Group in 1935 and came under the management of the Western & Southern National Omnibus Companies (both now absorbed into First Group). Royal Blue routes were incorporated into the National Express network in the 1970s, and the Royal Blue name finally disappeared from service coaches in the late 1980s.”

From 125th Anniversary of Royal Blue Coaches – A West Country Celebration 16/17 September [2005]

Rick Squirrell adds: “Royal Blue Coaches timetables as recent as May 1977 show that they (and their National Express successors) stopped at ‘Staines LT Garage’ (‘LCBS Garage’ in more recent years) en route from London to Exeter and points west, which might be a likely source for this plate. In more recent NBC days (to at least 1978) with some duties worked by the former Timpsons garage at Rushey Green (Catford), there have been Catford–Exeter journeys with scheduled intermediate stops at East Croydon (Dingwall Road), Kingston (Clarence Street outbound/Wood Street inbound) and Guildford (Woodbridge Road). It is more than likely that these stops were plated ‘National Express’ rather than ‘Royal Blue’, but those routes formed part of the London–Devon–Cornwall operation nonetheless.”

Southdown logoSouthdown logoSouthdown Motor Services

Southdown Motor Services can trace its history back to a pair of steam buses which operated between Pulborough and Worthing, but the company itself was formed in 1915 in Brighton. The operating area of the company was bounded by Eastbourne, Portsmouth and the Sussex border. In 1921, joint services were started with Maidstone & District (to Hawkhurst) and Eastbourne (to Hastings). Similar services to Southampton and Winchester (joint with Hants & Dorset) began in 1922. Horsham marked the boundary with Aldershot & District. Southdown also began to establish a programme of local [and] long-distance tours throughout the twenties, and it was in 1921 that the famous Southdown scroll logo was adopted. Southdown benefitted from the establishment of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933, gaining services previously operated by East Surrey and Autocar in the Weald south of East Grinstead and Crawley. This also extended the company’s eastern boundary to Heathfield. In 1958 mileage agreements were reached with the London Transport Executive for services in Crawley. In 1969 Southdown became part of the National Bus Company, and 1971 saw the transfer of most Crawley services to London Country Bus Services. With deregulation in 1986, the company adopted Southdown East & Mid Sussex and Southdown West Sussex fleetnames. The scroll fleetname returned on minibus operations and eventually the operations were re-unified as Southdown. The company was acquired by Stagecoach in August 1989. Southdown’s existence effectively ended in 1992 when the company changed its name to Sussex Coastline Buses Ltd. Ultimately, though, Stagecoach reverted to Southdown Motor Services as the operating company. Southdown ran into the London Transport area mainly at Crawley, East Grinstead and Horsham.

From www.southbus.co.uk

These “E” plates would relate to the time period from the 1950s up to early 1970s, when Southdown (and others) began wholesale butchering of their network—both local buses and coach routes—and pulled out of Horsham, Crawley, East Grinstead and the like (apart from a small number of work-in routes such as the 2 coming into Horsham from Worthing). Ironically, London Country and its successors covered many of these routes, and in some forms still do so. Thanks go to Rick Squirrell for supplying much of the Southdown route information.

In 1966 Southdown route 30 ran daily between Chelwood Gate (Red Lion) and Brighton (Pool Valley) via Chelwood Common, Danehill, Horsted Keynes, Lindfield, Burgess Hill and Hassocks.

This plate would have come from East Grinstead (or possibly as far out as Forest Row) in the days when the 30 was a Brighton–Haywards Heath–Forest Row–East Grinstead route, and which ran parallel with the 409 and Maidstone & District’s route 91 (later 291) between Forest Row and East Grinstead. (Route 36 was the more frequent Brighton–East Grinstead operation, but did not run via either Forest Row or Chelwood Common, instead via West Hoathly on a routing which became in part LCBS route 474 after Southdown abandoned it.)


72 SOUTHDOWN THE CARFAX ◀ Richard Bradley writes, “This plate came from Horsham and while I know of one other plate of this kind, I suspect there may not have many or indeed any others made. I have photographic evidence that one plate was posted just off the Carfax in London Road; the other was probably posted at the railway station.”
The two routes shared common ground only between Horsham Carfax, the Station and Oakhill Road. This “E” plate will be from Horsham: likely the the Railway Station, but possibly from one of the three intermediate stops. London Transport would have only been responsible for the bus stops along North Road and at Horsham Station as Southdown placed their own flags at the Carfax. It is produced on a sheet of aluminum. ▶

Southdown 72 was a Horsham crosstown local town service from Comptons Lane (Hornbrook Estate) to The Common via Horsham station.

Route 89 was for many years the Horsham to Uckfield via Haywards Heath service, before the Haywards Heath–Uckfield section was run separately.

London Transport had one stop in the Carfax outside the Post Office and another one on the western arm, which may have been created to replace the stop in London Road when this road was pedestrianised in the early 1970s. Both stops were on the outer circle. Other operators such as Southdown generally used the inner circle which was equipped with provincial bus stops.”

These routes were local services in the Horsham area. Routes 73 and 73A were Horsham locals with slightly different routeings from Horsham Carfax to Davis Estate. There were some variations in the service they provided, but in 1967 route 73 ran between Merrifield Drive and Macleod Road via Horsham Carfax and Horsham Station. Route 73A is described below. The 75 was a Horsham–Coolham route with a few trips extended to Billingshurst; and the 78 was the Horsham–Balcombe–Handcross route which ran beyond Handcross on Wednesdays and Saturdays only. This extension was withdrawn around 1964 and the route then ran only to Handcross.

This plate came from Horsham: either the Carfax or the Railway Station, or possibly from one of the three intermediate stops. Other bus operators’ plates are always rather more unusual, but as far as I can tell, this plate is unique (apart from its pair on the other side of the stop) in that it displays four routes on it. I don’t believe I have ever seen another “E” plate with four routes shown in this way.

73 73A 75 78 SOUTHDOWN


Route 73A was a Horsham local route running on Mondays to Saturdays between Davis Estate (Merrifield Drive) and Depot Road (Compton’s Lane) via Horsham Carfax and Horsham Station. Thanks go to Richard Bradley for supplying additional details about the 73 and 73A.

Route 122 was a four-hour marathon Gravesend–Brighton service via Meopham, Borough Green, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, and used to run daily every hour. It was run jointly by Maidstone & District and Southdown Motor Services, including having one or two vehicles shedded at the other operator’s premises overnight. A unique feature of this service was that the two companies operated similar vehicles, enabling one company’s crews to operate the other’s vehicles, a frequent practice on the route. The route was first bisected at Tunbridge Wells in the 1970s and renumbered 322, then the northern half was butchered out of existence. The area between Tonbridge and Borough Green via Plaxtol was very rural and hardly justified the service offerred. Today the Brighton–Tunbridge Wells portion is alive and well and runs as Brighton & Hove routes 29 and 129; several local routes run thence to Tonbridge, but with no direct service at all north of Tonbridge (’though it is still possible to travel from Gravesend south to Borough Green on an Arriva bus).

This plate is very unusual is that is shows two operators’ names, and likely has come from Gravesend, Wrotham (where the 719 was met), or the Tonbridge–Tunbridge Wells section of route.



Southdown 132 ran from East Grinstead to Uckfield from 1971 until 1976 when it was renumbered 172. Prior to that it was part of Southdown service 92 to Eastbourne. It then ran as Metrobus route 261 until the end of 2005 when it became Eastbourne buses route 54 all the way to Eastbourne.

This vinyl sticker was sized to fit a standard National Bus Company provincial stop flag.

I had thought that this label came from Green Line route 740, but the story is far more complex, as explained by Rick Squirrell:

Following “Express Service” deregulation in 1980, numerous operators commenced lengthy limited-stop services to take advantage of this new legislation and test previously untapped markets. [From May 1982] London Country and Alder Valley entered into a joint agreement to work a new route 740 marketed under the Green Line brand which ran between Victoria (and later Aldgate on some peak trips) and various locations in the “Stockbroker Belt” around Guildford, Farnham and Godalming; peak trips served Whitehill. The service was much more direct than the traditional Hertford–London–Guildford Green Line 715, making far fewer stops until well clear of London itself to offer a more attractive service, and to comply with the new legislation as to minimum intervals between stops.

There was also a peak variant 741 which ran to Whitehill, and as far as Liss at one time, and briefly also a 742 to Bordon Camp.

As London Country territory ended at Guildford, which was very much a “frontier town” in regulated days, it was felt appropriate that the neighbouring operator—Alder Valley—be invited to share in the operation rather than initiate a rivalry. I understand it was felt that Green Line was considered a stronger brand than Alder Valley. Alder Valley’s involvement did not last [beyond May 1986, at which time the route was extended to Aldgate], and the service was cut back to become a regular Guildford–Victoria express, with a single morning peak extension to Aldgate from Whitehill and vice-versa in the evening. Southdown was not involved with this operation.

Arising from the major service revisions in November 1974 which saw the removal of the last conductor-operated Southdown buses in the Portsmouth area, the Company subsequently introduced a series of limited-stop services on the London Road axis to the north of the City. Traditionally, Southdown had provided service to Petersfield, Clanfield and the newly-developed residential areas around Waterlooville and Cowplain, while the “Pompey” buses then operated by City of Portsmouth Passenger Transport Department ran some partially-competing routes but with different ultimate destinations.

The first of Southdown’s new limited stop services was the 740 between Portsmouth city centre and the new Wecock Farm housing estate north of Waterlooville. Over successive years an entire service group was developed which skipped many inner-city stops and allowed one-man-operated buses to maintain the previous crew-operated journey times or slightly better. Peak trips used the then-new M275 motorway spur to run non-stop out to Cosham. Routes numbered 73x were peak motorway expresses and 74x the regular all-day limited-stop buses.

I believe this sticker is from the Portsmouth scheme and relates to the Wecock Farm route which has no connection at all with the Green Line network. It is in a representation of traditional Southdown green and cream which was still recognised by customers as the fleet livery in the early days of that scheme. Different colored stickers were used at bus stops to distinguish those routes operated by Southdown, and CPPTD with their maroon and white buses. In particular the new limited-stop services were heavily promoted.

Over the next few years Southdown did get involved in a number of other initiatives which stepped into Green Line territory and used an overlapping number series. The 7xx series was used by Southdown extensively for any route which did not serve all stops, even if only a few were missed out. There was a short-lived Portsmouth–Windsor route 737 which ran well into “traditional” Green Line territory north of Guildford. I speak from experience in saying it was never well used and lasted only a couple of years.

Deregulation also blurred the boundaries even further in terms of what was, and what was not, a “Green Line”. The 762 ran between Brighton and Reading via Gatwick, Dorking and Guildford and was a three-way joint operation of Southdown, Green Line and Alder Valley. Stops carried stickers accordingly. The 773 Gatwick–Crawley–Brighton (Hove in peaks) was a Southdown/Green Line joint route and the 795 Brighton–Dartford Tunnel–Southend was joint between Green Line, Southdown and Southend Transport. It too was a short-lived operation for the most part, though Southend soldiered on alone with a single weekly trip for several years after the others had pulled out. The 795 had “Green Line” stickers as far south as Brighton—at least in its first year of operation. All of the 762, 773 and 795 were included in later editions of the Green Line Route Map, as were the London–Guildford 740 and 741.


Southdown express services began in 1924, initially between Brighton and London (Lupus Street). It was a Southdown coach which was the first vehicle to enter Victoria Coach Station on 10 March 1932.

This “E” plate is likely to have come from a Sussex town, and might have been from Horsham again, or Crawley (including the County Oak depot which was north of the town and into LPTB territory), or indeed one of many other possible locations.
A Summer 1969 Southdown Express Coach Service timetable for journeys between London & Brighton. ▶
Southdown London & Brighton timetable

The SOUTHDOWN SUMMER EXPRESS SERVICES plate probably refers to the once-popular London–South Coast summer holiday camp destinations. It could equally could refer to one of the seasonal cross-country services which ran, such as Ramsgate–Crawley–Southsea, linking to the Isle of Wight ferries. One particularly unlikely sounding route ran on Summer weekends between Bletchingley and Bournemouth; others operated from East Grinstead (where at least Southdown had a garage at one time) to Totnes, Merstham to Folkestone, Horsham to Ramsgate or even Southsea to Southend through the Dartford Tunnel. All of these would have used London Transport Central and Country Area bus stops at some point, typically in Crawley, Horsham, Redhill or Reigate. There was also the procession from Victoria to holiday camps (such as Butlins) at Hayling Island, Bracklesham Bay, Selsey, Bognor Regis and Saltdean, all of which stopped in the outer suburbs: typically at Fulham, Richmond, Kingston and some also at Guildford.

This is another hand-lettered aluminum “E” plate. I don’t know why Southdown had so many (relatively speaking) as they were rather uncommon.

Southend Transport

Southend Corporation Transport was founded in 1901. It operated a light electric railway sytem which lasted until 1942 under the name Southend-on-Sea Corporation Tramways. Motorbuses were introduced in 1914, and the trolleybus era ran from 1925 to 1954. The name was shortened to Southend Transport in 1974, and it became a limited company in 1986. It was sold to the British Bus group in 1993, which was taken over by Cowie three years later. Since 1998 it has been branded “Arriva serving Southend” (or more recently just “Arriva”).


◀ Both operators paid for their own “E” plates which were supplied to London Transport and fixed to the bus stops in the London area. East of Trafalgar Square, the plates were as shown reading SOUTHEND TRANSPORT, and west of Trafalgar Square they were white on maroon and displayed READING TRANSPORT. Both versions are rarely seen nowadays and are extremely sought after. This one is in reasonable condition as are most of this type, but the painted edges tend to be flakey owing to wear when they were inserted into the runners on the LT stops.
Southend Transport 234 [MRJ234W] in Aldgate Bus & Coach Station on February 3, 1982. It is a 1981 Leyland Fleetline with a Northern Counties H49/31D body. ▶
Photograph © Richard Delahoy; courtesy SCT'61.
Southend Transport 234

Route X1 was introduced in October 1980 as a joint operation between Southend Transport and Reading Transport, running between Southend and Reading via Basildon, Grays, Rainham, Dagenham, Canning Town, Poplar, Aldgate, Tower, Embankment, Trafalgar Square, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, Kensington, Hammersmith, Heathrow Airport, Slough and Maidenhead. The route started running initially every two hours and was extremely popular on British Rail strike days (of which there were quite a few!) and Southend Transport provided dozens of duplicates between Aldgate and Southend. The route gained popularity and a number of variations were introduced which provided faster journeys. In May 1982 Reading Transport pulled out of the service and left Southend to run between Heathrow Airport and Southend. Short journeys to Green Park were introduced, and one trip bypassed Basildon. In 1983 Monday to Saturday base service was increased to an hourly frequency. The next year most journeys were withdrawn between Green Park and Heathrow, but summer Sunday extensions (which also operated in 1985) were added to Thorpe Park or Windsor. Also, journeys omitting Basildon were renumbered X11. During the winter of 1986-87 The service reached its peak, with 64 weekday journeys on seven services using a total of 66 coaches. In April 1988 the remaining Heathrow service was withdrawn, but was reintroduced in October, now operating via Victoria Coach Station and Earls Court then non stop to Heathrow, rather than by the original route via Piccadilly and Hammersmith. At the same time the main service was extended from Green Park to Hyde Park Corner, and five a.m. peak trips were diverted from the Embankment to Westminster (Victoria Street) instead of Green Park. In 1990 peak hours journeys operating via Homesteads and Stanford-le-Hope (which had replaced the X31 and X41) were renumbered X2. Later that year some off-peak trips were diverted into the new Lakeside Shopping Centre. In 1991 the X1 was branded as a Green Line service (but Green Line livery was not adopted until 1995). Also, the Victoria terminus was moved from Semley Place to the Green Line Coach Station. In 1994 p.m. peak journeys were diverted from Aldgate Bus Station to Mansell Street in order to avoid congestion. In 1995 Sunday service was diverted from Piccadilly, now running direct from Embankment to Victoria. In 1996 some a.m. peak journeys were rerouted to travel non-stop via the new Limehouse Link instead of the A13. In 1997 all Heathrow Airport service was withdrawn. In 1999, after seven years of competition with Thamesway, joint service commenced and was renumbered 721, running via Homesteads and Lakeside. In 2001 First Thamesway withdrew its journeys, and in February 2002 Stephensons of Essex took over from Arriva and reverted to the number X1. In July 2008 Stephensons discontinued its service, and two months later Swallow Coach Company introduced its own X1 (which was not part of the Green Line network) between London Victoria (Buckingham Palace Road) and Homesteads (Gable Hall School) via Westminster, Embankment, Cannon Street, Aldgate, Limehouse, Canary Wharf, Barking, Dagenham, Grays, Socketts Heath, Orsett and Stanford-le-Hope. Initially intended as a three month trial, it was withdrawn in May 2009.

Star Bus (London Transport)

“Star Bus” was a very short-lived experimental service introduced by London Transport on 14th October 1972 using six DMSs (a shared allocation between Victoria [GM], Wandsworth [WD] and Walworth [WL] garages). The buses from Victoria garage were adorned with stick-on stars on the outside, and could be seen in the daytime on route 10A (which did not run during the evenings). It was designed to take people from the evening theatre shows to reach their cars at the Park Lane car park or Paddington Station, and provided a ten-minute service between 21.00 and midnight from Aldwych via Piccadilly Circus and Tottenham Court Road Station. The return journey from Paddington to Aldwych ran out of service. The service was reduced after just two weeks of operation and then worked by just three DMSs from Victoria garage. It was obviously not a success, as the route was withdrawn on 4th March 1973 after less than five months’ operation.

Star Bus timetable 14.10.72
The original Star Bus timetable, dated 14.10.72.
This is one of the most outstanding plates I have seen and is astonishingly rare. Just a handful of bus stops would have carried “E” plates and it was very short-lived, therefore a rare survivor. It is also unusual to find quotation marks on an “E” plate. The edge chips are caused by this being a very thick plate and therefore a tight fit in the bus stop runners. As with other express services, blue was the colour used for the background. ▶
Star Bus route map
Adapted from The Greater London Bus Map.
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