London Country South East

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London Country South East
Kentish Bus AEC Routemaster RML2574.jpg
AEC Routemaster with route 19 branding
in July 1993
ParentNational Bus Company (1986-88)
Proudmutual (1988-94)
British Bus (1994-96)
Cowie Group
Founded7 September 1986
Service areaKent
Greater London
Service typeBus operator

London Country South East[1] (LCSE) was a bus operator in South East England and London. It was formed from the split of London Country Bus Services in 1986 and operated a fleet of around 170 buses from four garages, with its headquarters located in Northfleet, it was rebranded as Kentish Bus in 1987 and used this name for most of its existence. Its former garages and operations now form part of Arriva Southern Counties and Arriva London.

Formation and early history[edit]

In the run-up to deregulation, London Country Bus Services was broken into four smaller companies on 7 September 1986.[2][3]

London Country South East was the smallest of the four, with just 169 buses and garages in Dartford, Dunton Green, Northfleet and Swanley, with some London Regional Transport contracts operated from the former National Travel garages in Victoria and Catford, with the head office in an office in Dartford.

Bill Gunning, the former Traffic Manager of London Country Bus Service, became the new company's managing director; the company was renamed Kentish Bus & Coach in April 1987, and a new maroon and cream livery, loosely based on the colours of the erstwhile Colchester Corporation Transport, replaced the former London Country green.[3][4] The head office was relocated to Northfleet.

1988-1994: Proudmutual[edit]

On 15 March 1988, Kentish Bus was sold to Proudmutual Limited,[5] the management buyout who already owned Northumbria Motor Services.[6][7][8][9][10]

The company expanded its London operations significantly with a series of contract wins and acquisitions; the largest win was of London routes 22A, 22B and 55, taken from London Forest on 20 January 1990 with 43 new dual-door Northern Counties bodied Leyland Olympians were bought to operate the routes.[11] Outside of London, the competing operations of Northfleet-based Mini Metro were taken over in January 1990.[12]

In February 1992, Kentish Bus purchased seven contracted routes and 50 vehicles from Boro'line;[13][14] these were initially operated from the former Boro'line garage in Crayford; the majority later moved to Dartford, although some also operated from the former London Forest Ash Grove garage, which was also used for routes 22A, 22B and 55.[3]

In early 1993, Kentish Bus gained work in the south-east London and ordered 65 new buses to cover the workings; this took the fleet size to 352, more than double its size in 1986.[3] One of the routes gained was route 19, for which the company leased refurbished AEC Routemasters from London Regional Transport. Kentish Bus was the first operator other than a former London Buses subsidiary, to win a contract for a Routemaster operated route, and introduced its maroon and cream livery in place of London red.[15][16]

By August 1993, Kentish Bus had become the largest independent operator of London contracts.[15] Further expansion came in November 1993, when two London contracts and six minor commercial routes, along with 23 buses, were taken over from Transcity Buses.[3]

1994-1997: British Bus and Cowie Group[edit]

Carlyle bodied Dennis Dart in the short-lived green and yellow livery on route 306 in Gravesend in July 1996

In July 1994, the fast-expanding British Bus group purchased Proudmutual. British Bus already owned neighbouring operator London & Country (successor to London Country South West), and in January 1995 London & Country's contracted operations at Croydon, Walworth and Dunton Green garages were split into a new company, Londonlinks, which was run from Kentish Bus' Northfleet garage.[17]

When Maidstone & District was also acquired by British Bus in April 1995, the three companies were put under the control of a single holding company, Invictaway, which was based at Maidstone & District's head office in Maidstone.[17][18] A new livery of green and yellow was also introduced to Kentish Bus.[17]

On 1 August 1996, British Bus was purchased by the Cowie Group in a deal which brought three of the four segments of London Country Bus Services back under common ownership.[8][19][20]

Rebranding and subsequent history[edit]

In November 1997, the Cowie Group was rebranded as Arriva;[21] the Invictaway company became Arriva Southern Counties, and was subdivided into five smaller subsidiaries. The Dartford and Northfleet garages of Kentish Bus formed the new Arriva Kent Thameside operation, while Tunbridge Wells joined most of Maidstone & District's operation as Arriva Kent & Sussex; the London operations were integrated into Arriva London.


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 2005566 Arriva Kent Thameside Limited formerly Kentish Bus & Coach Company Limited formerly London Country Bus (South East) Limited
  2. ^ Out on its own Commercial Motor 6 December 1986 page 54
  3. ^ a b c d e McLachlan, Tom (1995). London Buses 1985-1995: Managing The Change. Venture Publications. pp. 98–99. ISBN 1-898432-74-0.
  4. ^ New name, new colours Commercial Motor 16 May 1987 page 20
  5. ^ Companies House extract company no 2106786 The Proudmutual Transport Group Limited formerly Proudmutual Limited
  6. ^ London Country - three to go Commercial Motor 12 November 1987 page 32
  7. ^ Hansard House of Commons 18 April 1988
  8. ^ a b Ampyx Web World - "London Country Bus Services" Accessed 9 March 2010.
  9. ^ "Buses Online: Kentish Bus & Coach". Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  10. ^ History - South East Arriva
  11. ^ Kentish invests in new routes Commercial Motor 21 September 1989 page 22
  12. ^ Metrobus sell off Commercial Motor 11 January 1990 page 29
  13. ^ Boro'line deal 'soon' Commercial Motor 16 January 1992 page 16
  14. ^ Talks continue on Maidstone sale Commercial Motor 27 February 1992 page 18
  15. ^ a b Brown, Stewart J (September 1993). Buses in Britain. Capital Transport. pp. 160–161. ISBN 1-85414-158-9.
  16. ^ Blacker, Ken (2007). Routemaster: 1970–2005. 2 (2nd ed.). Harrow Weald: Capital Transport. pp. 119, 120, 142, 165, 173. ISBN 978-1-85414-303-7.
  17. ^ a b c Morris, Stephen (September 1996). "NBC since NBC: a history of the former NBC subsidiaries". Buses Focus: 46.
  18. ^ Serving the people of East Kent & West Sussex Archived 7 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine M&D and East Kent Bus Club
  19. ^ Cowie buys British Bus for £282m Herald Scotland 1 August 1996
  20. ^ Cowie Group plc and British Bus Group Limited: A report on the merger situation Competition Commission 31 October 1996
  21. ^ Bamber Forsyth unites Cowie Design Week 23 October 1997