No, not Leeds – though anybody who knows me would sympathise with (or mock) my other affliction. To take my mind off the inevitable I made my way to Walsall to cover the last day of Chase Bus Services. This independent operator had made itself a name by continuing to operate a large fleet of Leyland Nationals into their thirties, proving that the type was worth its weight in gold after all.
With only comparatively minimal alterations (a new set of headlights here, a refurbished engine there, plus conversions to single-door carried out by previous owners and new seat cushions over the existing frames), the two dozen Nationals, most of which derived from London Transport, held together the handful of routes emanating from Walsall’s futuristic-appearing but terribly cramped bus station to points north like Brownhills and Bloxwich. Following the takeover by Arriva on 26th February, today was chosen to be the last day of the Nationals, as Arriva-liveried vehicles were to be seconded from other parts of the empire. Drivers had already settled into their Arriva uniforms, Arriva posters had gone up inside the vehicles and with the end of the Nationals, so would depart the Chase identity and the distinctive white, orange and brown livery.
However, a twist developed (don’t they always with ‘last’ days?) in that the adverts applied to several of the Nationals have yet to expire, so a half-measure has been taken by applying Arriva livery to the fronts of the buses affected, about six or seven of them. To show you what I mean, pictured top left is duplicate LS 193 (THX 193S) in the GM Buses-inspired livery (with rear ad) passing Arriva-fronted LS 209 (THX 209S) outside Walsall bus station. The duplicate followed Chase’s routes and then posed for photographers inside the Cannock depot. A special £5 commemorative ticket was offered, which gave travel on the company’s buses throughout the day.
Pictured middle is another of their ex-LT Nationals, LS 382 (BYW 382V) speeding towards Walsall from Brownhills via the Lichfield Road. And on the right, returning to the town centre is former London Country B-series National SNB 448 (YPL 448T).
Photographers from far and wide made the trip, and you can see their accounts of the day here (Omnibuses), here (Martin Ruthe), here (Dave Heath) here (Terry Wong Min) and here (Jimmy Sheng).
So just as Leeds may yet survive if we put ten past Derby and Hull lose (it may happen!) the Nationals live on a little longer. All are to be sold through auction on 19th May (Nationals, not Leeds players, though which will fetch more is open to opinion…). Thanks to
Chase Arriva Midlands, as I must call them now, for putting on an enjoyable day.