logo.gif (1436 bytes)
AECs in the UK
Photo Galleries

To the AEC Regal photos
To the short Reliance photos
To the 36ft Reliance photos
To photos of AEC Reliance coaches
To photos of AEC Swifts
To the AEC Regent photos
To Bridgemaster and Renown photos
To photos of London Routemasters
Photos of Routemasters around Britain

Back to AECBus home page

AEC Reliance 36ft

The long wheelbase AEC Reliance appeared in 1962 following the increase in the legal limit for length to 36ft. in 1961. With its AH590 engine it was the fastest coach chassis generally available on the market.  It was the last AEC model in production for the UK market until British Leyland finally put an end to it in 1979. Here we take a look at it in service bus form.

All the photographs on this site are from the author's personal collection unless credited otherwise.  If you would like to contribute photographs or news of AEC Reliances in service please email the webmaster at

An early example of a 36ft AEC Reliance, Maidstone & District 3704 was a 2U3RA model built in 1963 with a Willowbrook 53 seat bus body. It was seen near the end of its career with the company in the summer of 1975, running on the lengthy service between Hastings and Tunbridge Wells via Hawkhurst. The service had recently been renumbered from 84 as part of a single route numbering scheme being introduced for Maidstone & District and East Kent services. The number 254 is still used today for some Hawkhurst-Tunbridge Wells journeys although most through journeys to Hastings run as South Coast Buses 349.

Click for full size view of EKJ 109C
EKJ 109C

Maidstone and District 3749, with Weymann BET federation style bodywork, at Hawkhurst bus station on a foggy morning in the spring of 1975. This picture was taken shortly before the Hastings-Hawkhurst-Tunbridge Wells service was renumbered 254 (see above). Hawkhurst bus station and depot has varied in importance over the years, being reduced to an outstation at one stage but regaining full depot status again in the late 1980s and even becoming a regional engineering centre for a while. It finally closed in February 2008 following the loss by Arriva Kent & Sussex of county council contracts in the area.
Also new to Maidstone & District, Weymann dual-purpose bodied Reliance 2580 was the first bus to be bought by fledgling dealer Wealden Omnibuses after withdrawal in 1979. It was used as a hire vehicle for a while before being sold to Tonbridge based independent New Enterprise, with whom it is seen passing though the village of Ightham in July 1985. New Enterprise was subsequently bought by Maidstone & District, and the identity and Tonbridge premises are still used today for Arriva Kent & Sussex's low cost subsidiary.

Click for full size view of OFN 715F
OFN 715F

East Kent was a major user of AEC Reliances, Swifts and Regents. Reliance OFN 715F was seen at Canterbury bus station in April 1978. East Kent was unusual amongst major operators in not using fleetnumbers but relied instead on obtaining registrations with unique numbers. Fleetnumbers were introduced later in 1978 when OFN 715F would become 1715. The Canterbury bus station site is still in use today and benefitted from a major redevelopment in 2001, and of course the buses are now mainly white, blue and orange.

Click for full size view of SWL 50J

Another keen user of AEC buses was the City of Oxford Motor Services. Willowbrook bodied 50, originally bought for the London express services, stands in the snow at the old Gloucester Green bus station in January 1979. The redeveloped, smaller, Gloucester Green has few friends as many services don't stop there, and those that do are subject to delays due to restricted access and turning facilities.
South Wales was an avid AEC user, running Reliances of both lengths, Regents and even some AEC Swifts (although they were less successful in the hilly environment and quickly moved to London Country). One of the last batch of Reliance buses, 466 had coach seats in its bus body and was painted in NBC dual-purpose livery indicating its availability for use as a service bus or as an express coach. Towards the end of its career with the company it was most likely to be found on bus duties such as when seen at Pontardawe in October 1981. South Wales took one further batch of Reliances, with Duple coach bodies (one is illustrated on the Reliance coaches page).
The Neath and Cardiff company used many AEC Reliances, including a pair of long wheelbase models with uncommon Plaxton Derwent bodies fitted with coach seats for express work along the South Wales coast. They passed with the company's operations to South Wales Transport. UCY 980J was seen in October 1981 as South Wales 461, ending its days on local bus work in the Port Talbot area although on this occasion it had made it along the road to Swansea.

Click for full size view if JPA 118K
JPA 118K

New NBC subsidiary London Country took a batch of 90 Park Royal bodied Reliances with dual-purpose seats on semi-automatic 6U2R chassis to upgrade Greenline services. Although generally downgraded to bus work in later life many retained Greenline livery, such as RP18 at Heathrow Airport in July 1982, and continued to appear frequently on Greenline duties until all withdrawn in February 1984.

Click for full size image of JPA 143K
JPA 143K

RP43 was sold to Rennie of Dunfermline after withdrawal, and was seen outside their Cairneyhill depot in August 1983. It was later to travel back south and find employment with Prestwood Travel of Great Missenden. There are more pictures of this bus on the Before and After page.

RP21 at Windsor in 1995
JPA 121K

RP21 was reacquired by LCBS successor company London & Country with the business of AML of Hounslow.  It was restored to original Greenline livery and ran in the Guildford area, appropriately as the last RP in service with LCBS had been RP25 at Guildford.  Here it is seen on a Surrey CC Sunday service at Windsor in August 1995.   After moving to Horsham for school duties, it was later sold. It is now privately preserved and appears at running days in the outer London area.
Percivals of Oxford and Premier Travel of Cambridge jointly ran a service between two university cities for many years until it died in the 1980s. Alexander Y type dual-purpose AEC Reliance VER 262L was new to Premier Travel but had been bought from them by Percivals when seen taking layover at Oxford's Gloucester Green bus station in June 1982. This bus is now preserved at the Oxford Bus Museum and another picture of it can be found on the Preserved page. The route between Oxford and Cambridge is now served by Stagecoach United Counties X5 service, albeit via Milton Keynes rather than Luton. The has become more successful than its predecessor and is now half-hourly for much of the day.

Click for full size image of EUD 256K
EUD 256K

South Oxfordshire independent Chiltern Queens ran many AEC Reliances on rural routes in the Wallingford area.  Plaxton bodied EUD 256K was one of the few buses bought new by the company.  It was seen at the village of Watlington in August 1988 about to depart for Reading.  This bus is now preserved at the Oxford Bus Museum.

Long established Scottish independent Hutchinson of Overtown bought a number of AEC Reliance service buses during the 1970s. This Willowbrook bodied example was pictured when new. It is blinded for the Motherwell - Wishaw/Larkhall corridor. The company continued operarting into the 21st century but finally sold out to First Glasgow in 2007.
Photo by Phil Norris.

Tillingbourne's ex Hutchison Reliance

In the later years most Reliances were built as coaches but a few Duple Dominant bus bodied models were taken by smaller operators.  UGB 14R was new to Scottish operator Hutchinson of Overtown but had moved south to Tillingbourne of Cranleigh when seen in June 1985.  Tillingbourne was expanding its operations at the time and was adding secondhand purchases to its fleet of Bedfords and locally built Dennis's.
Gaelicbus operated services in the Scottish highlands for a while during the early 1990s. Another of Hutchinson's Duple Dominant bodied Reliances, JGE 347T had migrated north to the Gaelicbus fleet and was seen at Oban on a service to Fort William. It's a long way round by train (with a change at Crianlarich) but the route wasn't successful and today it is only served by Scottish Citylink coaches.
The Ministry of Defence used some AEC Reliances with these utility Marshall bodies for armed forces personnel transport (Leyland Leopards and, later, Leyland Tigers were also used). It is quite common for such vehicles to be sold for civilian use. Here, one of the Reliances has passed into the fleet of Scottish independent Stewart of Dalkeith, and was seen on a Dalkeith local service in July 1990. The bus had given up its military registration plate and been reregistered with a civilian mark from the Birmingham vehicle licensing office.
Another company to acquire one of the ex MoD Marshall bodied Reliances was Oxfordshire independent Chiltern Queens. It was painted in their coach livery and probably used mainly for school contracts but was seen here at Reading on a regular bus route in March 1994. This one had also been reregistered in Birmingham, probably by a dealer who would acquire a batch and advertise them for sale in the trade press.

Back to top