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AEC Reliance coach

The underfloor engined AEC Reliance chassis quickly gained popularity amongst coach operators.  The first medium weight models were ideally suited for luxury tour coach bodywork, with companies such as Harrington taking full advantage of the underfloor layout to produce both elegant and practical designs.  The launch in 1961 of the longer wheelbase chassis with its powerful AH590 engine and capability to take 36ft. long bodies came shortly after the first motorways were opened, and many express service operators were quick to see the potential.  Later, as the rear-engined layout became more popular for bus use, it was for coaching duties that the bulk of Reliances were sold, and as the bodywork got heavier so the engines got bigger, culminating in the AH760 unit used in the final chassis for Greenline services.

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 Reliance coaches in service please email the author at

The Plaxton Embassy body was relatively uncommon, as it soon gave way to the Panorama design. This one is seen on an AEC Reliance of Brownriggs of Cumbria, but was new to Cotters of Glasgow. Used for UK and European tours, it was seen in the rather mundane location of a car park in Aberdeen in September 1986.
This coach still exists, remaining in Brownriggs livery, and was for sale by auction in Yorkshire in December 2015.

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AKP 253B

Even the allover National white livery does little to spoil the elegant lines of the Harrington Grenadier bodywork on Maidstone & District 4156, seen awaiting its next turn of duty at Silverhill (Hastings) depot in the summer of 1975.  With their six speed synchromesh gearboxes and powerful AH590 engines these 1963 built coaches could easily match the newly introduced 70 m.p.h. speed limit.
New to Barton, the Midlands operator of express bus services which is now a part of Trent, Harrington Grenadier BVO 9C was seen with South Buckinghamshire independent Ivins on a works contract at a High Wycombe industrial estate in January 1986. It is passing the former UK site of the company that introduced the artificial sweetener Nutrasweet/Aspartame to the world. The site was vacated in 2004, but shuttle buses still pass by regularly on their way to the Wycombe Wanderers football ground a couple of hundred yards up the road. Sadly AEC Reliances no longer feature; even in 1986 the appearance of this 21 year old vehicle was a rarity occasioned by the fall of Trafalgar Travel and consequent subcontracting.

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YRR 513H

Also new to Barton, this coach with Plaxton Panorama Elite body is seen in the livery of North Wales independent Clynnog & Trefor in September 1982.  It is about to depart from Caernarfon on C&T's bus route to Pwllheli via Trefor village. Caernarfon is still a colourful place with many routes being run by small operators with interesting vehicles.

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MRR 810K

Another ex Barton coach, this was one of a batch of ten with 60 semi-coach seats acquired by London Country. These were used mainly for school services but also appeared on Saturday Greenline extras, such as the 744 on which RN10 was seen at Brighton Pool Valley in October 1983. Alongside is Leyland Leopard PL23 on the former Brighton-Reading service joint with Alder Valley.

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East Kent had a large coach fleet and even continued traditional coaching activities under Stagecoach ownership until the end of 1999. From 1969 Plaxton Panorama Elite bodies were favoured, including some 12m long examples. Here a standard 6U3ZR model has arrived at Dover on the run from London in January 1978. The route now runs as Express Shuttle 020.

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521 FN

In 1974 East Kent extended the lives of some 12 year old Reliance chassis by replacing the Park Royal bodies with new Plaxton ones. They had to keep their original registration numbers, as shown by 8521 at Ashford depot in September 1980. After service with East Kent many of these coaches saw further service in Essex and Norfolk, ensuring that the FN registrations remained in use long enough to service the current fad for "cherished" registrations.

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A197 PPU

In 1983/4 East Kent repeated the performance by rebodying Duple bodied Reliances with new Berkhof bodies. This time the DVLC's erratic policy on registration of rebodies favoured the operator and new A registration marks were obtained, albeit from Essex rather than Kent. 8197 (A197 PPU), originally HFN 28L, was seen leaving London on a National Express duty in April 1985.
This coach is in still in service, running for Corbetts of Sheffield.

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East Kent 8033 at Canterbury in March 1984 still with its original Duple Dominant touring coach bodywork. East Kent switched allegiance from Plaxton to Duple for coach bodies during the mid-1970s, this 1973 batch being the first Dominants for East Kent.
Duple Dominant bodied TWJ 427L was one of a batch delivered new to Sheffield United Tours, and was in the ownership of National Travel East when pictured on a National Express duty in its home city in April 1982. Following privatisation and deregulation, NTE changed its name back to SUT and moved into bus operation. It competed with and was eventually taken over by the former South Yorks PTE operation, which styled itself Mainline and is now First South Yorkshire.

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WWJ 608M

A number of AEC Reliances passed to South Yorkshire PTE when they took over the Booth and Fisher business. Plaxton bodied 1004 remained with the PTE longer than most and was seen on a peak hour journey from Sheffield to its home depot of Halfway in February 1983. The depot at the inappropriately named Halfway, which is now the terminus for services of First South Yorkshire, StagecoachYorkshire and Stagecoach Supertram, was vacated by First South Yorkshire and sold to TM Travel in 2008.
Another keen user of AEC Reliances was South Wales, who switched to Leyland Leopards for their coaching requirements later than most other National Bus Company group companies and carried on with Reliances until 1974. The last batch carried the Express version of the Duple Dominant body with bus type doors required for the 50% new vehicle purchase grant. In order to qualify for the grant, vehicles had to spend a certain proportion of mileage on stage services, so despite being in National white coaching livery 161 was seen on local service work at Neath in October 1982.
This Reliance of Robinson of Appleby was built with the uncommon Willowbrook Expressway body, a basic design for service work and contract duties. It was seen at the Willowbrook factory prior to delivery to the operator.
Photo by Phil Norris.
The Bws Gwynedd era for contracted services in North Wales brought a number of different operators and vehicle variety onto local service work, sometimes with different companies working a route on different days of the week. Jones of Blaenau Ffestiniog Plaxton Panarama bodied Reliance HPE 200K certainly wouldn't be considered a suitable vehicle for contracted services these days, but added variety and comfort to Welsh rural routes when seen at Dolgellau in October 1987.

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SPK 204M

London Country maintained a small fleet of more luxuriously (for the time) appointed Plaxton coaches for private hire work. These were later added to with Plaxton and Duple bodied vehicles from National Travel South East. One of the original five, P4 emerges from Reading bus station on a National Express working in April 1984. Sister P3 is preserved. The old wind tunnel that was Reading bus station has long since been abandoned in favour of the station, but is set to return to temporary use in 2011 during thr station redevelopment.

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Between 1978 and 1981 London Country leased 150 Reliances with Plaxton and Duple Express coach bodies to upgrade Greenline services. Duple bodied RB66 passes through the village of Weald near Sevenoaks with a Tunbridge Wells to London service in April 1984. The 706 has now been cut back to Bromley as Arriva Kent and Sussex 402 and omits Weald village, while the leased coaches were replaced by Leyland Tigers after five years and were sold throughout the country with a handful still in use today.

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EPM 146V

One of the last batch of Greenline coaches, and the last major UK order for AEC chassis, Plaxton bodied former RS146 was seen working for Buckinghamshire independent Prestwood Travel at High Wycombe in October 1993.  Prestwood Travel had a history of running former LCBS AECs, having previously run an SMA class Swift and two RP class Reliances acquired from Rennies of Dunfermline, before acquiring four RS class Reliances. Sadly this operator went out of business during 2004.
Another of the Prestwood Travel Reliances, former Greenline RS111 was seen at the depot near Great Kingshill in April 2003, in the company of some more modern coaches. The small business park at Binders Yard is used by a number of local independents and a local dealer/preservationist, Ward Jones, who also maintains many of the vehicles using the site. Sadly, Prestwood Travel ceased operating in 2004 and their fleet of Reliances were sold mainly for scrap. Photo by a correspondent.

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APM 113T

London & Country, the renamed South-Western part of LCBS, reacquired former RS113 in 1994 for additional school bus duties in Surrey.  Numbered 161, it was seen about to take up a school duty for subsidiary company Horsham Buses in July 1996.  The depot at Horsham was relocated to Warnham Station and was used by Arriva Southern Counties until 2009 when the Horsham operations were sold to Metrobus. The coach passed to Allco of High Wycombe for spares.
Typical of the Plaxton Supreme bodied Reliances favoured by many smaller operators in the mid-1970s is SRY 759R, which was seen on a shoppers service into Gloucester in August 2001 while owned by Mike Cainey travel. A few still run for smaller operators, mainly on school contract duties, but forays on to service bus work such as this are now a thing of the past. This vehicle is now preserved by a private owner in Margate.

EPM 137V

Another former Greenline coach, former RS137 had several owners since, but in early 2003 appeared with Strathtay Scottish subsidiary Meffans Coaches (part of Traction Group). It was pictured in their yard in August 2005. A picture of this coach in Greenline Golden Jubilee livery when new is on the Before and After page. This coach has now passed into preservation in Scotland.
Another typical 1970s Plaxton Supreme bodied Reliance UGP 97R is pictured with Lancashire independent Bradshaws Travel in early 2005, and remains in service with them today. Photo by Duane Fryer.
Former Greenline RS150, the last AEC delivered to the LCBS fleet, has been returned to service in 2006 by Just Travel of York. It retains the livery of former owner Anderson Travel as a tribute to Mick Anderson, a devoted fan and operator of AECs. Photo by James Simpson.

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