Despite over 21 passing since the Workington plant of Leyland Bus closed, the name Leyland itself still conjours up a mental image of buses or coaches. Going back to the B.L days, the company produced the worlds largest range pf public service vehicles with long gone names such as A.E.C – Bristol – Daimler and of course… Leyland.
Following a brief (18 month) ownership as a management buy-out from the then state owned B.L Ltd, Leyland was sold on and passed into the hands of Volvo. As a result of falling state grants for new buses and the hard hitting recession of the early 90’s, Volvo found no other option than to close down the UK factories of Leyland Bus to stem serious financial losses.
Leyland’s final forray into the double deck market was the Olympian – first introduced back in 1980 that saw the end of all the other Leyland controlled brands. Despite the home market fading away like a dying candle, some healthy orders came in for export and it was a fact that Leyland gained a stay of execution purely on the back of one final overseas order.
A high-capacity tri-axle version was developed for the Far East market with uprated turbocharged engines from Cummins and Gardner along with other options such as air conditioning. The majority of these Alexander coachwork Olympians went into intensive service with both Kowloon Motor Bus and Singapore transit.
They went on to give sterling service and following their withdrawal, many came back to the UK ending up in service with Stagecoach on their cut price Megabus operation and numerous independent operators for school transport contracts. Olympian was generally regarded as a decent bus with a very robust and long lasting chassis.
The final Leyland chassis – NO: ON21080 left the Lillyhall plant just outside Workington in 1993. Owing to a backlog at Falkirk based Alexander Coachworks, ON21080 did not recieve its bodywork until the following year eventually entering service with SBS Transit Singapore in March 1994. After its withdrawal from public service, this vehicle has come back to the UK.
Bus enthusiast David Rogers purchased the bus last October and imported the bus back to the UK almost 20 years after it left. Bearing the UK registration L888 SBS, the “six legger” Leyland is now back on the road joining the busy ranks of the bus preservation scene. The new registration number pays homage to its former keeper while promising good fortune – the number 8 being regarded as lucky in China!