With a fleet that eventually grew to 150 vehicles, support vehicles were a significant fleet in themselves. From recovery vehicles, to engineering vans, cars for driver changeovers, training buses and 7 seaters for home to holiday services, here is a short history of their role in the success of Epsom Coaches.
For many years, the company used Land Rovers to attend breakdowns and for the engineers to occasionally tow vehicles. The need to do the latter, was replaced with the introduction of a purpose built recovery vehicle in later years.
Whilst no doubt in the early days, coaches towed other coaches, the first purpose-built recovery vehicle was a 1950’s ex-Military AEC Militant. A giant machine with three axles, top speed of 30 mph and no power steering! It was variously modified over the years, including the building of a complete mobile workshop on its substantial chassis.
The AEC was replaced with a more modern Volvo F10 truck, converted into a recovery vehicle by specialist Roger Dyson. This vehicle had the ability to lift a vehicle and tow it without the need for a second driver. We also provided services to other operators, both HGV and PSV. As vehicles became more reliable, the need for a specialist recovery vehicle was reduced, with any such requirements contracted out to local family firm, Langley Vale Recovery, with whom Epsom Coaches had always had a good working relationship. Laterally, Langley Vale were contracted to provide mobile attendance for the company’s extensive bus operation. This ensured that Epsom’s own engineers, could concentrate on the workshop engineering, with regular service and repairs.
Many different types of van have been operated over the years. Both big and small. A VW LT van, in the then livery of “Epsom Recovery” in silver was on the fleet for many years, followed by a purpose specified VV Crafter. This had everything required for on the road repairs, including a wheel lift and compressed air. This was specified in London Bus red, given its primary purpose was to service the Quality Line red bus fleet.
It was always the case, that it was easier to move drivers to their vehicles out on the road for changeovers, than it was to bring the vehicles back to base. On many occasions, a large proportion of the fleet would be in London and the drivers for the evening work would be transferred in a car or 7-seater to the changeover point, often in Park Lane. Transfers for driver changeover to Dover and Folkestone were also regular requirements. With the introduction of bus services, this requirement grew, and a bigger support fleet was required.
Crew vehicles have included, Vauxhall Chevette, Ford Escort vans, VW Combi, 7 seaters, including bay window rear engine vehicles and the later versions. At one point, a fleet of ex London taxis were purchased, to provide transfers vehicles for bus drivers., They weren’t a great success, with numerous oil leaks and not pleasant to drive. In 2004, the decision was taken to purchase 7 brand new Toyota Verso cars, which provided sterling service to the company for many years, some clocking up over 200,000 miles of local journeys. At the same time, another larger Toyota was brought onto the fleet, to service longer distance coach transfers. Due to the Verso being discontinued from the Toyota range, a fleet of Vauxhall Meriva’s were purchased. They were all automatic transmission, for the first time. These were to have been replaced with Kia’s, but despite a potential order for 7 of the vehicles, the Epsom Kia dealer dd not respond, despite showing initial enthusiasm for such an order!